To celebrate the launch of Converse Shapes, we chat to and photograph Auckland based SHAPES ambassador, Converse All Star and art maker, Jess Skellern. We talk creativity, body positivity, the All Stars community, acceptance of mental health and that “big is BEAUTFUL”.
Tell us a little about what you do?
I am a 22-year-old art maker based in Wainui, New Zealand who works in several disciplines ranging from textile design to paint. In my most recent practice, I have been focusing on the idea of creating a greater understanding and acceptance of one’s mental health and identify as this is something I have always struggled with. Bright colours and fun textiles are a big focal point to my work as they are an opening to the endless possibilities of positivity. Having completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts at the Auckland University of Technology in 2019, I am now embarking on a new and exciting journey of creativity. My most recent project CLUBFIZZ is an all-inclusive, diverse brand which is focused on expressing yourself through fun and quirky bits n bobs that I have created.
Converse are again leading the pack by celebrating body positivity. What are your thoughts around this campaign? We love seeing local guys and girls kicking ass with converse, in my opinion, the coolest and most inspiring brand around.
When I first heard about this campaign, I was so excited! I have always struggled to find clothing; specially pants, that actually fit my body shape. The measurements between my waist, hips and thighs are on completely different spectrums and it just never seems to work for me. One minute I am a size “14” then next I am considered an “18”. This puts my brain in a confusing spin where I start to question my body completely. It honestly blows my mind how easily these factory sizes can make me question my body and confidence…like they’re legit just numbers?! I think its super rad how converse is basically pulling the middle finger to the normality created over time through the fashion industry and is here to help redefine the way we present ourselves. “We define the clothes; the clothes don’t define you” - Converse. When it comes to buying new stuff, I look out for the little details, for example when a pattern actually beholds several smaller illustrations – that’s always fun to find! Something really cool about this new launch is one of the logos on the pants I received. There are these symbols that represent different body types including pear, square, hourglass etc. I honestly thought this was such a lovely touch and really helped represent what converse is trying to portray in their new clothing brand.
You are also part of converse all star community. This community is full of like-minded, creative and driven individuals. Tell us a little about your time with the All Stars gang.
Prior to the madness of COVID, Converse had a wicked get together in Auckland for the All Stars community. As a newbie I went into this event a little anxious but extremely excited and egar to find out what Converse was all about. The range of pure talent that was in that building was incredible, there were creatives from all fields of life. We all participated in chats, activities and there was even live music from some of the talent. This day relit the spark within me that was slowly dimming since leaving art school and working full time. Being surrounded by other likeminded people again was just what I needed! Since becoming a part of the All Stars community my confidence with not only my art but most importantly my well-being has sky rocketed. I am constantly encouraged by others and their development via social media, it’s all so inspiring. There is this newly built motivation within me to push myself and reach goals that I have always been like “I’ll do it next year” and instead I am living in the now! Having people that I look up to like my fellow All Stars believing in my work and what I have to give to the world is incredible, I will always be grateful for them and converse.
You mention above that you use your creativity to create a bigger understanding and acceptance of one’s mental health, a very powerful message that people often shy away from. Can you tell us a little more about this journey? With members of our own team having suffered with mental health or known someone that has, we are so excited to see you express this in your work and create normality.
My journey with mental health, like most, has been a complete roller coaster. It wasn’t until last year where I began to have a better understanding of my identify and this was done through the help of my art. I used to believe that my use of bright colours and textiles was a way of masking my emotions and hiding the fact that I truly was not happy. But over time I have come to the realisation that this was my way of reaching out and showing my true colours. When combining the process of art making with a positive focus, there is a beneficial impact on mood and a repair on the aftereffects of negative emotions. Colour promotes positivity which stimulates the mind, body and soul. Which is one of the reasons why my practice is so involved around colour, through my art I aim to compose a sensory experience that is beneficial for not only myself but the viewer. Ideally, I want the viewer to reflect the ambience of my work, to feel happiness, comfortability and self-love.
Your Instagram profile is a beautifully curated feed of images of yourself and your creations. Instagram is a platform where self-expression is celebrated. In your opinion, what are the positive aspects to social media? Do you see any negative ones?
Personally I believe that we are the sole creators of our lives, we pick and choose who we associate with in our day to day and this is the same through social media. I have always had issues with body image, and yes this was mostly due to what was being feed to me through social media, but by taking power over what I see and read I have transformed myself. From a young age we are unknowingly trained by media into thinking that because we have cellulite, think thighs or blemishes that we are not worthy of being loved, but by purposely surrounding myself with other likeminded people I have gained this new and exciting form of self-love as I now know that big is in fact BEAUTIFUL!
Lastly, where do you see yourself in five years?
I honestly don’t think I have thought that far before, but I guess now’s the chance! I have so many goals I would like to achieve, or even just get started on. I have recently kick started CLUBFIZZ, which is a brand all about community, self-love and expression. I know for a fact that it will take time to grow so over the next couple of years I’d love to put as much energy into that as I can – Ideally I’d like to branch of CLUBFIZZ into creating a line of plus size festival wear within NZ as I feel like there is defiantly a shortage of this. Overall I generally just want to be happy, Live in the moment, be surrounded by people who make me feel and strive to be my best…And potentially have a sausage dog and my own place filled with funky décor and plants.
Find out more about Converse SHAPES here
Photography: Stephen Tilley
Introduction and interview: Ethan Butler
Direction: Rachael Churchward