Mike Smiley is a familiar face on the Hwy. 62 Art Tours. He has been on the tours every year except the first year, when it was only artists from 29 Palms who participated. Smiley is a many-faceted artist who works in metal, stone, and makes jewelry. He and his wife Betty have been residents of the high desert for 12 years, and have lived in the area for almost 20 years. (They lived in the Coachella Valley prior to coming to Joshua Tree.)
Smiley's father, a machinist, was a strong influence in Smiley's life as an artist. Smiley watched his father make jewelry and explore lapidary when he was young, and Smiley made jewelry in high school. However, Smiley didn't return to jewelry making until he and his wife moved to the desert in 1990. When his father passed away, he left Mike a welder. It was the inheritance of this welder, and Smiley's friendship with Steve Rieman, that prompted Smiley to look at metal as another outlet for his creative urges.
Smiley is inspired by his love of nature, and the beauty he sees in nature. He believes the world is full of treasure, and it is this treasure he collects and utilizes in his art - everything from beautiful stones to a rusted piece of metal. As a life-long amateur naturalist, his knowledge and love of the natural world is evident in all of his work. A visit to his studio and the sculpture garden surrounding the house he shares with Betty is a stop well worth making. Smiley's Joshua Tree studio will be open both weekends of the art tours this year, making it easy to fit it into your exploration of all the creativity our desert communities have to offer.