What do you do after picking up discarded drink cans that have been littering Ramsgate streets?
Well, if you are retired English teacher Abbie Ziegler you get out your paint and varnish and turn them into a host of micro-art characters.
The 58-year-old was an English teacher for 33 years but there had always been an artist inside just waiting to burst out.
And so 18 months ago, after the mum-of-two retired, she also packed up her life in Bognor Regis, made the move to Ramsgate and began to indulge her love of art alongside a bid to clear debris off the streets of her new hometown.
Now Abbie has created dozens upon dozens of tiny tin can artworks, from an eerie Punch puppet, African masks and a butt-kicking Red Riding Hood (there’s a gun in her basket) to a mini Edvard Munch The Scream and a tribute to Magritte’s Son of Man.
Abbie said: “I moved to Ramsgate 18 months ago during lockdown so I walked a lot because that was all there was to do. I noticed there were a lot of flattened tin cans everywhere and thought they would make good canvases.
“So, I picked them up and then I cleaned and painted them.
“I make them into whatever the can says to me and it’s good that I am cleaning the streets as well as making art.
“I have had a life of being an English teacher but was always desperate to be an artist so when I moved here I reinvented myself, here I’m not ‘Miss’ or ‘Mum’ but Abbie the artist.”
Abbie says her big adventure has also been a ‘safe’ adventure, adding: “I know the area because I went to uni at Canterbury and my oldest friend Scott lives here and runs Elephant in the Room. There is also the Thanet coast which is a beautiful place to be if you’re going to start again.”
Abbie also paints in watercolours and acrylics and has taken to making little knitted cats influenced by isle artist CatNeil.
Some of Abbie’s work has been on show at The Wooden Box gallery in Ramsgate, run by Rebekah Sunshine, and she is getting to know other people with an interest in arts with the hope of maybe exhibiting in other venues.
She said: “There is a thriving creative community here, it’s just getting to know people and having the confidence. As a teacher I am quite happy to tell a room of 30 teenagers to do this or that but walking into a gallery on your own is a bit scary!
“To be honest I’ll make things anyway, I can’t help myself, I’m creative and I enjoy it, I love what I do.”