Sometimes it’s the unexpected moments or events which spark a flurry of creativity and lead to a new passion project, like these whimsical scenes in vintage tins made by Brighton artist, Kate Lulham.
‘My sister-in-law gave me a tin for my birthday one year and for some reason, I’m not sure why, I felt the need to make something of it,’ she told me.
Her first scene was inspired by a quirky sweet shop she loved when she was at university in Newcastle. ‘There was only one old lady serving in the shop and she spent all her time shimmying up and down a ladder to get to the right tub. It always took an age to get served and we ended up queuing up outside, but no one seemed to mind!’
Fifteen years later and Kate is still making scenes in tins! Obviously her portfolio has grown considerably since – she’s made a tea room, coffee house, camp ground, beach scenes, a fish stall, and bigger pieces such as a prison, a hotel, a gallery and a street scene – to name a few. She each scene using painted layers of cut metal and there’s so much detail in each one, from the first polka dot on a bikini to the last lace doily…
‘Each scene tells a story and a lot of the time, it’s the picture on the front of the tin that inspires what’s inside,’ she says, ‘but I’m also inspired by memories, something I’ve seen or maybe even a scenario I’ve imagined.’
The prison is one of her favourite creations. ‘I was inspired by the TV show Porridge so each character shares a cell which makes the story about their relationship with each other,’ she says. ‘I also loved including little hints about each character. For example, there’s the Bible for ‘redemption man’ and drugs in jars for ‘the Kingpin’. I also added a little poster which can be lifted to show a hole for an escapee!’
If reading this is inspiring your own ideas for a miniature scene, Kate is happy to take on commissions. ‘I’ve had a few commissions for weddings and special birthdays but one of my favourite ones so far has been to make an engagement tin with the ring hidden in a tiny suitcase and involved the man who commissioned me holding up a ‘will you marry me?’ sign. I heard she said yes!’
Kate is never short of ideas and has plenty of plans for the future, including to make a hospital. ‘I just love those big old-fashioned open-plan Nightingale wards, and the blue-and-white striped uniforms, hats, and aprons. I used to be a nurse, and trained at University College Hospital so the piece would be inspired by this time in my life. I’d also love to make a 3D tin version of the boardgame, Cluedo, with the characters being quite lascivious, snarling and bitter, but in a conniving amusing way I hope.’
Have a look at Kate’s work on her website, here.