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Meet the artist behind The Snook

St Leonards have been a little busy over the past few months, working with Make it York on a new creature trail for 2024!

Following a vote from almost 2,000 city residents, Sheffield illustrator Sian Ellis was picked as the designer. The sculpture design is called a Snook and is a creature with its head buried in a book. 23 of these creatures will be sited in York, sponsored by local businesses. Many artists from around the UK have travelled to the secret location in York to paint their bespoke design on to the creatures.

The trail itself will be launched on 29 February, and we are looking forward to seeing all of the different designs. The Snooks will be placed in more than 20 different locations around York, with the hope to drive and entertain tourists, promote local businesses and eventually fundraise for St Leonard’s Hospice. When the trail ends, partners are invited to a charity auction where they can purchase a Snook. To date, Sian’s sculptures have raised over £100,000 for charity, so we have our fingers crossed for another great fundraising achievement.

On Monday 15 January our Snook travelled down to London with Make It York for an installation at Kings Cross Station to encourage tourism to York. The Snooks were hard to miss, standing at 6ft tall!

We spoke with the designer behind the Snook character, Sian Ellis, to learn more about her thought process.

How long have you been an artist, and when did you realise you wanted to pursue it as a career?

“I’ve been an artist for nearly 6 years now and I’ve been drawing forever! I remember drawing in all of my Mum’s books when I was tiny! I never really planned on pursuing it as a career, having always drawn for fun, but I kept on getting a lot of requests to draw commissions; it spiralled from there. My background is in Fundraising and Event Management.”

Could you talk us through the design idea and inspiration for the St Leonard’s Snook?

“The prominent feature is of course the Sunflower. It was inspired by the gardens at the Hospice and represents the work that the team give to the patients; always finding the light even when in dark places.”

Finally, tell us about your experience whilst working on the York Snook Trail, how has it been?

“All of the sponsors have been so enthusiastic and receptive to what we’re doing with the trail. It’s been brilliant to meet all of these artists from across the UK and seeing the difference in design ideas from the exact same sculpture—the whole process has been brilliant!”

The Snook trail will start in York on the 29 February 2024 and run to end of April.