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Gamechangers

Gamechangers

Here at Birdsong we’re all about breaking barriers and trailblazing, which is why we were so excited to have an opportunity to shoot with the Harlequins Ladies Rugby team. Their tireless work to be the best at their game whilst living their day to day lives is inspiring.

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Unlike their male counterparts, the women’s team work full time alongside playing. On top of their intense training and playing schedule the squad excel in their day-to-day jobs as firefighters, soldiers, teachers, police officers and business leaders. But with more sponsorship, support and people turning out in record numbers for their games, that could be set to change.

They’re doing a huge amount to change people’s attitudes to women’s rugby. When they put their kits on and get on that pitch, they are dressing in protest at a male dominated sport, just as our customers are protesting fast fashion when they pick our clothes. As we both work to shake up our respective industries, it felt like a natural partnership.

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Featuring players Davinia Catlin, Ellie Green and Holly Myers. Photography by Imogen Forte. Creative Direction by Lottie Laversuch and the Birdsong team. Both Harlequins and Birdsong use Dot London domain names, who kindly sponsored this shoot.

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The Game Changer, Harlequins Ladies v Gloucester-Hartpury, will be played at The Stoop on Saturday 30th March 2019. Kick-off at 14:00. Visit www.quins.london for more information and tickets.

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Remarkable women: Gina Martin

Remarkable women: Gina Martin

Just 18 months ago the world was a different place for anyone who’d had the misfortune to be “upskirted” – a voyeuristic intrusion of privacy whereby a camera or phone is used to unwilling take pictures of someone’s underwear.

After being victim to a man taking pictures of her crotch at a music festival, Gina Martin was disappointed to discover that police couldn’t press charges as it technically wasn’t a criminal offence. Not content to get even, Gina decided to change the world, and changed the law around up-skirting for the whole of the UK in the process. We sat down for a cuppa and talked resisting, and persisting for our latest campaign.

Tell us, were you involved in activism before the campaign?

It’s difficult – I think because  our definition of activism has changed a lot. So I would say no, but I guess some people would’ve maybe said I was, because I was writing about women’s issues and human rights for Refinery29 and Elle anyway.

I didn’t have any background in activism and that’s why I think when I got up-skirted it was like a switch – because I could do something here. It was like, here’s an opportunity for me to actually do something, instead of complaining about it. 

What does Resist & Persist mean to you? What inspired you to keep going?

Resist and Persist is such a good phrase. Resist I think is about resisting all of the stereotypes, the messages, the permission…All the things as women that we’re told we should do. Resist the outside and forces that make you feel oppressed or like a secondary citizen.

And persist is about pushing new boundaries and not waiting to ask for permission. Those two words together are very strong, because they say to ignore the negativity that stops us.

For my campaign, however bad things got – and no one will ever know how bad it got – the media was like, we’re going to do it, keep things positive because then people believe in it, they’ll support it.

When things got really wrong or something bad happened politically and it looked like it was going to derai, the only thing that got me and my lawyer Ryan through was us saying, “whatever happens however bad it gets, it will be fine, because we just won’t stop”. It sounds very simple but it’s the truth, we just don’t stop. It’s pushing through the barriers really and not allowing yourself to stop, even when you want to, because it’s bigger than you. 

How did you arrive at such a positive brand/outlook for your activism considering sexual harassment is a heavy subject?

I think that’s such an interesting thing that everyone started to do because you can look at charity campaigns and communications in the 90s and it’s like poverty porn, where you show people the worst-case scenario and you hope that motivates them. But actually what happens is when you show people the bad thing it makes them worried and guilty and motivates them only in the short term.

I think if you can make people aware of the problem by showing them a potential solution people will be far more motivated. That whole movement has given people an incredible amount of hope that something can actually change. I think focusing on the positive is critical. 

How has your life changed since you started the campaign?

Exponentially. Before the campaign I was working in advertising and had a very normal life. I just worked 9-6, writing on the side for some magazines I loved and having a very quiet time.

It was great, and I loved it just as much as I love this, but my idea was to get the government to listen. I didn’t think I was going to be the face of it. Then it became very obvious that you have to have a human story that engages people. Obviously the media attention changed my life quite a lot in terms of day to day life.

Working in politics has changed my entire outlook on society because I’ve now been so close to it, I now see how it works. I also now work with a lot with women’s charities and I hear so many more stories from different perspectives that I would’ve never heard before.

I now have a platform that I can use, so it’s like in every way online/offline my life has changed so much, but I’m so lucky to have that change happen because now the amount of power I have, the platform I have to be able to do stuff with it. Which is what we all should be doing. 

You’re also really good at talking about sustainability and ethics, has this always been a personal passion of yours as well? 

If you don’t have ecology, you don’t have anything. Feminism great, it’s really important but if we don’t have a world, that doesn’t really matter, so it should always be the basis of what we’re talking about. 

Our Resist & Persist tee is available on backorder here.

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Remarkable Women: Sirin Kale

Remarkable Women: Sirin Kale

To celebrate the launch of our latest special edition, International Women’s Day tee, we’re highlighting the efforts of womxn in our Flock making the world a better place on the daily. Our new tee is screen printed by talented women for a fair wage in Tower Hamlets, and is available for pre-order here.

Sirin Kale is a journalist and associate editor at Broadly. Last year her and fellow Broadly editor and friend of Birdsong Zing Tsjeng  launched Broadly’s anti-stalking campaign UNFOLLOW ME, which calls on the UK government to introduce a Stalkers Register to protect victims of serial stalkers and domestic abusers

The campaign was covered by Grazia, the Independent, Woman’s Hour, The Telegraph, and more. The UNFOLLOW ME documentary which Sirin produced, received over a million views and was played in full on the BBC. UNFOLLOW ME was a finalist in the 2019 Amnesty International Media Awards, in the innovation category. We caught up with Sirin at the Vice offices on International Women’s Day.

Content warning: this article contains explicit examples of gendered violence.

Tell us about the campaign.

Unfollow me is a campaign with two aims; firstly to raise awareness of domestic violence and stalking, and the second is to lobby the UK government to implement a Stalkers Register, which I believe would prevent these deaths that are happening every week. Molly’s death wouldn’t have happened. That’s basically what it is.

In the UK, there is no existing framework to monitor serial stalkers and domestic violence perpetrators. Police rely on victims to report such crimes, and connections to an offender’s history of prior incidents is often lost. Anti-stalking charity Paladin is calling on the UK government to introduce a Stalkers Register to protect victims of domestic abuse and stalking. Under these proposals, serial stalkers and domestic abusers would be tracked, managed, and monitored by police. Police would also be obliged to identify people that they believe to be at risk of serious harm from them, such as a new partner, and warn that person of their history of offending.

When did you start writing about gender violence and stalking?

I started writing about it as soon as I became a journalist, because i found it really interesting. Naturally it was part of my beat when I started here at Broadly, so I wrote even more.

I kept reporting on all these stories that were really horrific examples of women being murdered by their boyfriends or ex partners. I would come into work and write another new story on it, and another, and think this is so fucked up. I was thinking that there’s something more than another news story, there has to be something deeper I can look into, as part of a wider system.

One of the stories that really motivated me was of Molly McLaren, who was murdered at 23 years old in a car park in Kent. She had reported her murderer to police twice, and they didn’t do anything about it, and then he stabbed her 75 times in broad daylight. I was thinking, surely there’s something really really wrong here, how can you report it and they not do anything. I decided to do an request for Freedom of Information, to see how many women this had happened to. So far I’m up to 55 deaths.

Have you had any resistance or push back?

The response has been only positive. It’s been depressing to realise how many people are affected by similar stories. It’s quite overwhelming, but we’ve had great responses from everyone, readers, the media. The Home Affairs Select Committee have also advised that we implement a register, which the anti-stalking charity Paladin came up with. I’m really glad we could support their work.

What does Resist & Persist mean to you?

For me it means resisting the external forces of patriarchy, and resisting the internal programming you’ve been given by patriarchy. You have to really unpick the stuff you’ve learned. For example I’m still unlearning negative attitudes around sex, like lying about your number because of the shame and stigma, which is so fucked up.

You also have to be super resilient. You don’t have to be an arsehole or walk all over people. And most of all encourage resilience in others who don’t have the same opportunities or privileges that you have.

See how our t-shirts are made below and pre-order yours today.

If you or anyone you know are experiencing relationship abuse, you can seek advice confidentially via https://www.womensaid.org.uk/information-support/.

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Always trying to do better.

Dear Flock,

Here at Birdsong, we make nearly all our clothes ourselves, but we do buy in plain, organic t-shirts from abroad. It has been recently brought to our attention that unfortunately, heartbreakingly, there’s a chance that the factory our t-shirts are made in is not good enough. Despite using our t-shirt supplier for a couple of years after assurances that they were Fair Wear Foundation approved and the best, we’ve recently noticed their quality has gone down, and as they’ve grown, perhaps they’ve let the way they vet factory conditions slip too.

We’re been alerted that workers haven’t been paid fairly, so we immediately halted all production on all our t-shirts, and have now switched to using certified fair trade brand Neutral. For t-shirts that have already been embroidered locally and fairly by our makers, to avoid waste we will continue to sell these, but with a chunk of revenue donated to organisations supporting garment workers rights in Bangladesh.

We’re really sorry for letting any workers down in our supply chain who didn’t receive enough pay for their hard work, and for our customers who only expect the best from us. As a reminder, all our other cut and sewn items are still made here in the UK by women we know by name, and who are paid a London Living Wage per hour.

We’d love to know your thoughts – which suppliers can we trust? How much would you pay for our t-shirts if we made them ourselves? Which direction should we go in next? It’s been a hard week but we owed to everyone involved. Thank you for your support and we will work as hard as we can to always try to do better. ❤️

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Still European, Still Friends

Still European Look Book

As a response to the hostility and turmoil surrounding Brexit, Birdsong have collaborated with creative project ‘Still European’, and XXY Magazine – a cultural platform focused on marginalised voices. Together we have launched a limited edition range of locally embroidered t-shirts, zine and panel event.

The campaign and launch event are intended as an exploration of community, nuance behind the concept of ‘Europe’, and positive recognition of migrant workers, during the Brexit era.

Speakers confirmed are Nahir de la Silva from the Latin American Women’s Rights Service, pink protest activist Grace Campbell, and founder of cultural platform Amaliah, Nafisa Bakkar. The event will be chaired by XXY editor Tahmina Begum. Tickets are available to buy here.

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Organic Cotton Still European t-shirt, £35.

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Organic Cotton Still Friends t-shirt, £35.

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Modelled by our friends and activists from @routeswomen, @bloodygoodperiod, @lemonade_hq, @pomegranate.hq, @jutashoes and more.

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Shot by @trustmebaba and @katherinebibiana in Bethnal Green. T-shirt designed by Alex & James Roadnight as part of their ongoing project. Zine by Tahmina Begum/XXY Magazine. With thanks to Anna, the Pellicci family and St Margaret’s house. Additional styling pieces from Beyond Retro.

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Covent Garden Pop Up: Cupid’s Closet

Covent Garden Pop Up:

Cupid’s Closet

For thoughtful, considerate clothing that keeps on giving. A match made in heaven, sustainable brands Hopeful Traders and Birdsong are getting together for a special Valentine’s Pop Up. Be our date for the next ten days and take home clothes made with love.

Valentine’s need not just be for lovers – show your appreciation for our homeless artists and migrant women makers and write them a love note in store.

At 67 Neal Street, Covent Garden from 10am-6pm on Thursday 7th February – Sunday 17th February. Launch party this Thursday 5 until pm.

“Your fave feminist pop up shop” – Dazed
“Leave looking fantastic, absolutely guilt-free” – Refinery29
“Birdsong: The Badass Feminist Shop With A Conscience And A Vision” – Grazia

As seen in i-DViceRefinery29Time OutDazed and more
Facebook Event.

Hopeful Traders are using ethical fashion and creativity to change the way we approach social impact. The sustainably produced clothing brand acts as a platform for people who have been affected by homelessness and mental illness. By collaborating with these people on the designs that you buy, Hopeful are giving them a voice and raising funds for themselves and charities that have supported them. www.hopefultraders.com

The store has been sponsored by KIND Snacks, as part of the business’ mission to help facilitate more acts of kindness in the community. Customers will be treated to tasty and wholesome nut and fruit bars from KIND, as a small token of appreciation for joining the KIND Movement.

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Thank you for 2018

Thank you for 2018

To everyone who shopped online or in person with us so far this year, thanks for making 2018 a brilliant one. We’re so grateful to our customers, our talented, remarkable makers and all the speakers, sponsors and collaborators who came together to make our 7th pop up shop a success.

Thank you for supporting small, independent, ethical business and our vision of a fairer future for fashion. Together with your help, this year we paid for 10,000 hours of Living Wage Work for local women living in London.

Thank you to Jubel beers, Karma Cola, Abel & Cole and Divine Chocolate for making our pop up a delicious success, to Beyond Retro for hosting us, and to THINX for coming over from NY to sell with us.

Photography by Sam Jackson & Jazi Charbit

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We’re growing

We’re growing

You might have noticed Birdsong looks a little different these days – more like something you could have in your wardrobe for life, a bit more grown up… dare we say, refined? And more change is on the way.

We’d love for our customers and supporters to get involved and be part of Birdsong’s future. If you have any feedback, comments or ideas about how we can improve, please get in touch on [email protected]

Over the last few months we’ve been working with online, ethical investment platform Ethex. They are helping us raise equity investment, so that we can realise our dream of becoming the UK’s leading ethical fashion brand. We want to be the best brand we can be for everyone involved, our customers and our expert makers from women’s orgs. We want to ethically clothe and employ far more remarkable women in the process. We hope that our fundraise will help us achieve this mission.

Financial regulations around these type of equity offers are strict and are only available to people who are classified as High Net Worth or Sophisticated Investors. So, if you’d like to get involved then we’d first need to check your eligibility by completing this short online survey: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/3JHFF56

If you meet the criteria, then the Ethex team will be in touch and send you the link to our exciting profile page and offer documents.

Please be aware that with investments of this type your capital is at risk.

Thank you for all your support so far, and we’re excited to become an even better Birdsong in 2019.

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Birdsong Good Gifting Guide 2018

Birdsong Good Gifting Guide 2018

We think that the best gifts are those that are not just great for the receiver, but do good for the maker and give back to society as a whole. This winter we’ve created a run down of our favourite brands and products that we’ll be gifting our loved ones this year. We bring you some old trusted friends and some brilliant new ones. Many are social enterprises and others are challenging the status quo in their industries. All are remarkable, refreshing and available to buy (minus Soap Co) from our Dalston pop up shop.

Lots of love, the Birdsong Team x

The Soap Co

We recently went to visit the Soap Co Headquarters in East London as we’d heard so much about this brilliant social enterprise we had to check it out for ourselves. All of their luxurious products are handcrafted by people who are blind, disabled or otherwise disadvantaged.

The umbrella charity Clarity has been employing, training and supporting people with disabilities since 1854. Since meeting the amazing people behind the company and using their products (which are second to none- they’ve won multiple awards for sustainability and design) – this is a business we can get behind.

Juta Shoes

Juta have been supporting women through craft for over 4 years now. They offer women who face barriers to employment flexible and well paid work handcrafting their beautiful espadrilles and slippers.

Expect not to take them off – they’re extraordinarily comfortable and you can make your own custom pair as they do workshops too. All the leather used are offcuts from local factories and vegan options are available. See them at our winter pop up.

Earl of East

Earl of East make the most divine scented soy candles that are hand poured in London. The Soy is non-GMO and the mid-sized one will burn for 40 hours. You can find these and their sage bundles and incense at our shop.

Oh Comely Magazine

Oh Comely is a magazine exploring curiosity, honesty and playfulness. Each issue they pick a theme and see where it leads them. Delve into it’s pages and find thoughtful writing, photography and illustrations by contributors who look at life a little differently.

Find it online, in all of the coolest independent book shops and in the Birdsong Popup. We’ll be holding workshops with them too in store – get your tickets here.

Craftivist Collective

Activism for the introvert, the Craftivist Collective is the brainchild of activist and writer Sarah Corbett. Discouraged and fatigued by conventional activism, Sarah Corbett has created a more gentle and thoughtful alternative, combining craft and contemplation to help you make the change you want to see in the world.

Find her book ‘How To Be a Craftivist”, starter kits, cards and notebooks online and in our Winter popup to help start your journey into making a real difference the the causes you believe in (and learn a new hobby).

Ladybeard Magazine

Ladybeard is a feminist publication with the aim of revolutionising the content of traditional glossy magazines. It takes the form of one, but turns the usual format on it’s head. Instead of confining gender, sexuality, dress size, pigmentation and aspirations- Ladybeard wants to liberate you from these notions.
The magazine offers a refreshing and revitalising perspective that is inclusive to all. It also looks great on a coffee table as has been impeccably designed.

Join our collaborative panel on Sex, Health & Money: Moving Beyond Taboos on 7th December.

Clio Peppiatt

We first met Clio Peppiatt back in 2015 as part of ‘Female Matters’, a group exhibition curated to raise awareness of FGM. Since then we’ve become big fans and good friends, working together on several collaborative pieces and running a workshop with our hand painters.

Clio is one of the friendliest people in fashion and not only that – her clothes are a riot. Exploring themes of playful subversive femininity- you will not find anything similar anywhere else. Expect t-shirts with a flaming ‘fast woman’ slogan and a group of quaint little rats having a ‘rat party’ emblazoned on a jumper.

Find our underwear collaboration and a selection of Clio Peppiatt pieces in our winter popup shop.

THINX

It is no exaggeration to say that Thinx have transformed the lives of the team in the Birdsong Office. Thinx are a period pant company from New York. Their washable reusable underwear are a more sustainable option than your regulars and feel and look better too.

Available in all styles, colours and absorbancies, come and see them at our winter shop where they’ll be popping up from the 6th-9th December

Gabrielle Marsh

Gabriella Marsh is an illustrator, animator and designer from London and is currently doing a masters in experimental animation. Her beautiful illustrations adorn plates, notebooks and prints alike, making for a perfect gift and she also works on commissions. We’ve been lucky enough to have stocked her charming observational pieces before and we’re so glad to welcome her back to our winter store.

Tatty Devine

Tatty Devine have garnered a mass of adoring fans all over the globe since they began in 1999 with their original conversational art jewellery. 20 years later their jewellery is still handmade in house by a small skilled team of makers. They love to collaborate with artists, designers, charitable institutions and their favourite cultural spaces and we can’t get enough of their fun, don’t- take-life-so-seriously attitude and laser-cut acrylic pieces.

Mary Benson

Mary creates fun positive accessories and colourful prints with a nod to vintage references, all made in the UK.

One of our favourites this season is her collaboration with the amazing Gemma Cairney of upcycled vintage berets with statements to brighten your day.

Nelly Rose

Artist and designer Nelly uses her label as a vehicle for global activism. Working with artisan communities around the world, Nelly melds contemporary art and her signature graphic prints with the preservation of traditional textile techniques.

Find her embroidered chokers which were made in Palestine by women’s group; Women in Hebron and her full range of hand and symbol acrylic earrings in our winter pop up.

Birdsong X Amy Isles Freeman

This winter we have collaborated with artist and wonder Amy Isles Freeman to bring you three limited edition pieces. Through colour and pattern Freeman explores female sexuality, joy and freedom. Her highly in demand hand-painted wooden bowls are stocked in Liberty London, and now our pop up store.

Find our Organic Sweatshirt, Organic Tee and Closed-loop Bamboo Knickers embroidered with an original Amy Isles Freeman motif created exclusively for Birdsong.

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Remarkable Women: Amy Isles Freeman

Remarkable Women: Amy Isles Freeman X Birdsong

We’ve long been fans of artist and bowl maker Amy Isles Freeman. Her love of feminine figures, and the intentional, slow process of her beautifully crafted creations fit in perfectly with the Birdsong ethos. Longing to own some of her fine pieces for our own, we commissioned her to work on a collaborative line.

The three garment collection is in super limited editions, and embroidered onto the softest, finest quality garments we could source. We caught up with Amy to chat inspiration behind her work, which is stocked in Selfridges and in our own pop up store for the festive period.

Photography by Anya Rice.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Amy Isles Freeman, I am 26 years old, I grew up in Oxford, studied in Cornwall, and now live in Brighton. I am bisexual, polyamorous, use she/her pronouns and I thank my lucky stars that I am able to be an artist for a living.

My work explores female sexuality, joy and freedom, and this theme began in art school, when I dove into the world of feminist art. I loved the communicative emotion, but whilst the anger in the work resonated with me, it didn’t come naturally in my own expressions.

Then, in 2013, I visited an exhibition of Dorothy Iannone’s work, and that changed everything for me. Colourful, cheeky and hilarious, I walked around the empty show with my laughter bouncing off the walls. She used the best communication tool to carry her message – humour.

From then on, I felt the freedom to make work that would illicit at least a smile, if not a chuckle. Making work that celebrates women, that does not alienate or engender guilt, I found that I was opening up conversations. I do not, for one minute, think that anger has no place in feminist art, it really does, but this is the road that is paved with the most sincerity for me.

My work now encompasses my hand turned, hand painted bowls, as well as my hand painted clothing and works on paper. I love the progression of the theme, and the fluidity of being in charge of my own practise.

How and why did you get into your craft?

When I finished my degree in drawing at Falmouth Art School in 2014, I felt fed up with flat work. Entangled in a group of young makers, jealousy burnt my fingers as I watched them make objects, things that existed. I itched for a practical skill, so my then-boyfriend handed me a chisel and a piece of wood, and showed me how to use his lathe.

I knew that in order to make a mark in the craft world, I had to bring my colourful and fine art ideas in with me, so I painted my wooden creations, very simply at first. This developed into intricate designs, and that’s when the pieces became really interesting for me to make, and when other people really began to take notice of what I was making.

What’s been the highlight of your career so far?

The way the business started was exciting. I had been making very simple wooden pieces, and a family friend commissioned me to make a larger bowl for her daughter’s birthday. I posted a work in progress shot on Instagram, and Katie Tregidden reposted it to her blog Confessions of a Design Geek. I saw this in the morning, just as I went to my cleaning job. As I left work I got a call from London Design Fair, telling me that they had seen Katie’s post and asking if I would like a stand.

I remember them asking me ‘So, what have you been up to?’ and the response ‘Cleaning a miniature poodle’s period stains from a hardwood floor’ nearly fell out of my mouth. Imposter syndrome doesn’t cover how I felt as I embellished my ideas and plans over the phone, palms sweaty with nerves and Mr Sheen.

This was in February 2016, and I showed my work at LDF in September of that year. Thanks to that repost, my business was born.

What drew you to work with Birdsong?

I met some of the wonderful women of Birdsong last year on a panel discussion, and learning about their business was inspiring. The ethos and ingenuity, balancing the social responsibility with commercial viability – what they are doing should be setting the precedent for all businesses to follow. It is shaking up a system, through the prism of feminist ideals, and producing a sustainable future. What is there not to love?

What’s your favourite piece from the collection?

My favourite piece of our collection are the knickers. I have always wanted my images of lady love to be on people’s bodies, to be worn with pride and what better place for these images to be!

What would your ideal world/future look like?

I have had to teach myself to live in the present. I hope that people can prioritise kindness, as that will change the future.

Favourite thing about your studio?

My favourite thing about my studio is my studio mate, Marcelina Amelia. She is one of the kindest and most supportive women, and she makes me laugh. I am lucky to have some of the best creative women around me, and they make me see that things are possible.