Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Quirky British Animal shaped Charity Collection Boxes and how Artists Connect with them

April 2010 in Derby and July 2010 on the Isle of Wight
Why oh why do I love these animal (mostly dog) shaped money collection tins?

Of course being an artist I think far too much about these sorts of things and I ask myself even more questions such as:
When did I start liking them? What sorts of shops are they outside? How much money actually gets put inside? and have I myself even put any money inside one?

You can't kid a kid.
Here we have one collection tin in Shropshire/ Herefordshire in May 2011 and my friend Ben Sadler's lovely little daughter with an identical doggie in Birmingham 
I’ve even wondered if anyone has ever tried to steal one; I mean there can’t be that much money in them can there? 
Answer.. actually there can and yes people have. So even in sleepy Dursley thieves get so desperate as to have, not one but two, goes at pinching the labrador shaped money collecting box from their local swimming pool 

And yes, believe it or not, there is quite a bit of cash in these boxes. Website SOFII explains that actually people are much more generous when they can stay anonymous, and also when people can put as little as a penny in it has been proven that overall, donations (in total) are actually higher if people can put a penny in rather than being put on the spot and asked for a suggested minimum donation.
This one must be popular because I spotted it again in Portmerion in May 2012
What I really want to do is share some of my personal photos and maybe give a tiny insight into the mind of a creative person...Me!

Ever since I have had a photographic device at the ready at all times (I called it ‘handbag camera’ back in 2006) I have taken a lot of photos of things that I find interesting and after a while I started to notice that I had collected quite a few photos of animal money charity collecting tins (these were in my sub-folder called ‘Fun and Weird’). Gosh how things have moved on in the last few years, with Twitter, Instagram and tagging making it possible to share and develop a tagged collection of images as you go along.

The dogs on the left spotted in Portmerion car park May 2012 and dogs on the right some place in Shropshire/ Herefordshire May 2011
Oh well maybe there could also be a case for a small and personal personal collection of images developing and now being ready to be ‘hatched’ and released publicly online.

I am most likely to be the best person to be able to appreciate both sides of this argument because I am really quite an impatient person but strangely at the same time am also one of the slowest people to think about things and decide when to ‘go public' on something. 

Basil Brush; He probably says a lot about the era that these boxes were made in
1960's and 70's. 
I think this blog post might just be another little insight into me, Kirsty E Smith, the artist.

Look at these photos, check the dates, check the locations. What does this tell you? Do I have patience, am I fickle in my tastes and interests or am I the sort of person who is described (annoyingly) as quirky but also as reliable, individual and constant.

Robin tin first spotted in Portmerion 2012 and then 2 years later in my new home,  Hillsborough, Sheffield 2014.
I know what I like and do I really have to explain why I like it? No! Don't answer because this is a rhetorical question. 

And finally ... I am not the only one! For a few more animal shaped money  collection boxes click here

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

What do Artists do on their Holidays? (this is NOT a food blog!)

This me Kirsty E Smith on holiday. This is a photo of a special moment.
Two favourite books from my childhood were Richard Scary’s ‘What do people do all day’ and ‘Busy, BusyTown’. I especially loved the quite surreal illustrations; the banana-mobile and much more. There is also now a great BBC4 television series called ‘What do artists do all day’
Illustrations from Richard Scarry books
But here’s my question; What do artists do when they are on holiday? 

My own art is about people, connections and personalities so I suppose it isn't all that surprising that although I managed to get my dose of architectural concrete (another passion) in on my relaxing and sunny Greek holiday, what is actually much more special to me, is the unexpected and special human connections made while doing the usual everyday things. 

Yes on this holiday I climbed over a mountain in extreme heat, dived off a sailing ship, swam in thermal pools, scuba dived for the first time and even fitted in a ride on the local fun (land) train. But actually whatever exciting things we humans do each day we still have to do the normal everyday stuff. Eating is pretty everyday and necessary and shopping for food is normally a job that you just have to ‘get done’. 

However when shopping in small independent shops it is completely different. People go to those shops not only for a product but also for an experience and when it is a small personally run shop they also want to feel that their purchase is appreciated (and I should know because I did set up and run my own artisan cheese shop in the past.) 
This is me way back in 1991
Yes you can sell top quality products but great products with (on top of that) a memorable human interaction is so much more. This is what makes life worth living! 

And what better than when a customer who appreciates these values buys from an artisan shopkeeper who loves to supply an authentic product to appreciative customers. The connection is so special but also so difficult to explain but actually it should need absolutely no explanation. 

When the relationship works it works perfectly; it does not have to be explained. 
Enthusiasm is a word that is often associated with me. I can’t help it I really am genuinely enthusiastic about so much in life (and quality artisan bakery products is just be one thing that I get excited about!) 

Santa Irini Bakery Perissa, Santorini, Greece (Yes it really is open 24 hours a day!)
perusing the biscuits
But on reflection the root of this excitement is when I feel that I have met a fellow human being who I feel a deep connection with. Someone who takes pride in their work, works to the highest standards, values interaction with other fellow human beings and who works with integrity. 

So that’s the emotional part of this blog post over now on to some factual information and more photos!

Over the seven days of our holiday we went into the Santa Irini bakery not once a day but by the end of the holiday actually twice a day. We bought all sorts from flat rustic white rolls for lunchtime picnics, bread for breakfast, beautifully soft and delicious apple cake and chocolate cake. We ate spinach and feta pie by candlelight when we were too tired to cook ....or even eat out and we had fab picnics in unexpected places where a hunk of bread was perfect with our homemade tzatziki. We also enjoyed biscuits with jam and coconut and sprinkles to boost us before our scuba dive but also to make the airport queue much more bearable. 

take the locals' advice do not do this climb in the blazing sunshine
feet up
mid climb sustenance
Got bread and Swiss army knife...Sorted! 
we shared this...honest!

The best way to use up 'spare' greek yogurt? Buy some some delicious apple cake and chocolate pie.
Going into the Santa Irini bakery was not just about buying home made food to sustain us but actually we (my children Bryony 20 and Dominic 17) and I all enjoy human interaction such a lot that when our big baker (we quickly named him The Hairy Baker - see postscript for explanation) came round the counter to speak with us and to shake hands with us it was completely clear that he too is someone who appreciates human interaction and contact with people who connect on an emotional level. He knew that our enthusiasm and appreciation was sincere. 
a lovely moment
let's talk about bread, merino wool vests and much more
The 'Hairy Baker' is called Spiros and the bakery was first set up by his ...father... grand father...or even great-grandfather?  Anyway, it has been running since 1937 and not only is it an excellent bakery but it is also open 24 hours a day! 
This man does not sleep!!!

My father Andrew Kyle Imrie Smith died only a few days before this holiday. He was 91 and an amazing and very inspirational man. 
Amongst the many things that he did teach me is that talking to strangers is absolutely crucial to making sense of our (short) time on this planet. 
As a child it used to be annoying and frustrating when dad stopped to strike up conversation with a complete stranger but actually what I learned from seeing what came from these spontaneous conversations is actually what fires me up now in my own life and also what (not surprisingly) I have passed on to my own children. Already Bryony, my daughter, has started writing a blog- One Great People which (amongst other things) is about people who have touched her life while being a student in the North East of England and my son Dominic found it only too natural to join in a community Apple Crumble Celebration only weeks after we had moved to a completely new city- Sheffield.  

Explanation about the Hairy Baker reference:
In the UK there is a cookery programme called The Hairy Bikers 
It is presented by two men who not only are good at cooking but also ride motor bikes and are hairy (mostly on their heads and faces) so it seemed obvious to call Spiros The Hairy Baker. And finally when I did speak to Spiros I was especially interested in his vest. I had already guessed (correctly) that it was made from merino wool. Merino wool is chosen by climbers and people who need protection from heat and cold. I am a farmers’ daughter, I have sheared sheep, I teach felt-making and textiles so yes of course it was of interest to me; I knew the importance of Spiros’s merino wool vest for doing his everyday, ‘extreme sport’ of baking for tourists ....and locals too.

PPS. This is an experience that I hope to repeat. 

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Gardens of Sheffield: This city is growing on me but not in the Miracle-Gro sort of way!

The rugged beauty of a Sheffield garden- concrete and roses!
Considering that I am such a chatty and effervescent person people are often surprised that really I am quite shy and often get tongue tied. I've been wanting to write this blog post for ages but what on earth has held me back?

I moved 75 miles north from The Midlands to Sheffield at the beginning of October 2014 and although it was a well researched move it was also a move of faith i.e. faith that Sheffield was the right place to be.

Although originally from central Scotland I have lived in the Midlands for most of my life so uprooting and moving to Yorkshire after many years was a BIG thing and not something to be taken lightly. But It seems that my research paid off. 

I moved to Sheffield because (in no particular order)  I love the hills, it has amazing countryside so close-by - I live just a few minutes walk to open fields and and only a 10 minute drive to the Peak District proper, it is full of artists, it is often referred to as the biggest village in the UK and actually this works for me as although I like being within a short train journey to London I also like to be able to integrate into an art network fairly quickly. I am constantly amazed that although I feel that I have only been here for just  ‘5 minutes’ I keep bumping into people that I know... or at least I know a bit! 

And also a big thing which I didn’t know before but now believe to be true is that the Sheffield art world isn’t a snobby and hierarchical one. Basically as Lord Bunn (his title does nothing!) said, there is no hierarchy in this South Yorkshire city and if anyone tried to pull 'artworld rank' then they would very quickly be put in their place, plus be instantly laughed a too. I love this! 

We are all artists at at various levels of achievement and experience and are all aiming for a (moveable) point on our own future horizon. Perfect... we are all just people doing our own creative thing and also hopefully scratching each others backs and generally being encouraging and supportive of each other in our day to day lives of 'getting there'.

So what is this blog post all about?
Really the biggest and most burning thing that I want to share with you is GARDENS OF SHEFFIELD.

To be fair we were looking at houses from Easter to July (the sunnyish time of the Great British year) but when we moved up to Sheffield it was the beginning of October and the beginning of the dark damp winter months; certainly not the time of year to admire gardens. 
So these photos are my own newcomer’s shock-horror reaction to GARDENS OF SHEFFIELD.

This is a picture dairy and one that to be honest has actually occupied a LOT of my creative brain since moving here. It is exciting to be some place new and to be regularly tipped up by visual surprises. I am delighting in all this and am enjoying the regional differences to be found even in a country as small at this. 

When house hunting how different a house and its garden can look in real life. Images on can be helpful but something that looks like photoshopped super-real grass on a photo is ... yes very likely to be fake grass when you get to view it in real life. And also a garden that is described as ‘easily maintained’ can actually turn out to be shed/garden or a completely decked garden. 

It became a bit of a thing with me when house hunting; I mean I had always assumed that gardens had grass and some plants but how wrong I was proven to be.

 The garden of one of the houses that we viewed when moving. The husband had decked it and installed a shed (with curtains and wi-fi) in just one weekend when his wife was away. She didn't seem to mind at all! 
A peculiarly Sheffield type of garden! 
I call this hardcore easy maintenance; slabs 'n' concrete with a token gesture of thorny shrubs. 
Another interesting peculiarity to Sheffield terrace houses is that (almost) no one uses their front door. You quickly learn to read the signs (some not so subtle) as to whether you should attempt to knock on what appears to be the front door or to find your way through a gennel and across some neighbours’ gardens to the back door.

Don't enter by this door or the (plastic) bush gets you! 
It's complicated ... but there is an easier way in.... by the back door.
Landscaping; it's a lot harder than it looks 
I love the optimism of palm trees in South Yorkshire.
Always good to try and brighten things up in the dark winter months.
These plastic daliahs always make me giggle.
Being amazed and delighted by yet another spectacular sunrise-  something I hadn't anticipated. 
Sheffield never a dull moment and absolutely the right place for someone with an adventurous nature... that’s me!