Belonging to Us: Nurturing women through making

New exhibition celebrating ten years of Shelanu opens at the School of Jewellery.

A new, free, exhibition – Belonging to Us: Nurturing women through making – opens at the School of Jewellery, Birmingham City University 3rd–28th April. Curated by Craftspace, the exhibition celebrates ten 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 ten years, meeting just one day a week, Shelanu members have developed four 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.