Written by Alice Marshment of Bristol Bakestress fame. Photography by Kelly Lear (www.kellylearphotography.co.uk).
I am barely seconds into Jethro Brice’s Easton home when I trip over a bike. It’s one of several occupying space in his dining room. “They belong to my housemate” he explains, “she’s a bike mechanic”. This seems fitting, as bicycles feature prominently in Jethro’s work. He has recently started a business as a bespoke bicycle art designer (http://jethrobrice.com/bicycle-tattoo-parlour http://bristolpound.org/directory/jethros-bicycle-tattoo-parlour), which of course accepts £B, and a bike is one of several key images on the 1£B which Jethro designed; the reason I am here to talk to him.
Over a cup of lemongrass tea Jethro tells me that he originally moved to the West Country to be part of an organic farming collective in Radford, but three years ago relocated to Bristol in order to concentrate on pursuing his love of art. He enthuses about the creativity prevalent in the area, which supports not one but two community choirs, as well as Bristol Refugee Rights (recently relocated to St Pauls) where he runs a regular art table space as part of the drop-in centre.
Jethro’s winning design for the 1£B has an environmental theme, and his aim was to depict the environment as a series of dynamic relationships. The elements he chose – a fox, an apple tree, and a magpie feature alongside the bicycle – stand out for him as symbols of Bristol both literally and metaphorically. Walk along many of the cycle paths that dot the city, for example, and you will see apple trees flourishing amongst the urban jungle. The ubiquity of foxes and magpies demonstrate the impact people have on the environment since these animals are the ones that are able to thrive in close proximity to their human neighbours. Even cycling is itself a way of defining the local environment in that it demarcates the distance that can easily be travelled.
A passionate supporter of the £B, having already come across similar schemes in Totnes and Stroud, Jethro is particularly keen on the way in which the £B keeps money in the local economy and encourages self-sufficiency. He regularly shops at local businesses that have embraced the scheme, including East Bristol Bakery and the Bristol Sweetmart and says he hopes more will soon join. The £B has already had positive outcomes for Jethro’s freelance work, for example when someone in Australia saw an article about Jethro’s design and asked if he could use his imagery as a tattoo. This led to a new commission from which others have followed.
In addition to the bicycle art, Jethro is the main creator behind the FutureMuseum project (futuremuseum.org.uk) a pop-up installation exploring what mundane artefacts reflect about today’s society from the perspective of the future, and if money talks, it will be interesting to see what the £B has to say.