From “friendship campaign” to a symbol of counter-culture: An ode to the Smiley, on World Smile Day


“Hopefully, it raises a smile, it has a little bit of the honey monster to it I think, always a delicious Sunday morning treat with cartoons from when we were kids. We’re going to wheat paste it up along the alley as a big repetitive mural as we ended up with lots of reproductions from the Riso, hopefully, it’ll bring the community some joy!”
“A couple of years ago, I moved with my partner to Moss Side in Manchester, the alley behind our gaff was in a pretty sorry state with a lot of fly-tipping and drug use etc, so I slowly started cleaning it up, building planters and planting things (@a.moss.side.alley.greening if you’re interested). Over lockdown, this became a really cathartic distraction and a nice way to meet neighbours that had been sheltering and would come out to talk about what I was planting, so it felt quite natural to reach for imagery of flowers and plants! We work with collage a lot in the studio so I used various yellow and red flora to create the Smiley, this was then scanned in, re-printed using a cheap desktop printer that we’ve found gives images a nice grain, re-scanned, split into cyan, magenta, yellow and black layers and printed on our studio Risograph as a four -colour separation which while being close to the original pushes it a bit more and gives it a texture that we think it unachievable by digital means.
“I guess the first thing I associate the Smiley with is rave. We’re in Manchester and we get old school ‘Madchester’ thrust down our gullets all the time (please no more black and yellow stripes Peter Hook) but the Smiley kind of transcends that old school “you weren’t there, you don’t know” attitude and still feels like something that is for everyone whether they’re students taking their first Gary at the White Hotel watching Black Haine and Space Afrika through to acid mums and Balearic dads refusing to go home when the baby sitter calls because DJ Paulette is about to go B2B with Luke Unabomber in a working men’s club in Levenshulme.

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