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Page last updated at 12:44 GMT, Wednesday, 21 April 2010 13:44 UK
Textile graffiti artist strikes at Plymouth sundial
By Jemima Laing
BBC Devon

The colourful seats
The colourful new-look at the Plymouth sundial (James Craig)

An artist who could be described as textiles' answer to Banksy has struck in the centre of Plymouth.

The city's sundial has been transformed overnight with the small plinths which surround it each now sporting an individual upholstered, padded cover.

It's all the work of Mrs Smith, a textile graffiti artist who is known for her surprise interventions in the urban landscape.

And she, like Banksy, likes to keep her identity secret.

But she did send the BBC Devon website an email saying she was delighted her "handiwork at the Sundial has been so appreciated by the good folk of Plymouth and has raised a few smiles".

I thought it deserved a little jollying up
Mrs Smith

She has created a variety of textile-based works in public spaces across the UK and decided Plymouth could do with her crafty attentions.

"And it's thanks to the good folk of Plymouth that all the covers survived the night intact!" said Mrs Smith

"Plymothians obviously all have a great respect and enthusiasm for art which makes me so glad that I chose the city for my latest hit.

One of the seats
This close-up shows the amazing detail

"The Sundial is such a lovely spot and so well used as a meeting place, I thought it deserved a little jollying up.

"As one local friend said of my colourful adornments 'very comfortable on the eye and on the bottom'."

On her website she explains her motivation: "I started to notice things in the street that looked a little forlorn and in definite need of a bit of a boost.

"So I set to and got myself making nice woolly hats for rusted old railings and jolly outfits for statues that were unloved or just looked a bit chilly.

"This led on to cushions in bus shelters, curtains in kiosks and all sorts of other lovely things to help brighten up everyone's day."

And while Mrs Smith herself is long gone and working on another project Hazel Connors, a follower and collector of Mrs Smith, explained her modus operandi.

"She works in mysterious ways!" said Hazel, a doctor of chemistry.

"It will have been weeks, perhaps months, of work to make them. They are all individually tailored as the plinths are all slightly differing sizes and very comfy too.

"I know Mrs Smith thinks the urban environment could do with a bit of cosying up and she likes to bring a bit of softness and domesticity and make people re-look at their environment.

Little boy at the sundial
The covers have proved a real hit with shoppers in the city

The adornments appeared at the sundial overnight on Wednesday 21 April 2010 - and each plinth cover is embellished with tassels and bows - it's all removable and leaves no trace.

She has staged similar "hits" in Milton Keynes and the Isle of Wight and Hazel thinks Plymouth should feel privileged to have been "Smithed".

And Hannah Jones, exhibition and events officer at Plymouth College of Art, agrees.

"I have never actually met her but I like the way her work engages the public and creates debate about art and our environment, along with a dash of humour.

''We invited her to take part in our Material Actions exhibition at the end of the summer.

"But she seems to have taken matters into her own hands and decided to exhibit where she prefers - on the streets."

Plymouth sundial
Neil Robinson sent in this image of the upholstered sundial

In a statement Plymouth City Council said: "Given the positive public reaction to the display we are happy for it to remain in place - as long as no health and safety concerns arise."

One BBC Devon website reader Neil Robinson sent in this picture of the decorated sundial.

"It looks great, was even very comfy and was raising a few smiles," said Neil.

"Is it permanent? I hope so because it's a lot less chilly on the bottom!"

So is it permanent?

"No," said Hazel.

"We don't know how long it will stay here - it will be interesting to see but all Mrs Smith's work is removable and leaves no trace."

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