Rachel Smith was born in Middlesbrough in 1862 to Joseph Smith, a mariner, and his wife Mary. At 17 years old she was hired by the Linthorpe Art Pottery to work as an underglaze decorator.
Linthorpe Art Pottery was founded in 1878 by Christopher Dresser, one of Britain’s leading designers in furniture and ceramics, and John Harrison, a local businessman who owned a brick works in Linthorpe. Dresser had encouraged Harrison to expand his business from bricks to decorative ceramics. Linthorpe Art Pottery is known for producing many colourful and striking ceramics of high quality.