Socks and the city

John Dowswell
John Dowswell
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“SOMETIMES,” says John Dowswell, “I do question whether this is normal behaviour and my conclusion is always that it’s probably not.

“But it gives me a lot of pleasure anyway, and I hope it bring some joy to other people.”

The 28-year-old professional artist of Sharrow is talking about his latest somewhat unusual project.

And if you’re one of those people who dismiss modern art as a bit pants, John is determined to prove you wrong - through the medium of socks.

He’s spent the last eight weeks planting more than 60 images of brightly coloured stockings in random places across Sheffield.

He’s pinned paper socks to trees in Endcliffe Park, left a cushioned sock on a Peace Gardens bench, floated a sponge sock in the waters at Weston Park, and drawn a chalk sock on a blackboard outside the Old Junior School in South View Road.

More? He’s snuck a felt sock into Sainsbury’s (“I left it on a shelf and it was still there two days later”), gaffer-taped a bubble wrap sock to a London Road post box, and left a sock complete with a poppy by the Barker’s Pool war memorial.

He’s made them from wood, metal, wool and a Sheffield A - Z, and he’s dropped them at all point within that A - Z.

It’s not littering, he insists; it’s making the city a prettier place. And it’s proof real creativity doesn’t need an Art Council grant, it just requires imagination.

“Why have I done it?” ponders John, who works under the monicker coLor and who appeared in The Diary last year after painting duck murals in 25 city pubs. “I don’t want to sound flowery but I like that idea of using public space to show off work.

“This is me giving something I’ve created to the city, and then the city can do what it wants with it. A lot of the socks have disappeared. Maybe some have been thrown away but I’m sure some will have been taken home by people because they’re interesting.”

And he plans to keep laying them out until he’s reached 100 socks - “or I go crazy, whichever comes first,” he notes.

“I suppose its trying to take art out of the gallery,” he says. “I like the idea of someone stumbling on a sock somewhere unusual and it making them smile.”

And if you haven’t stumbled on one yet - “they go quickly,” he notes - there’s a button sock in the window of Rare And Racy book shop in Devonshire Street.

“That one took me hours and I wanted to put it somewhere it wasn’t so open to the elements,” explains John, who chefs part time at The Wick At Both Ends, in West Street. “They said if I left it in the shop I’d have to sell it but I wanted to keep it in there for a while - so I gave it a £300 price tag.”

Normal behaviour or not, it’s a project which is certainly socking it to people.