‘Hey, Bel, will you come with me to a Cloud Workshop?’ My dearest friend Susie Cave was on the phone, telling me about an artist called Deborah Smith who she had met in New Zealand. ‘Yes, sure,’ I replied. ‘What is it?’
Deborah Smith is a New Zealand based artist who co-founded Cloud Workshop in 2008 to help children suffering bereavement through taking part in creative workshops. Susie and her husband Nick Cave lost their 15 year old son Arthur, my godson, in a fatal accident in 2015 that devastated us all. Susie had met Deborah while she and Nick were visiting New Zealand. ‘Deborah is here for a few weeks to work with kids,’ said Susie, ‘and to see Fleetwood Mac playing!’
Susie picked me up and we drove to a community centre in North London where we spent 3 hours making dolls and chatting and helping the children, while Deborah gently stalked about and rallied and soothed us all, like a mixture of Clint Eastwood and the kindest person who ever walked the earth. At one point Deborah, Susie and I were all in tears. I hadn’t known at the time that Deborah was grieving the recent and untimely death of her own beloved brother, Tyrone Smith.
Deborah and I stayed in touch, mostly by Instagram sending each other pictures of whippets. One day she sent me a book she had made about Tyrone with photographs and artworks and said if there was anything I wanted to use for my work the family would be happy. I was struck by the beauty and interestingness of Tyrone’s drawings, like Donnie Darko cartoons filled with attitude and an underlying melancholy. I fell in love with some of his animals wearing space suits, in particular this bunny, who I dressed in my 1970 jumper. There is something about this creature that makes me think of the Greek myths as well as all the comic books that sustained me as I was growing up.
I feel a very strong connection Tyrone and Deborah: his mythical creature has become an integral part of my work.