By Jenny Watson
Photos by Caroline Finn
What happens when you combine a passion for car mechanics with a love for art?
A Young Achiever of the Year is created.
Local entrepreneur and artist Jack Smyth, 23, has faced many adversities in his young life.
As a premature baby, doctors warned his parents he required shunts in his brain to stop it from bleeding. This left Jack with cerebral palsy down his right-hand side.
“We were told Jack would not walk or talk and that his prognosis was very poor,” explained Jack’s mum, Karen.
Jack was regularly in and out of hospital during his childhood. On many occasions he was on life support, each time defying the odds and continuing to grow in strength.
Scrap Yard Days
As a young boy he was interested in mechanics, spending hours watching his dad fix cars and absorbing as much information as he could. One of his favourite things to do was visiting scrappies with his dad in search of spare parts.
“Scrap yards – I look at them like a massive toy shop. It’s effectively where I come alive. I love them,” Jack said laughing.
After high school he started studying vehicle mechanics at college. However, various barriers prevented Jack completing the course, greatly affecting his confidence.
He learned to adapt his welding technique using extra clamps and equipment and sticking to his uncle’s welding advice – “ABC. Always Be Comfortable.”
Jack had the idea to combine his love of cars with the craft of welding and began to create pieces of art. He started by turning car parts into candle holders and fire pits. His dream is to eventually turn this into a fully-fledged business.
Jack also joined the West Dunbartonshire Street League who put him in touch with the Princes Trust and since then he has not looked back. Through the Princes Trust Jack completed confidence building courses, participated in seminars and even gave speeches at events.
In October he was presented with the Princes Trust Young Achiever of the Year Award at a glittering ceremony in Edinburgh. For a young man who used to be nervous about attending events alone this was something he never dreamt would be possible.
Now he is passionate about encouraging others to “keep smiling, dreaming and creating.”
It is a passion which led to a meeting with one of his idol’s – blacksmith and metal sculpture artist Kevin Paxton.
Kevin’s bespoke artwork is internationally known so when he invited Jack to visit his Edinburgh workspace, it was a very quick and excited acceptance reply.
The meeting turned out to be inspirational for both artists. Jack described it as the “highlight of his year so far.”
And Kevin said: “It was a pleasure to meet Jack and see his determination to overcome the obstacles that have been in his way.
“His choice of career demonstrates his grit, as blacksmithing is both a physically and mentally demanding job.
“His enthusiasm for his art and designs is contagious and he is an inspiration and example to any young person who wants to follow their passion.
“We have commissioned a piece of his work ourselves and look forward to seeing Jack go from strength to strength.”
Jack’s inspirational and motivated personality and work ethic has created contacts and networks keen to help him along his path.
From local garages and the Bikes 4 Good project donating materials and spare parts, to meeting Arnold Clark CEO at a party – which resulted in a box of car parts arriving at Jack’s house two weeks later – young Jack has a natural flair for welding relationships as well as car parts.
He is also environmentally conscious and keen to give back to the communities who help him, living by his motto of “changing the world, one weld at a time.”