Sunday, May 26, 2024

Belonging to Us

Shelanu members_c. Craftspace

A new, free, exhibition – Belonging to Us: Nurturing women through making – opens at the School of Jewellery, Birmingham City University 3 – 28 April. Curated by Craftspace, the exhibition celebrates 10 years of Shelanu, a Craft Collective that supports refugee and migrant women to make and sell contemporary jewellery.

The exhibition tells the story of Shelanu which means ‘belonging to us’, whose current members come from across the global diaspora: Pakistan, Venezuela, Hong Kong, Israel, India and Kurdistan. As well as learning new making skills and creating high-quality craft, the women are supported to improve their English, learn business skills and run workshops for the community. For the Belonging to Us exhibition Shelanu launches Nurture, a new range of jewellery made more sustainably, produced with guidance from internationally renowned jeweller Rachael Colley. This will be displayed alongside the Collective’s previous collections and examples of their community work.

Showing Shelanu’s work alongside other entrepreneurial collectives demonstrates the important role that micro and social enterprises play in providing a supported and safe means for women to contribute economically to the creative industries. These alternative models which balance welfare and skills development, result in bringing innovative and imaginative new products to the marketplace which are infused with rich narratives, symbols and imagery of place and identify.

Included in the exhibition is previous jewellery, textile gifts and interior products for the home by: the Flourish Jewellery Project an Edinburgh CIC, MasterPeace Academy a Birmingham based CIC and Love Welcomes a London based social enterprise. In addition five other international enterprises are represented digitally: Monkeybiz – South Africa; Australian Design Centre – Indigenous Jewellery Project; Hadithi Crafts – South East Kenya; Bosna Quilt Wekstatt – Germany/Bosnia and Editions in Craft with Siyazama Project – Sweden/South Africa.

Deirdre Figueiredo, Director, Craftspace said: “Shelanu Craft Collective is a great asset to the city ensuring that the jewellery making tradition in Birmingham is culturally progressive, artistically excellent and contributes to community cohesion. Featuring nine projects together brings attention to the quietly radical ways that women are effecting change in their communities and enabling makers across nations to thrive and prosper.”
Previous Shelanu participant and maker, Kinneret said: “Everyone at Shelanu is from different countries and different cultures, but we all sit around one table and try to develop and create something new together. It’s really an amazing process and helped me to feel more at home.”

Over the last 10 years, meeting just one day a week, Shelanu members have developed 4 collections, sold 600 pieces, and shown their work in 21 exhibitions. They have shared their skills with 1317 women through delivering 336 hours of specialist workshops with 15 community partners. They have featured in two books, and a variety of reports and publications. In 2013, Craftspace was shortlisted for the Engaging New and Diverse Audiences in Craft Skills award, for its work with Shelanu. More information on supporting Shelanu can be found here:

Featuring socially impactful craft projects that create safe spaces which support women’s development, sense of purpose, agency and creative enterprise Belonging to Us: Nurturing women through making is at the Vittoria Street Gallery, School of Jewellery 3-28 April 2023 8am – 7pm, (not open on weekends).

Work featured within the exhibition which is available for sale can be found through each featured organisations website, with all profits going back into the individual social enterprises to support future making and workshops.

More information

List of Exhibitors
Physical exhibitors
Shelanu, which means ‘belonging to us’, is a collective of migrant and refugee women working with Craftspace to develop craft skills, confidence and well-being through social enterprise. They produce high quality craft inspired by their new home, the city of Birmingham and their experiences of migration.
A range of activities help members to develop new skills (including craft, improving English and business skills), increase confidence, combat isolation, challenge preconceptions and support integration.

Activities include:

  • Designing, making and selling jewellery and other products inspired by the theme of migration and Birmingham.
  • Running craft workshops and projects for community groups, arts venues, schools, corporate or private workshops.
  • Public and private commissions.

Shelanu relies on funding from trusts and foundations, private donations and income from sales of their work and services.

Flourish Jewellery Project
An Edinburgh CIC, featuring their Glow Programme. Now in its second year and funded by The Goldsmiths Centre in London, The Flourish Jewellery Project is an exciting craft jewellery project. Working in partnership with North Edinburgh Arts and organisations across Edinburgh, jewellery artists Lisa Arnott, Jessica Howarth and Carly Wilson have enabled women who are recovering from trauma, social isolation, and economic hardship to develop new skills in jewellery design and making.

MasterPeace Academy
Birmingham based CIC, founded by Norma Banton in 2021. MasterPeace Academy enables access to the British jewellery trade for those who might otherwise face barriers to entry. It champions diversity, equity and inclusion. Over 30 mainly young people have benefitted from their accredited training programmes, and most have been placed in local employment in the jewellery trade.

Love Welcomes
London based CIC. Love Welcomes helps refugee women begin to stitch their lives back together. Launched in 2017, it was created in response to the refugee crisis in Greece. Today it works in multiple locations supporting refugees in camps and those who have resettled. Their team of refugee women upcycle materials, into beautiful, handmade home products that they sell all over the world.

Digital exhibitors
Monkeybiz – South Africa
Monkeybiz is an economic upliftment project dedicated to reviving the traditional craft of African beadwork and empowering women to become financially independent. The crowning achievement of Monkeybiz is that it recognises and develops the artistic ability of people who have never had the opportunity to express themselves though art. Monkeybiz provides a platform for beaders to become artists in their own right.
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Australian Design Centre, Indigenous Jewellery Project
Founded in 2013, the Indigenous Jewellery Project (IJP) is the first nation-wide Indigenous Australian contemporary jewellery project. IJP works with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-owned art centres across Australia. The aim of the Indigenous Jewellery Project is to strengthen and continue existing traditions and facilitate artists to develop a career as exhibiting contemporary artist jewellers through upskilling, involving developing practice and the use of professional jewellery materials.
Focussed on developing and maintaining Aboriginal jewellery and small object tradition and practice, it reinforces the connection to traditional lands and the natural world whilst developing a sophisticated contemporary craft practice, in which works are created that both sit on the body and outside it.

Hadithi Crafts – South East Kenya
Social enterprise Hadithi Crafts supports over 1800 women from artisan groups by providing a market for their handmade crafts. They also assist the groups with raw materials, training in craft skills and other empowering workshops. They want to give as many people as possible in Tsavo, Kenya, a sustainable opportunity to earn their livelihood. Their mission is to lift people out of poverty and take pressure off the land and wildlife which people in Tsavo share their homes with.

Bosna Quilt Werkstatt – Germany/Bosnia
Conceived as a temporary employment project for Bosnia refugee women in Germany, it has turned into a workshop that has now created over 2000 quilts. As colourful, artistic and as friendly as Bosna Quilts are – they are children of war. And as paradoxical as it sounds: without the misery of fleeing a war, the Bosna Quilt Workshop would not exist.

The Siyazama Project supported by Editions in Craft – South Africa
Founded in 2008 by curators Renée Padt and Ikko Yokoyama in Sweden, Editions in Craft is an international platform for artists and designers to explore technical and artistic possibilities of traditional crafts and specialised manufacturing world-wide. Its objective is to help preserve local and traditional crafts by encouraging collaboration with contemporary artists and designers. The Siyazama Project is a collective of twenty women from the rural province of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa who work with traditional beadwork. The vision was to set up a collaboration with contemporary designers to develop products together in workshops by linking traditional skills with contemporary design practice and through sharing techniques and exchanging ideas.

Craftspace is a charity creating opportunities to see, make and be curious about exceptional contemporary craft. We are based in Birmingham and work collaboratively regionally, nationally and internationally. We build relationships between artists, people and organisations and encourage the sharing of ideas, skills and knowledge.
We have over 30 years’ experience and continue to learn, push boundaries and challenge ideas.
Craftspace initiates artistic programmes which stimulate creative excellent, critical thinking and understanding of contemporary crafts in the widest social and cultural contexts.

School of Jewellery, Birmingham City University
The Faculty of Arts, Design and Media at Birmingham City University (BCU) has a wide-ranging programme of exhibitions and events throughout the year, which culminates with the Inspired Festival, a showcase of graduate work, at the end of the summer term.
The exhibition spaces at BCU are an integral part of the teaching and learning environment, as well as being ideal venues for the public to visit and be inspired.
Venues include the Parkside Gallery in the city centre Parkside Building and Vittoria Street Gallery at the School of Jewellery in the Jewellery Quarter. The Parkside Gallery features an adjacent coffee shop and seating area for refreshments.
A core team of staff organise the exhibitions and events programme, celebrating student’s research and practice. Industry partners, staff and practitioners also engage with the programme and contribute to the diverse range of shows. The exhibitions programme also extends to include a wide selection of collaborative activities, which take place across the city and beyond.

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