Favourite Things: Why I'm super excited about the Bears of Sheffield project

Tom Pigeon is the studio name of designer Kirsty Thomas – one of the artists to have worked on the new Bears of Sheffield art trail which starts next week.

Thursday, 8th July 2021, 12:00 am
Kirsty Thomas.
Kirsty Thomas.

I always loved being creative, but much to my art teacher’s horror, my journey after school actually started with a year of studying Sports Science, but rest assured I soon realised I was in the wrong place and enrolled on an Art Foundation course in Liverpool. From then on, I studied a Design degree and since then have worked across the creative industries for over 20 years. It was 10 years ago I formed my design studio and I now work with clients around the world including Team GB, Tate Modern and The Barbican.

I’ve always found it strange when I see my work in different places and in the press, it even pops up in adverts which I find funny, but I also feel extremely lucky. It is definitely daunting to put yourself out there and it certainly takes time to grow confident in your work and how you communicate with people, it takes a bit of luck and a lot of hard work.

At the beginning of my journey, Tom Pigeon created jewellery but things have developed in lots of ways since then. Much of my work is now print based which I really enjoy and it lends itself perfectly to developing patterns for textiles and homewares which I love designing too. I love to paint and create but sometimes that’s difficult to fit in. I love working in multiples, so I design things such as prints, homewares and jewellery which also makes my work available to a much wider audience.

Pictured is Star Editor Nancy Fielder with Cheryl Davidson, Bears of Sheffield Project Manager. Picture: Chris Etchells

I’m inspired by many different things, like the harbours where I used to live, or the views across the river Mersey where I live now, other simple things like the colours of ice cream. I like strong lines, playful colours and well-balanced geometry. I suppose my work is about taking a design and paring it back to its most simple form…but I do also simply like to create things that make others smile.

The work I choose thankfully opens up a lot of opportunities for me and I am very lucky to be able to explore numerous different materials, processes and production methods in my work.

I really love the flexibility which my career has given me. But more importantly I’m now in a position to help others who are pursuing creative careers. I set up the social project ‘Make Bank’, in 2019 which helps disadvantaged school pupils to access creative education and careers – I’m so happy I am able to do something to help the next generation of creatives.

I myself am still learning everyday and in particular doing artist collaborations really forces me to think outside of my usual practise and it’s fantastic swapping ideas and processes with other creatives.

Sometimes I’ll approach an organisation if I think there’s an exciting opportunity to work together on a specific project. I’m super excited about the Bears of Sheffield project because I’ve not worked on this scale before and I can’t wait for the new challenge!

Our bear design is a combination of Tom Pigeon’s love of shape and colour and The Make Bank’s idea that creativity should be available to all – a big artistic bear that will hopefully encourage others to release their creative side and support Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

Although I don’t have any personal connections to the hospital am I really excited by the way they work with artists to improve the wellbeing of patients and families, it truly is amazing, much needed and I am keen to get further involved in the near future.