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In Memoriam:
Dee Smith (1959–2021)

by Nita Sani & LuAnn Benton




Dee Smith



 Dee Smith  

Pendant, by Dee Smith.





Dee Smith passed away at the very young age of 61 on Friday, January 8, 2021. She is survived by both parents and her two children, Nick and Lauren.


Dee learned metal work in junior high school while living in Wyoming and fell in love with the art. She made a key ring at that time and had it with her until the day she passed. At an early age, her grandmother told her the family was part native American Indian, which sparked Dee's interest in learning more about her heritage. She spent time on a reservation to learn as much as she could about metalwork and rocks and where they came from. She read all the books and magazines she could get her hands on about metal work, art and rocks. Her love for art spilled over into her college days while attending Michigan State University from 1976 to 1980. Her plan was to get her bachelor's degree in art, but circumstances prevented that from happening.


Dee became a member of the Mineral & Gem Society in 2009, and it wasn't long before she started a weekly open workshop for anyone who wanted to do silversmithing with others. Everybody worked on their own projects, and if someone asked how to do something, she'd show them. Dee's artistic skills consisted of cabbing, silversmithing with and without stones, beading, many forms of artwork, and numerous styles of chain making. The vast amount of knowledge she acquired over the years became an asset when helping others identify the rocks they had in their possession – many times astonishing people with her knowledge. Something she was very proud of was giving a couple of private lessons to a veteran from the L.A. area, teaching him to pound out silver to make beautiful bracelets. He took this new skill back to his veteran buddies and taught them in turn.


Years later, Dee was successfully juried to become an artist at Balboa Park's Spanish Village Art Center, selling her many unique silver pieces from Studio 9. Around this time, in 2016–17, Dee bought a home in Ramona, and she soon found that she loved being away from the city. She turned a metal building on her property into an art studio for herself and used it to give private lessons. One of Dee's great qualities was problem solving. When Dee found cracks in the concrete floors of her house, she patched the cracks with turquoise inlay. She saw it as a challenge, not a problem.


Dee's style of teaching made her a great instructor for other artists, especially those learning the craft for the first time. She taught basic silversmithing and then allowed her students to "color outside the lines" with their projects. This method produced some spectacular successes and also some unique failures. Her style of teaching, paired with her sense of humor and wit, made her classes very interesting and entertaining. During this period, she also became an artist at 2 Create Gallery in Ramona, and in the kitchen enjoyed making numerous kinds of canned jellies.


While Dee dealt with many physical issues throughout her adult life, she found ways to cope and move on. However, more recently, Dee was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer of the tongue, and despite her attempts to fight it, she was forced to relinquish her work at Spanish Village. Despite this, she continued teaching private lessons and selling her work through the Gallery in Ramona. Dee knew her cancer was terminal but believed she had more time, and that's exactly how she lived her life – not waiting for the day her life would end.


Dee's social media posts were always signed, "Know you are loved." Well, Dee this goes back at you from all who knew you: Know You Are Loved!




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