Sunderland artist Mike Clay has held exhibitions of his work in public spaces in the North East, and across the UK. Many of his works are held in private and commercial collections throughout Europe. For the Great North Snowdogs project, Mike has created Guide Dog, inspired by an OS relief map of the North East, for trail sponsors Tyne and Wear Metro.
Mike said: “I heard about Great North Snowdogs through a neighbour and I was lucky enough to initially be invited to design of one of the mini Snowdogs with hundreds of pupils at Mill Hill Primary in Sunderland. I also submitted a design for the main Snowdogs trail and was really pleased to find out that my design had been selected.
“My original design was based on an OS map, which is very fitting now that I know who the sponsor is! As a result of being partnered with Metro, I wanted to do something more appropriate for them so the design has evolved to cover key areas throughout Tyne and Wear in keeping with the Metro system, including West Monkseaton, Cullercoats, North Shields, Meadow Well, Percy Main, South Shields and Tynemouth where Guide Dog will be placed during the trail.”
Mike, whose work predominantly focuses on sculptures, has decades of experience in large scale public art projects, and has worked with more than 70 primary and secondary schools to develop artworks.
Where possible, Mike likes to include other people while developing his designs to make the end result feel more inclusive to those who will be enjoying the finished artwork. He likes to spend time out in the communities where he is working to immerse himself in the surroundings and help incorporate these elements into his work.
He said: “I’m really keen to get input from people across the region as I design the Snowdog. I’ve done work in the past where I have been based in a public space allowing people to feedback and offer advice, which as a concept, I love. I’m hoping there might be an opportunity to do something similar with this project.”
Mike, originally from Sussex, moved to Sunderland in 1979 to attend college and has made the region his home ever since. His work spans many different themes, however he has a longstanding interest in drawing maps which started during his childhood.
“I have always drawn maps, even since I was a kid. It’s something that has inspired a lot of my work so when it came to designing something for the Great North Snowdogs project a map seemed like an obvious choice. I wanted a design that had a use as well as looking decorative.”
Mike’s design will take inspiration from Ordnance Survey relief maps with 3D elements to bring it to life, while also providing a useful tool to those viewing it.
This will be the second time Mike has worked with Metro to bring a piece of his work to a public platform. In 1990, Mike created the ‘South Tyne Eye Plan’ mural in Heworth Metro station.
The intricate artwork, which takes the form of a continuous winding scroll, was inspired by street plans and features of the local area.
Mike added: “I’m really looking forward to being a part of the Great North Snowdogs trail and to be working with Metro again. It’s a great way to encourage interest in art among people of all ages as well as encouraging people to explore the region.”