You may recognise the name Kim Haskins but quite possibly you will be more familiar with her beautiful art. Kim's joyful and idiosyncratic depictions of animals - particularly wild-eyed, fluffy cats and colourful, kooky birds - have found fame and collectors worldwide. Her paintings are displayed in galleries around the UK and her images are available as prints, greetings cards and gift/household products (all available from www.KimHaskinsArt.com).
The vast popularity of Kim's original work has unfortunately also led to battles against digital art theft. Her images have been stolen and illegally placed on products by manufacturers in China and re-sold around the world, including on Amazon. You can read more about her experience and advice to other artists in a similar position on her blog.
Kim lives in Bedfordshire, UK, with her other half, comedian and broadcaster Jake Yapp (www.JakeYapp.co.uk), their young son, Spike, and rescue moggy Blod (who has his own Dapper Cat's Miaow Bow Tie).
The Curious Interview with Kim Haskins
What are you most curious about?
I think it’s hard not to be curious about lots of things (except sport perhaps?). If I had to pick something I’ve been consistently curious about, I’d say Japan. I’d love to go there one day. I had a Japanese friend at school who used to return from visits there with awesome presents of things like Hello Kitty stationery, beautiful (or so I thought, aged 10) shiny stickers of cute and strange cartoon characters, and compact cases of miniature ink stamps that smelled like amazing sweets. The whole styling and packaging of the things she brought back seemed way more stylish and covetable than anything else I’d seen before. Mind you, this was the early ‘90s, so my cultural realm was limited to the insipid Forever Friends bears and The Lion King merchandise.
Now that I’m well into my 30s, I’m slightly less bothered by Hello Kitty pencil cases but still fascinated by Japan and how it’s a country of huge extremes in nature, geography and culture, and yet it’s all so idiosyncratic. From an outsider’s perspective and without wanting to stereotype, what I mean is that for all its diversity - from elegant geometric textile designs to mad kawaii fashions, and zen gardens to tentacle erotica - Japanese culture appears to have a distinctively strong sense of identity and place. In a world of social media and mega powerful global brands, it’s uplifting and far more interesting to see past homogeneity and recognise uniqueness. I think that’s inspiring on a personal level too.
My second curiosity is people’s relationships with the non-human world. I’m vegan, and this is fundamental to my values about wanting to live a compassionate life. I’m interested in how animals can give humans happiness, yet conversely how humans can flip a psychological switch to justify causing immense suffering to animals for their own pleasure. To quote the writer Gary Francione, “Veganism is not about giving anything up or losing anything; it is about gaining the peace within yourself that comes from embracing nonviolence and refusing to participate in the exploitation of the vulnerable”.
How does your curiosity serve your creativity?
The things I create (mainly paintings, but also ornaments and homeware items like mugs and teatowels) are inspired by my interest in products and art-forms that are unique, joyful, well-crafted, covetable and representative of distinctive personality. I’m not interested in following trends, but I want to do what I do really well, and for the joy of others.
The human-animal relationship is central to my paintings of animals. When somebody commissions a painting of a dearly departed cat, say, I’m not just trying to paint a picture any old cat. I try to create something that elicits feelings of love, nurturing, home and humour that the owner associated with their relationship. When I take on animal painting commissions, I always ask customers to tell me a little bit about the animal. Their descriptions can be very telling - often funny, sometimes deeply poignant and always very heartfelt. This helps inform the overall outcome.
What inspires you?
My other half, Jake, and our young son, Spike. They’re both the funniest, most thoughtful, spirited, big-hearted people I could ever hope to have in my life. Jake and I actually met through admiration for each other’s work - years ago I was a big fan of his funny daily sketches on the BBC 6 Music Breakfast Show, and it turned out that he liked my odd paintings of bonkers fluffy cats too. We share a very chaotic studio and spend a lot of time discussing harebrained creative ideas, listening to strange music and getting involved in each other’s work.
How would you describe your style?
In terms of day-to-day clothes style I’d say comfy, fitted and not too precious - I need to be able to bend down to tidy up toys or move around my studio without feeling constrained nor worrying about loose fabrics dangling in my paint palette. I love soft natural fabrics like cotton and bamboo, so my favourite ‘at home’ outfit is leggings, vest and ballet wrap top. If I need to look smart, I go for a white shirt tucked into jeans or shorts. It’s a handy blank canvas because you can easily alter the look with different accessories and shoes.
What do you particularly like about Wool & Water?
I love Alice’s wry sense of design and how she’s able to take traditionally masculine accessories such as bow ties and braces and makes them softer, more feminine and fun to wear. I particularly appreciate her vegan-friendly Cotton pieces and that she chooses elegant colour palettes. Everything is clearly made with love and the packaging is so thoughtfully presented. In summary, I’d say Wool & Water is distinctive but understated. Classy, basically.
" When I wear my Braces I...
...feel like having fun!"
With thanks to Jake Yapp for the photography (@jakeyapp)