Edinburgh homeless man’s pizza box plea for help is turned into £40k luxury rug

A homeless man’s heartfelt plea for help which was written on a pizza box has been turned into a luxury rug worth up to £40,000.

Wednesday, 29th September 2021, 12:30 pm

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Contemporary artist Kevin Harman used the hand-drawn sign made by Edinburgh homeless man Steven Jenkins as the design for the two-metre-square rug made by the capital’s Dovecot Studios.

Now the rug, which reads “Can you spare some change for a B+B for the nite it is £20 a nite for it thanks for your help take care God bless” is for sale with a price tag of £35,000-40,000.

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Artist Kevin and his creations. (pic: Colin Hattersley)

Harman has developed a range of high-end interiors products inspired by Stevens’ signs called Signs of Life, with a significant percentage of the profits donated to homeless charities.

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The artist, whose work is in private collections around the world and is represented by Edinburgh’s Ingleby Gallery, met Jenkins begging for change outside a supermarket near his Edinburgh studio.

Struck by the time and effort Steven had put in to creating his hand-drawn sign asking passers-by to “spare some change for a BnB”, he offered to buy it for £10. He continued to buy his work regularly until he had collected over 300 signs.

Harman's creation was inspired by sign written on a discarded pizza box. (Pic: Colin Hattersley)

He used the colourful designs on the signs to create luxury printed fabric and commissioned artisan seamstress Irene Tweedie to make unique velvet duck feather cushions which retail for £350 each. A range of of throws is also in development.

Harman hopes the rugs will prove popular with buyers and he will be able to be able to develop a range of bespoke rugs using signs from the collection.

He said: “I’m interested in the extreme distance between the cardboard sign, which is all about survival, and where the rug might end up, in a large, decadent dwelling.

The impassioned plea for help struck a chord with artist Kevin. (Pic: Colin Hattersley)

“I was struck by the attention to detail in Steven’s signs. Although they were made with cardboard and felt-tip pens, I could see how long they had taken him, it made me think about the things people do to survive.

“I’m interested in what happens when these designs are turned into art objects, how the object will resonate and react with other objects in a person’s house. It’s a reminder that you are in a position that another person is not.

“I wanted the rug to have a rough texture, so it wasn’t entirely comfortable underfoot. I want to have a conversation about how to help people in bad circumstances, and this gives us the floor, so to speak.”

Weaver and tufter at Dovecot Studios, Louise Trotter, carefully reproduced Jenkins’ design which had been made on cardboard from a discarded pizza box, copying his colours and even the stains on the cardboard.

She said: “This project is quite different from some of the other rugs I’ve worked on. Often they have a very rich velvety feel, but Kevin wanted something rougher, more like a doormat, so we used a mixture of jute, flax, nylon and really hard wools.

“As well as the colours Steven had used, we wanted to replicate the corrugated texture of the pizza box and the way the lettering was scored into the cardboard, so we used loop-pile tufting for the words. Getting the textures right has been absolutely key.”

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