World-renowned artist Mackenzie Thorpe puts love at the centre of much of his work in the form of bright red hearts.

So we can’t think of a better way of sharing the love this Christmas than a limited edition range of products featuring Mackenzie’s iconic artwork.

The Middlesbrough-born artist – a patron of the North East Autism Society – will launch the range at our Christmas market at New Warlands Farm on Saturday 26th November. It will also be available to buy on our website.

Every penny from sales of the greeting cards, gifts and stocking-fillers will go directly to NEAS to help support our lifeline services.

The range includes cards, mugs, tote bags, trolley keyrings, pin badges and pens, and all feature designs from Mackenzie’s paintings Love Picker and Picked With Love

Video shows new merchandise range

Mackenzie is a proud patron of NEAS, which he describes as “a wonderful organisation with an undeniable sense of family to it. It is my honour to be part of that family.

“I have seen first-hand the difference their support makes to individuals and families giving autistic people hope of a bright future as they take their next steps. I am so very lucky to be able to help in my own small way.”

Mackenzie has already been incredibly generous to the charity, donating an original painting called Welcome To My World to mark the opening of our new Mackenzie Thorpe Centre school in South Bank. He also created the labels for the cider produced at New Warlands Farm.

Here is a short guide to the artist and his work:

His life

The artist was born in Middlesbrough in 1956 and was the oldest of seven children. His dad was a labourer and his mother an auxiliary nurse.

An undiagnosed dyslexic, Mackenzie struggled at school but loved drawing. “I’ve drawn all my life – I don’t remember not drawing,” he says. 

He left school at 15 with no qualifications and worked in the shipyards before getting into Cleveland College of Art, followed by the Byam Shaw School of Art in London. “I took my paints out and painted a man in a steelworks – everyone else was painting flowers,” he says.

He and his wife Susan returned North to Richmond to set up a gallery, and he has since become one of the world’s most collected artists, touring Asia, Australia and the US. But he has never left his North East roots behind: “It’s just me – I can’t escape it. It’s my therapy, it’s my world.”

The hearts

Hearts feature A LOT in Mackenzie’s work. He says love is the biggest and most important part of life, and that he draws hearts “because everybody recognises it means love.”

The child

A whole series of paintings features a faceless child, a symbol of love and innocence. They have no face because they represent everyone: “We’ve all been there, we’ll all be there again, and we’ll all get through.”

The duffle coat

The duffle coat was a hand-me-down from Mackenzie’s uncle when he was young: “That made me feel I was as strong as him, I didn’t have to be scared.” So the coat is a form of protection.

Find out more about our Christmas Fete