Born in Detroit, Michigan, Janis Smith has resided in the state of Florida since 1974. After earning an Associate of Arts degree from Henry Ford Community College, she went on to gain her Bachelor's degree in History and Social Studies Education. This led to the beginnings of her career in teaching - first for 2 years in the Detroit Public School system, followed by her employment with the Pinellas County School System in 1976. She remained in the classroom until her recent retirement, but continued to develop her skills as an artist and express a lifelong enjoyment of various crafts without compromising her dedication to the education of her students.
In college and beyond, she took a number of art classes, including clay-focused courses at the Bay Vista Adult Recreation Center in St. Petersburg, Florida. Janis primarily hand-builds her clay pieces using a technique called sgrafitto. Sgrafitto is a method where the artist carves designs into the clay body of a piece, creating the unique markings and texture seen in much of her work. While she uses sgrafitto to give her clay designs an ethnic flair, the overall body of her work is eclectic. Her creations can be found in galleries and private collections in Florida, Michigan, Georgia, California, and Canada. Janis has also participated in many arts festivals through her career, including events in Florida, Georgia, and Pennsylvania.