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Family Tradition

How the hands of my Grandfather live on through me.

My Grandfather Snook was larger than life to me. He ran into a burning building and saved would-be victims, he was a  college football star and became a very accomplished wood carver. He taught me many things about life, living, and hard work. Pinnacle to my future, 48 years ago he taught me to carve wood and helped me create my first decorative duck decoys. Pictures of that carving and more are at the bottom of the page.

collection of hand carved wood duck decoys carved you Artist Geoffrey C Smith.
Part of my Personal Collection, featuring My Decoys


My good friend Michael Sabbeth reported the story of my history, here is an excerpt from the book: ISBN 0-9761299-0-6


Geoffrey was the middle child of three boys from parents, Carolyn and Maury. When he was sixteen, the family moved from Belvedere to a stunning Spanish-style home built by his father fronting a lake in Northern Marin County, a realm Geoffrey called paradise. Family hunting and camping trips continued, replete with plunges in cold streams, honing archery and shooting skills and learning the protean habits of wild boar, deer, quail, fox and dove.

Although a dedicated student at Marin Academy, a private school in San Rafael, his studies carried a frustrating edge, due in large measure to a reading difficulty. Geoffrey embraced woodcarving as an outlet for artistic expression, not only because he could visualize in three dimensions more easily than he could read and write but also because he derived great joy and fulfillment from seeing and touching tangible objects that originated in his mind.

By age fifteen, Geoffrey had become a dedicated carver of duck decoys, A quality that collectors purchased all he chose to sell. His passionate embracing of the art was influenced technically and perhaps even genetically by maternal grandfather Charles Newell Mell, a master carver and polymath who had acquired the nickname 'Snook.' A complex man possessed of an array of talents, Grandpa Snook had been a first-team player on the University of California's undefeated football "Wonder Team" of the 1920s. He attended medical school, became an orthopedic surgeon and supervised an orthopedic hospital in England during World War II. A skilled artist, he drew detailed ink sketches of English landscapes and many of its cathedrals.


Geoffrey's father joined a duck club in the Delta area where superb hunting abounded. During one of his visits to the club, Geoffrey made a serendipitous discovery that, in retrospect, may serve as a metaphor for how he constructed his career. He observed a member, an employee of a prestigious European arms manufacturer, was burning pieces of gorgeous walnut wood intended to be stocks for the maker's high-grade rifles and shotguns.

Perplexed, Geoffrey inquired about this curious behavior. He was informed that some gun company employees, evidently possessing more imagination than wisdom, tried to accelerate the drying process by coating the wood with salt. Regrettably but predictably, the salt-infused finished stocks rusted the metal, rendering worthless the expensive and extraordinary handcrafted firearms as well as a sizable quantity of the premium wood. 

Where the club member feeding the fire saw useless kindling, Geoffrey saw fabulous opportunity. He filled the back of his Jeep with his new treasures and drove to Grandpa Snook’s home. He began carving decorative decoys of Pintails, Canvasbacks, Mallards and other favorited species. Geoffrey carved throughout high school and continued his art while attending Montana State University in Bozeman. Consistently among the highest-rated entrants of the many carving contests he entered, his work was avidly sought by enthusiastic collectors. 

Geoffrey majored in economics and, displaying that same diligence he applied to his carving, he graduated with honors. He spent the summer of 1980 carving ducks in preparation for his first gallery show, held in the fall of at Gallery 85 in Billings, Mt. Geoffrey sold every piece he exhibited, an affirming commercial triumph for the young artist. 

Like a tune in your head that just won't go away, Geoffrey had been haunted by the immutable laws of return on investment, realizing that he could not make a living carving and selling one decoy at a time. Fate can sometimes shower a warming glow on the dispirited soul. Motivated by a desire to escape the tedium of real estate sales as well as by the need for artistic expression, Geoffrey crafted his first sculpture, a small trumpeter swan. Cast in a series of twelve bronzes, the edition sold out immediately. His degree in economics acquired practical use for he saw in the multiple-casting process the liberating virtue that could allow him to build a career doing what he loved. Energized by the frisson of working in this new medium, Geoffrey found more than happiness. He found his path.

~Michael Sabbeth


Homage to my Grandfather

As a tribute to my Grandfather, I have created a collection of bronze sculptures in the style he first taught me to carve. They are smooth and stylized in the same fashion as the very first creations. They planted the seeds from which all my sculpture has grown.

Collection of Bronze Pintail Ducks by artist Geoffrey C Smith


Here is my Thanksgiving message. If you have not, Please watch the video.




Here are some photos of my early work

Artist Geoffrey C Smith holding his very first art sculpture, a wood duck decoy.
The Decoy That Started It All

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