My name is Katie Smith and I am a socially engaged artist. My practice is research based and collaborative: it is fuelled by random encounters, unexpected situations and a willingness to take risks. I value the process of a piece of work as much as the end result but have always struggled to capture this journey in a book. In 2015 I joined the Sketchbook Circle in order to confront what had become pathological fear of sketchbooks!
I could not have anticipated the huge impact the circle would have on both my personal and professional practice; it challenged me to work differently and my thinking actually found its way onto paper for the first time in 25 years! Receiving a monthly mail-out was a real treat too and often acted as a catalyst for new creative adventures both within and outside the circle. My favourite mail-out issued a challenge to create an ‘encouraging banner’ (assignment #63 Miranda July – Learning to Love You More).
My banner reflected my approach to life; it was an Eminesque creation with felt letters mounted on fabric patches stitched onto a woollen blanket. It spelt out the message ‘DO NO HARM, TAKE NO S**T.’ I was so pleased with it I decided to take it on a road trip, sharing my message with unsuspecting passers-by between Lincolnshire and South Wales; I felt like Banksy! I photographed the banner at key points on my journey and duly documented my experiences in my circle partner’s sketch-book.
Blanket banners have since become a bit of a theme in my work, featuring in 3 residencies last year. I’ve used them to convey the message of a project, to inspire creative exploration and to capture snippets of conversations. I’m particularly excited that a ‘but no one’s bothered’ banner made with artist Kate Genever caught the attention of the Sleaford Mods. Recently I’ve been researching trade union and protest banners and have become interested in how stitch can be used to shout, giving a voice to people who are often not heard.
This is just one example of how being part of last year’s Sketchbook Circle enriched my practice, broadened my skill set and encouraged me to create bold new work. I am very much looking forward to this year and the adventures that it’s sure to bring.