Salford artist Jessie Needlewoman has been commissioned by 42nd street to produce a piece for their ‘Art Exploration’ exhibition which will represent her journey as a care experienced person. Jessie has combined fashion, poetry, and film to reflect on her own experiences.

The exhibition will feature work from groups such as ‘Flight for change’ in Salford, The Lowry care leavers group and various care experienced young people from around Greater Manchester. It will also showcase four professional care experienced artists including Jessie Needlewoman and special features from Yusuf McCormack and Sophie Willan.

The exhibition will open on the 8th of December at The Horsefall Gallery.

Jessie explains her project: “I have combined fashion, poetry and film together to communicate elements of my journey as a care experienced person. As my practice is primarily fashion and textiles, I have made a printed outfit which communicates the concept of ‘Internal and external power’.

To further this concept, I have written poetry and directed a video, filmed and edited by Joe Smith, with other care experienced people which will be exhibited together at 42nd Street. This is the first time my poetry and film ideas have been made public.”

She describes the time it took to create: “I was asked to be a part of the exhibition in September, so I have been getting ideas together, developing it and constructing it since then. It ended up being a bigger project than initially planned as I just got so excited with my ideas and found a lot of power and potential in exploring the artforms as I have done in this.”

One of Jessie’s elements to the project includes video, she explains what happened when creating this element.

“I’ve still yet to see the film, so hopefully it will come out as envisioned. Initially I wanted a big group of care experienced people featured in the video, but it proved harder than I thought to make the contact, so we only ended up with 3 people including me in the video. Luckily, I think that it worked out better with a small team of us and I loved connecting with them and sharing our stories and experiences. I loved inviting them to our studio in Islington mill so we could create some art together which is something I want to do more.”

Image by Joe Smith
Image by Joe Smith

As Jessie is mainly textiles based, she explains where her journey started.

“I have been interested in textiles since I was a teen. I remember searching around Longsight market for Indian trimmings for my prom dress in high school. I’ve always been more drawn to textiles from Eastern and African countries: I fell in love with the beautiful embroidery, vibrant colours, and stories they hold.

However, the more I got into researching textiles, the more I realised that textiles is one of the biggest insights to our world history and can make us understand the colonial impacts and social structures around race and class throughout time. Therefore, with my fashion projects, I always look at social, cultural or political themes but this is the first time it has been something so personal.”

The project involves sharing personal experiences of being in care. Jessie explains how she found it important to share her experience through something creative.

“As an introvert and someone who likes to keep my personal life quite private, I have never been open about my experiences of care. Even people who have known me for years didn’t know and would know my foster parents as my Grandma and Grandad: I never wanted sympathy or extra questions.

However, through doing workshops with 42nd street for young people in care, I found the power in sharing my story. With our shared experiences, we can connect and help each other heal and that’s all I can ask for. There is a lot of pain that comes with such a turbulent upbringing, but I want to help people realise the power in that pain and how we can use art to manifest it into positive things.”

“42nd Street do amazing work for young people across Manchester so it’s always a pleasure to work with them. I’m grateful for the support 42nd Street have given me in enabling me to share my story through my art.”

To support a local artist head to the exhibition at The Horsefall Gallery from the 8th of December 6-7:30pm.

To see any of Jessie’s other projects head to her socials- @needlewomanjess

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