One day, in December 2019, while doing Christmas shopping in Aberdeen, I wandered into The Aberdeen Whisky Shop on Union Street. When I say “wandered in” that is a bit of an exaggeration because The Aberdeen Whisky Shop is tiny and, especially at Christmas, is stocked to the rafters with whiskies of all kinds (with some gin added in for good measure). I was buying some miniature whiskies for a friend. I wasn’t looking for a tea towel but I did ask the Assistant (because I always do) “I don’t suppose you have any tea towels?” The young man gestured to a shelf behind where I was standing. “There’s a pile behind you but they are only of distilleries” he replied. “That’s just what I want” I said. I was excited. And there they were; it will come as no surprise to anyone that I bought one. When I looked at the tea towel, in closer detail, when I got home, I realised that these images of distilleries were eight beautiful paintings, the sort of images that take you back to those distilleries (and I have been to most of them), you can smell the fermenting barley, see the copper stills and the white painted buildings, remember the distillery tours and regret the fact that you don’t like whisky.
At that moment, I wandered down another Rabbit Warren: does KimberleyART do other tea towels‽ This is someone I would like to interview for In Conversation With….. One email later, Kimberley Smith agreed to an interview and then Coronavirus reared it’s ugly head. I thought that was the end of it until an email I received on 7 September 2020, which was a nice surprise, asking me if I still wanted to do the interview and here we are.
Kimberley’s website has the strap-line of “Scotland’s heritage in your home” and you can see exactly why that is so. I wanted to know how Kimberley would describe herself “I would probably call myself a watercolour artist and designer” and her website goes on to talk about “a small family business that creates products and gifts featuring art work of traditional Scottish architecture including castles, distilleries and lighthouses”.
“When I left school, I went on to study architecture at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen. This is where I discovered my love of learning about, and painting, historical architecture. I loved finding out about a place and the capturing it in my work. I have always loved painting and I picked up some Photoshop editing skills at school and then at university. Apart from that, it is all self-taught and I am just learning as I go.
I started out my business four years ago when I thought I would try and sell prints of some of the places I had painted. It slowly grew and I started to transfer my paintings onto coasters, placemats and then tea towels. Up until recently I have been a sole trader but have now become a limited company as my business has grown substantially in the last two years”.
I wondered what the favourite part of Kimberley’s work was: “My favourite part of my work will always be the painting. I love the process of painting, from the initial sketch to the tiny fine details in watercolours. Although it also gives me a huge feeling of pride every time someone places an order”. I also wondered how her work was sold: “My work is for sale online on the Etsy Marketplace and I also supply a number of gift shops in Scotland including the National Trust for Scotland. I occasionally also attend craft fairs at Christmas and the Highland Games in summer.”
I will always want to know about the tea towels she designs and how she sees the future for her business: “I would love to see it continue to grow and make it a full time job. There are so many places I want to explore and paint, so I’m not short of ideas for painting. Currently, I have three tea towels designed – Distilleries of Scotland, Castles of Aberdeenshire and Castles and Country Houses of the North East (National Trust exclusive). As I paint more places, I will be looking to expand the range. I have plans for an Islay Distillery Tea Towel next. I don’t think I could choose a favourite tea towel. Each one is special and I could tell a story about each place that is featured on the tea towels”
Thank you Kimberley for that interview, and I can’t wait to see the Islay Distillery Tea Towel. For anyone that wants to look at Kimberley’s work, her social media links are: