An exhibition has recently launched at the renowned Birmingham City University (BCU) School of Jewellery celebrating 10 years of ‘Shelanu’, a craft collective that supports women with making and selling contemporary jewellery.
Showcased in the BCU School of Jewellery’s Atrium, the ‘Belonging to us’ exhibition – nurturing women through making – was curated by the charity Craftspace.
Among the exhibited pieces is a range of sustainable jewellery, called the ‘Nurture collection,’ which have been designed and created by migrant women from countries such as Pakistan, Hong Kong, Israel, India, and Kurdistan.
Rachael Colley, a Birmingham-based artist, and Visiting Lecturer at the BCU School of Jewellery, helped the Shelanu craft collective develop the Nurture Collection.
“Working collaboratively with Shelanu to develop the Nurture Collection has been such a delightful and enriching experience,” she said. “Nurture explores nature at its core, with so many of the jewellery pieces creatively inspired by wood, a beautiful natural material. The jewellery pieces subtly highlight certain environmental issues, for example their piece that include design motifs like bees and beeswax, highlighting the declining bee populations in the UK.
“The Nurture Collection could be seen as a form of Craftivism or ‘cause’ jewellery, helping draw attention to important current affairs, such as the loss of biodiversity across the world due to climate change.”
Over the last 10 years the Shelanu craft collective has helped migrant and refugee women improve their English, gain confidence, and develop craft skills.
Kinneret, a previous Shelanu participant and maker, 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.”
As well as learning new making skills and creating high-quality craft, the women are supported in learning business skills and running workshops for the community. The exhibition is also highlighting other creative projects which support women.
Deirdre Figueiredo, Director, Craftspace curators of the exhibition 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.”
Members of the collective, with help from local artists, have designed and produced the jewellery which they have been able to sell through the Craftspace website, as well as through other exhibitions and craft fairs.