Bizzie Bee's Artist Interview: Rachel Smith


This month we have Rachel sharing her art story with us. She is also exhibiting at the Bizzie Bee Verandah Gallery July-September with her show opening Friday July 12. Come down to PMQ to have a look at her work in person and peer inside her amazing creations.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a multi-media artist living and working in Hong Kong. I'm a compulsive creator and when I cannot create, I get stuck.

How did you start making art/start your creative journey?

I have always created. Even when I worked in banking after my degree and later in marketing, my first passion was always the arts. It's like a compulsion—the need to order the world to make it more pleasing to the eyes and the senses, to share the vision and inspire others to add creativity to their lives.

Why do you make art?

Why doesn't everyone make art is a better question. Art keeps you centred and grounds you, it takes nebulous thoughts, ideas, emotions and puts them in a space where they can be shared, seen, analysed. It connects me to my past, anchors me in the present and helps me see the future. I don't understand how people survive without making art. Where do all your ideas go?

What is your workspace like?

My studio is tidy chaos. I love reorganising but I also love letting the flow happen. I am not naturally a tidy person so this is a challenge for me! It is filled with boxes and containers, which in turn are filled with other boxes and containers. Putting things in boxes makes me absurdly happy.

What is your favourite art form and why?

This is like asking a mother who her favourite child is. I love watercolour, paper of all kinds makes me drool and fabric arts (aside from crochet), resin and leatherwork are all exciting. I will try anything once and can find elements to add to my work from each new art form (except crochet).

What inspires you and how do you keep your creative spark?

I am inspired by other people and their work. When I get stuck, I invite friends over for a chat or sit down and talk with other creative, passionate people about what they are doing. That always inspires me.

What is your favourite tool for making art and why?

Currently I am working a lot with paper and have a bone folder made from a cow bone in my mother's treasure trove. It's the best piece of equipment and invaluable to achieve a clean, crisp fold on paper. It is an antique and so satisfying in the hand. I cannot live without my travelling watercolour brush and a Copic liner pen (refillable ink and replaceable nib). Both are over 10 years old. I have a set of needles from the world's cutest shop in Kyoto that sew smoother than any I have used before.

Who did you admire when you were younger that inspired you to be an artist yourself?

I have always loved Quentin Blake's work - I remember seeing it as a young girl and thinking it was amazing that he could achieve so much with a few squiggly lines. As a kid, I was trying to make everything look 'right' and 'perfect' and then really looking at his stuff and realising that looking 'right' wasn't the answer. Somehow he drew the soul of the picture and just filled in the details around it. It made me understand the goal was to convey information, not a perfect likeness.

What role does the artist have in society?

Artists make everything else worthwhile. They make spaces for breathing and thinking. They show there is more than one way to make sense of things.

What are you working on right now?

Typically I have several projects on the go. My Matchbox series was started as a way to deal with an overwhelming feeling of anxiety that has been creeping into my life in the past year. They force me to sit and think about the past 24 hours, what has happened, and create something to celebrate small achievements. I am also working on a series of paintings commenting on living conditions in Hong Kong and another series of enormous paintings around body image for women over 40.

How do you know when a work is finished?

You stop working on it - it's easier for some than others.

What's your favourite place to see art?

On the street. I love senseless acts of art. In people's homes, their choices say so much about who they are. In galleries - a well curated show is a thing of beauty. Artists know the value of expert curation and display.

What is your favourite museum?

The Hong Kong Museum of History is always worth a visit and I like the Heritage Museum in Sha Tin. The Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence (currently closed until 2020) is worth a visit, especially in the summer. I love museums and galleries but I also love people's living spaces.

What are you reading right now?

I mostly listen to audio books. Currently I'm listening to a lot of WW I and WW II novels for a future project. It is pretty hard to listen to the madness that is war so I intersperse it with lighter comedy and fiction.

If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?

A beaver or maybe a river otter. So soft and industrious at the same time. Cephalopods are attractive too, for their multiple arms and square pupated eyes.

What do you collect?

Boxes and nifty things to put in them. Bugs (deceased) to make jewellery from.

What do you love most about being an artist?

The freedom to chose what I will do with my day and how it will be recorded. Every waking moment of the day I am at work. No time is wasted—you can be creating everywhere, all the time.

What are three things you can't live without in a day?

My husband, my phone and caffeinated beverages.

What jobs have you done other than being an artist?

I am a voice-over artist, speech coach and special needs teacher in my spare time. I'm the producer and organiser of Hong Kong Stories (and podcast of the same name) and the creator and director of the Hong Kong Spoken Word Festival. I have also been a branch manager for HSBC, marketing assistant for a law firm, house cleaner, waitress, halfway house support team member, and lots more I cannot think of right now.

What's the best piece of advice you've been given?

No one knows you are there unless you tell them. Stop talking and get things done.

What advice do you have?

If you are going to do something, do your best. It may not be perfect but it will always be yours and you can only get better by doing it.

What is your dream project if there were no restrictions on time or money? What would you create?

An interactive, restorative space in Hong Kong for people to share and relax in. Some place with lots of nooks and crannies and materials for exploring and creating.

See more of Rachel's work at www.senselessart.net

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Bizzie Bee is a social enterprise initiative and primary funding partner of Lizzie Bee Foundation Ltd, a Hong Kong registered charity. Money raised from the sale of our products goes directly to arts projects for the underprivileged in our community.

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