Seleena is a zinester, a dancer, but most importantly she's an artist. She's been making art for as long as I've known her. But she was too cool for art school and turned her attention to teaching herself to make and craft things.
She mostly works with felt and creates pieces based on the things that she loves and from pop culture. They are fun and inspiring and exciting because you know that in order to have spent that long sewing those pieces, she had to really fucking love what they were based on originally.
I went up to Manchester this weekend to see Seleena's first ever solo exhibition at the Turnpike Gallery - Make a Cup of Tea, Put a Record On. The gallery itself is amazing and curates some incredible exhibitions as well as carrying out exciting outreach programmes and workshops. Even better, the gallery is located just upstairs from the local public library making it a real community focused space.
First of all, just seeing Seleena's name on the wall made me hella emotional and excited. My friend is a goddamned artist. Like, actually. I was so damned proud. Make a Cup of Tea, Put a Record On is a collection of felt pieces based on Seleena's most treasure possessions as well as those purely from her imagination. They are about how you make your own world and live in your bedroom and the exhibition pays tribute to some of the most special things in Seleena's bedroom world.
I've been friends with Seleena since I was 15. I didn't really have that many friends at school, I was ridiculously shy, and I looked and acted a bit weird. I liked riot grrrl and my favourite band in the whole world was Bis. So I wrote to teletext music pages (we didn't have the internet back then) asking for people who also liked Bis to get in touch and be penpals with me. I got a letter that week from Seleena and 14 years later we are still friends. The bits of the exhibition I loved the most are the pieces that I recognise from Seleena's real life bedroom.
The felt versions of polaroid photos of her friends and fun places she has been to, the felt records, the brown Fisher Price tape recorder on which me and Seleena recorded our very first song together, it's all real. The records and objects haven't been chosen because Seleena thinks they are 'cool', they are genuinely part of her world.
And then there's the pieces which have come out of Seleena's imagination. My most favourite piece of all is titled 'So I Started Hanging Out With Rayanne Graff' - a tribute to My So-Called Life of course. I went a bit crazy on Saturday at the exhibition and bought myself my most favourite piece and I am SO DAMNED EXCITED ABOUT IT!
While looking round the exhibition I asked Seleena how she creates the things that she does. Some of the pieces are so incredibly detailed, and when you see them up close you realise just how precise the pieces fit together. Especially the felt version of Ghost World. I was baffled by how she'd managed that.
And here's the crazy thing - Seleena doesn't draw these things out onto felt. She doesn't have templates, she doesn't work to precise measurements, she does things by eye. She looks at a piece of felt and her act of drawing it out is in the cutting and the sewing because she can just see it in her head. Mind blown!!
Seleena's exhibition is running until 29th March 2013 at the Turnpike Gallery and I can't recommend it enough. You can see more of Seleena's art here and you can buy her zines here.