Katie Smith: POWER-UP

Artist Katie Smith took over the postal mailout for April. Through this, she invites us to 'POWER-Up' by contributing to a new work by Katie and Kate Genever


My name is Katie Smith and I’m a socially engaged artist. I use a variety of creative media from pinhole and Polaroid photography to collage, low-tech print and stitch to engage with and stimulate social processes. My work can respond to a particular need or issue within a community or explore the creative potential of bringing people together around a shared goal or interest.

I take a ‘go to the people’ approach to making art and love the challenge of working in unconventional spaces. My work is always collaborative and is often fuelled by random encounters, unexpected situations and a willingness to take risks.  Past projects have included pitching a caravan outside my local ASDA, going on the road with long-haul truckers and experiencing bare knuckle fighting at a horse fair.

In 2015 I joined the Sketchbook Circle in order to confront my irrational fear of sketchbooks which had developed in the 20+ years since leaving Art College. I hadn’t anticipated how powerful the experience would be; I think it’s fair to say that one collaboration in particular changed my life! I discovered that my sketchbooks provided a space to ponder and process the stuff of life; they could help maintain equilibrium, encourage enquiry and support some really deep reflection. They strengthened my belief that finding the right space to be creative in and the right people to be creative with can have a hugely positive impact on mental wellbeing.

My circle experience has definitely influenced the development of a new piece of work with artist Kate Genever. We are on a mission to find out what the phrase ‘Power-Up’ means in the context of human thinking and behaviour. Is it something that we do when faced with a challenge or difficult situation? Is it about building energy and finding extra abilities? Can we define it as the processes we use and strategies we develop to become stronger? Can it help us to deal with the tricky bits of life? For me, every time I work in my sketchbook I’m powering up, I am practicing self-care.

We would like to invite you to send us a postal Power- Up. The idea is simple, create a postcard with a visual Power-Up on the front and a written response to the question: What does the phrase ‘Power-Up’ mean to you? on the back. Postcards received will be scanned (front and back) and shared in our online gallery. Full instructions can be found here: wepowerup.wordpress.com

We hope that our online gallery will evolve into an accessible 'Power-Up' resource for all. It could be used by individuals in need of a boost or by groups and organisations to encourage conversations around positive mental health, emotional resilience and self-care. The postcards themselves will be exhibited at an inpatient unit and school for young people with acute mental health issues and will form starting point for a new project with them.

If you’ve signed up for the Sketchbook Circle mail-out you will have received a couple of postcards featuring my stitched jackets. If you aren’t signed up but would like a pair of postcards please send 50p and an SAE to Katie Smith, Unique Cottage Studios, Fulney Lane, Spalding. PE12 6FA. The project is self-funded so any profits from postcard sales will help us to develop this work.