Former Plane Jane drummer finds a new creative expression with business venture

by Lorne Chambers | Editor

For 25 years Trey Smith has been banging on the drums in various rock bands, including The Pondering, Heavy Water Meter, and The Rhythm Method. Most notably, Smith was the drummer for the popular local party band Plane Jane for the last 20 years. But on New Year’s Eve of last year, Plane Jane played their last show.

After two decades of playing more than 200 gigs a year, Smith suddenly found he had some free time on his hands. “I can still be creative, but just not with music,” says the longtime musician and West Ashley resident. Smith has found a new creative outlet with all that free time. He recently opened Charleston Slate Works, a company that specializes in custom-made tables, birdbaths, stepping stones, and wall art.

Charleston Slate Works’ showroom is located at 2 Avondale St. in the Avondale Business District, right next to DB’s Cheesesteaks, and will celebrate its official grand opening Saturday, May 25, offering folks hotdogs, music, and a chance to come in and see what kind of stuff he’s doing.

“It takes a lot of work, but it’s unique and everybody gets something that is truly heir own. I can’t make the same thing twice. So you get something that is uniquely yours,” says Smith, who describes his creations as “functional art” even though he hasn’t taken an actual art class in 30 years. He mostly learned his craft from a good friend who used to make stepping stones through a similar process. “He taught me the process and told me to go for it,” says Smith who has some of his pieces on display at an art gallery downtown on East Bay Street.

A Charleston native and College of Charleston graduate, Smith says his pieces “just kind of scream Charleston.” Whether he cuts the slate in the shape of a crab, a church steeple, a pineapple, a lighthouse, or something else all together, they definitely have a Lowcountry feel. “I don’t have to put Charleston , SC on it. But it is Charleston.” In some ways, it literally is a piece of Charleston. Smith, who has friends in the construction fields, uses reclaimed materials from around the area. Most of his pieces are made out of slate, brick, mortar, and other building materials

Asked if he misses playing music full time, Smith just smiles. “We had a good time, met a lot of good people. I miss playing, but it’s nice to have weekends off too.” Smith now uses his hands to cut brick and slate instead of hitting snares high hats most of the time, but he says he will always play music. These days he’ll occasionally sit in on the drum kit with the Dave Seitz & The King Street Band at The Roost, across Savannah Highway from his showroom. He also started in a new band that calls themselves Planet Janet, made up of a couple guys from Plane Jane. And while they don’t plan to play near as many shows as their previous band, they do play their first gig this month.

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