Published on September 3rd, 2019 | by Alastair Gilmour0
All in berry good taste
A Newcastle pub has added to its collection of visual delights, writes Alastair Gilmour
Keith Christie’s wife has got her kitchen back. A six-foot high work of art has been taking shape at their Rowlands Gill home, but it’s now a star attraction in the function room of The Strawberry in Newcastle.
Keith is a firefighter based at Byker, Newcastle, one of the nation’s busiest fire stations, and has created an enormous, three-dimensional artwork featuring a strawberry – made out of thousands of bottle tops.
A Newcastle United match-day regular at the pub, he had approached Strawberry landlord Michael Hill about producing the piece for the start of the current Premier League season.
Michael says: “When Keith put the idea to me – on a match day when the pub was heaving – I thought ‘bottle tops, that’s interesting’. It’s created a huge amount of interest, but I never appreciated the size of the thing until I saw it. Now everybody wants to know which top was theirs.”
Bright red Sol and Budweiser caps form the fruit part of the piece with bent-over Desperado tops forming the “seeds”. Surrounding them are 2,100 Newcastle Brown Ale bottle tops, bathed in acrylic resin for a smooth finish. Keith has even positioned Bud caps with a slightly lighter hue down one side of the strawberry to further enhance the 3D illusion.
“It’s the first time I’ve anything like this for somebody else,” says Keith. “I’ve been collecting bottle tops for ages and Michael ordered a thousand new ones for this project. Other people have donated them as well.
“The base framework is MDF and the curve of the strawberry was formed out of expanding polystyrene with Polyfilla and papier maché to give it shape. It took 28 hours to do over a couple of months.”
Keith has also built a bar in his house; the front of the counter is a Union Jack featuring red, white and blue bottle tops – of course – with the top also inlaid with a colourful collection of caps. The couple’s bathroom floor has been given similar treatment, only with a layer of pennies.
“My job as a firefighter is stressful,” he says. “A lot of my work is now in river rescue and only last night I dragged someone out of the Tyne – who survived – so doing this sort of thing is therapeutic, helping me switch off. When you go back to your wife and kids after something like that, it can be very tense.”
The Strawberry – a fine pub in its own right – revels in artwork and memorabilia relating to Newcastle United, its players and history. Michael Hill is also adept at nourishing talent and supporting the football community, plus knowing his clientele’s needs. For instance, customers have benefitted from an impressive rooftop terrace refurbishment.
A young barman sums up how regulars have taken to the artwork: “You’d think it was a museum in here the number of people who’ve come in and asked to see it.”
For commissions and more on Keith Christie, visit @ChristieBespokeArtwork