Feature: Keri Smith

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Sometimes it is hard to find inspiration and outlets for creativity. It isn’t easy knowing where to start, or knowing what sort of project or activity to undertake. Keri Smith is the answer to problems of such a nature, with an impressive collection of books under her belt, each interesting and inspiring in its own way. Keri Smith is an author, who seems to be steadily growing in popularity as word gets around of her collection of published works encouraging creativity and inspiring the inquisitive and imaginative among us. As it is my first post to ‘The Ooh Tray’, I thought it rather appropriate it be about inspiration and perhaps the most important author to me personally. Novels are great, but Keri Smith’s books are so easy to engage with and it takes only reading the short phrases published in her own scribbles to encourage me to read, write or draw.

My first experience of Keri Smith’s work was ‘Wreck This Journal’ which came with the tagline ‘to create is to destroy’. The message not being one of destruction, but rather of ‘creative destruction’ and the idea that to create something new the perfect state of another object must be altered. ‘Wreck This Journal’ does not look like a notebook, but perhaps more like your average novel in the way it is bound and the feel of its pages. This element of the book makes it more of a challenge to write in, let alone right out destroy. This, however, is the very point of the book. It is designed to challenge us and the barriers we hold in regards to how to treat a book (if you are like me, you might take great care to ensure it remains looking brand new – no folding down pages or pencilling in notes!) ‘Wreck This Journal’ is great fun, it is to be taken light-heartedly and is an enjoyable challenge to under-go.

More recent than ‘Wreck This Journal’ is ‘This is not a Book’, similar in the sense that you are asked to challenge your own mental constraints toward the published, bound book. Unlike in ‘Wreck This Journal’ you are not asked here to destroy the original state of the book but are instead asked to see it not as a book but as various different other things. The book is not a book but is at times ‘a random adventure’ and at other times ‘an imaginary place’ or ‘a time travel device’. This book challenges the imagination, it forces imaginative and creative thought from the reader. The idea is that the book is whatever you want to make it, that everything need not remain in its assigned place. It is a ‘think outside the box’ sort of challenge, it may take you on a physical adventure and will certainly take you on a mental one: an exploration of your own mind and your own imagination.

From here, I began to read Keri Smith’s blog which at the time was called ‘wishjar’ (and now can be found at www.kerismith.com). Her blog provides an insight into what inspires her work and encourages readers to look into the sources of her inspiration and to find where it leads each of us. On her blog, you will find a fair number of philosophical quotes as well as interesting posts varying wildly in nature from the likes of fan mail to items from personal projects of Smith’s, such as her recent ‘sign series’.

The second book by Keri Smith that I purchased was ‘How to be an Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum’. The philosophical ideas in this book speak louder than those in ‘Wreck This Journal’ which are tidily tucked beneath the great time you have in its completion and the straight-forward nature of the task at hand, in this book quotes from philosophers such as Carl Jung and John Cage can be found. ‘How to be an Explorer of the World’ encourages us to make a conscious effort to take in the finer details of the everyday happenings around us. It is a book of documentation which is a useful resource for any artist, whether they be a writer, a painter or a musician. No matter what you are creating a collection of inspiration cannot go amiss. Like ‘Wreck This Journal’ this book lays out tasks, but the tasks here are not of the same nature. They are not focussed within the book but involve your environment and your life. In her books, the words you read are in Smith’s own handwriting, they feel not dissimilar to notes you might write to yourself or that others may leave for you. This and the casual words in which thoughts and tasks are presented all make it seem a very personal and thus a very engaging experience.

Keri Smith may not be an author in the conventional sense in that she does not write poetry, prose or non-fiction documentations; but she does write. Keri Smith’s writing will allow you to find inspiration in everything from things on the pavement outside to fleeting thoughts in your own head. You will begin to find inspiration everywhere in life: in conversation, in music, in film and in literature. Inspiration is not hard to find so long as you are paying attention and it is this valuable lesson that Smith passes forth in her own books.

3 Responses

  1. Ian says:

    Hi, this is an excellent synopsis of the writer her style. The design of the review is excellent so that it really makes you want to get a book and explore it for yourself. I must really order one don’t know which, but will definitely do it. Keep on trucking.

  2. Patrick says:

    Why do you keep referring to ‘This is Not a Book’ as a book? It’s clearly not a book. It even says so! 🙂

    • Sarah-Jane Cochrane says:

      Oops, my mistake. It is not a book, but it’s pretty deceiving in terms of outward appearance!