Women’s craft collective launch souvenir range

Iconic city views inspire fundraising gifts.

This July sees the launch of a new contemporary souvenir range for Birmingham from Shelanu: Women’s Craft Collective, supported by Craftspace.

Shelanu are a developing craft social enterprise supporting migrant and refugee women. The development of this range of locally produced textile products celebrates the diversity of their city and is inspired by Birmingham’s industrial heritage and reputation as the city of 1,000 trades. The collection consists of a tote bag, wash bag, make up bag, tablet case and a coin purse, priced at under £30 and available to buy from the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery shop.

The collective’s members have based their design on the city’s iconic buildings, both old and new, including the new Library of Birmingham, Rotunda and Selfridges. Birmingham’s architecture had been a large part of their experience of familiarising themselves with their new city as part of the Collective. Market research with Birmingham residents and visitors from all over the world also showed that the buildings were clearly how people identify our city.

Based at the Custard Factory in Digbeth, Shelanu are working with Birmingham Museums Trust as a partner and also with textile artist Ekta Kaul to develop the range. The fabric has been printed in Worcester with other materials sourced as locally as possible. The pieces are produced by Textiles by St Anne’s, a social enterprise also based in Digbeth.

It is hoped that this product range will provide a regular income for the collective as they aim to become a sustainable craft social enterprise which can assist more migrant and refugee women to gain well-being and aspiration through their creative development. The promotion of the range will also support challenging negative perceptions of migrants and refugees in the UK, purported by certain sections of the media.

The project has been funded by a Small Change grant from the Barrow Cadbury Trust and donations made through the online fundraising site Just Giving. “Barrow Cadbury Trust is very pleased to have been able to support Shelanu. These lovely things show what a wealth of talent we have among us, and the iconic images of Birmingham illustrate the pride the members of the Collective have in their adopted city. I’ll certainly be putting one or two of these items in my shopping bag next time I visit the Museum and Art Gallery,” said Debbie Pippard, Head of Programmes, The Barrow Cadbury Trust.

“We hope this range will create a steady income for Shelanu, enabling them to continue with their jewellery ranges and workshops whilst growing sustainably. Our aspiration is to increase the membership to support more migrant and refugee women. We’d like to work with more members to build their skills and confidence and combat issues of isolation. We’re grateful for the support of the Barrow Cadbury Trust, Birmingham Museums Trust, Ekta Kaul and The Silk Bureau in seeing this range to fruition.” added Emma Daker, Exhibitions and Project Development Manager

Shelanu, which means ‘belonging to us’ in Hebrew meet each week on a Friday in Birmingham to work as a collective. As a member said, “It’s a place to learn and try new skills, a place that I can feel connected and free to try new ideas and express my artistic side… It’s a positive way to contribute and find your place in a new place.”