Meet Our Artist-in-Residence, J.K Lawson

“JK Lawson is a force of nature, and not to be resisted.”

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Nicknamed the ‘Hieronymus Bosch of Beads’, JK or JKL, John K Lawson is a British born, American Contemporary visual artist and poet, living in South Louisiana, U.S. He’s also our current artist-in-residence! We’re delighted to welcome him to BMPF 2019 and look forward to his workshop along our theme of ‘walls and barriers’.

JK is best known for his work using salvaged Mardi Gras beads and reclaimed items from Hurricane Katrina, which he experienced first-hand while living in New Orleans.

“The word genius is much over-used, but John’s work, both his painting AND his poetry, are touched by it – undoubtedly, JK Lawson IS the real deal.”

-       David Woolley, Co-Founder of BMPF

Assortment of beadwork by JK Lawson

Assortment of beadwork by JK Lawson


Prior to the devastating hurricane in which he and his wife lost their home (as well as his studio), JK’s primary medium were his trademark Mardi Gras beads. He picked them up off the streets as morning rose after the famous New Orleans parades.

JK’s collection of beads were among the few possessions that survived the storm, after which he began creating a series of palimpsests, using drawings, sketches, photographs and personal documents that he salvaged from the flood.

His influences include the American playwright Tennessee Williams, the Spanish artist and architect Antoni Gaudi, and Picasso, the prolific artist, poet and playwright.

            “Lawson’s language, his rhythms, his skill as narrator, his powerful list of characters, his painter’s eye for detail, his raw and truthful source material, all are always under control, especially in that hardest of places for the poet – the end. Time after time, we’re seduced into the poem by the title, the striking first line, the whacky simile or crazy metaphor, but JK knows just how to end a poem. Powerful, musical, vivid, touching, angry, funny, profound – what more could anyone want from poems?”

-       David Woolley 

Maker Moons, by JK Lawson in collaboration with students from the Plymouth School of Art

Maker Moons, by JK Lawson in collaboration with students from the Plymouth School of Art


When we asked JK what piece of art or poetry he’s most proud of, he said, “Locally I’d have to say the Maker Moons, because it was made up at Maker Heights in Cornwall, in the old army barracks, with students from the Plymouth School of Art.”

JK has worked on several community projects. He’s recently returned from an artist residency at the Knock Knock Children’s Museum in Baton Rouge, LA, working with 350,000 parents and children in creative workshops. He told us, “I instructed children and parents alike to paint on easels and make drawings. I also built many objects such as guitars and looms that were designed for the children to decorate.”

“My favourite thing about working with the community,” he said, “is seeing the end result, knowing each time it will be different and that there is no right or wrong in the process. My career continues to be one of exploration and learning.”

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Currently, JK is working on a commission of three recycled Mardi Gras beaded doors for a client in New Orleans. He’s also just completed his next illustrated poetry book, Swamp Blues Men. You can find out more about him at his website here.

During JK’s festival workshop on Saturday, we’ll be collaging large cardboard boxes, using the vividly graffitied Berlin Wall as inspiration. Participants will be encouraged to think about how walls and blocks can represent fear, and how we can work through those fears (block by block) and ultimately, how we can break them down!

The boxes will be used to create a big, bright wall for our community event on Sunday, where a collection of school and community groups will be presenting a free-for-all jamboree of art, loosely inspired by our theme of walls/borders/barriers.

Why not come along and get creative? As JK says, “I have to create, it’s part of my DNA.” If it’s part of your DNA too, you can book tickets here and we’ll save a cardboard box for you – but be quick, they’re going fast!


If you’re unable to attend the workshop but would like to meet JK, he’ll be around on Saturday mingling with our other brilliant creatives. We also have loads of other great events and readings you can attend here.



Written by
Charlotte Rayment