Heart Speak Clothing & Programmes.
What stories do you tell each day? Next to verbalising, what we wear & how we wear it speaks volumes without us uttering a word.
‘Heart Speak’ customised clothing and workshops was inspired by the power of communication through connection and creativity.
Created by Amanda Betts, ex co-founder of Red11 Models and, along with Ryan Meta, the co-creator of Bridge The Gap Project, Sera Mitchinson, designer of her self-titled brand, and Mandy Chamberlin, ex-intelligence officer for ARWCF who followed her passion for embroidery after the birth of her daughter, we called the project ‘Heart Speak’ as the pieces ‘sing’ or ‘speak’ to you.
Each Heart Speak piece tells stories, stories as fascinating as the previous owners and new makers and owners.
We chose the heart theme because it’s time for us to express ourselves from the heart while working toward sustainable ways of making money and leveraging using our creativity, talents and skills.
We know that tapping into our creative self is the first step out of the dark, too, imperative in our work at BTGP with at-risk and vulnerable young people. Engaging and empowering young people, many of who have their own big stories to tell if only they were allowed to use their voice, is the reason for our existence.
For me, after silently suffering seven years of sexual, mental and emotional abuse from eight perpetrators and abuse from my mother, it was diving into my creative self that kept me on the planet, depsite two attemps on my life.
My younger brother and I used to get beaten by my stepfather and mum for the smallest of ‘crimes’. Domestic violence was a constant, as was being lectured about how terrible and worthless we were. Not allowed to stand up for ourselves, prohibited from socialising and constantly moving schools, we were isolated. Drowning in silent lies was better than speaking up.
It was in the dark I started dabbling in poetry, art and sewing. I once painstakingly hand-stitched a skirt from scratch, but wasn't allowed to wear it. Mum cut it up as ‘punishment’, but I'd reached a place where it didn’t matter, because I’d already had the experience & reward of making it, something that couldn’t be punished or beaten out of me.
We also learnt about collaborating and leveraging our talents and skills with others so we could get more from less, together.
Creativity helped me with my anger, resentment and hatred.
I was 15 the last time my mother lay her hands on me. Stripping me down to my socks, it was two weeks later that I made the decision to leave home and school armed with two years high school education, the clothes on my back and $20 in my pocket.
Having lost so much, including my father who left us when he was 22, I was two and my brother 8 weeks old, he was 35 years old when he was gone for good after losing his battle to lieukemia. Through grabbing at every opportunity, constantly educating myself, share grit, hard work and perseverence, I worked my way throughout the fashion industry to go on to become one of the most powerful people in the fashion and modelling industry. Used to always starting from scratch, I co-founded and built arguably one of the most powerful model agencies in New Zealand, Red11 Models.
I now openly share my stories, learnings and wisdom to inspire hope, shift paradigms and ignite change in others who suffer at the hands and minds of others. I wanted to create a platform in empowering others where they too, can learn how to break cycles, build resilience, and adapat to carve out a life from what they’ve learnt they can do.
HEART SPEAK CUT & CUSTOMISE WORKSHOPS
Getting together to make ‘Heart Speak’ pieces is cathartic.
Whether you’re making or wearing the pieces, they open up dialogue between people who share their musings or snippets of who they are, Whanau and how they got to be where they are today.
We name the pieces, too.There’s ‘The Sky is The Limit When Your Heart is the Pilot’, ‘Fridom Through Art (featuring a Frida Karlo tea towel)’, ‘It’s Raining Love on Our Planet’, ‘When You Follow Your Heart, You Can Reach For The Stars’ and ‘Love Revolution’ to name but a few.
One of the closest to my heart is my beautifully embroidered ‘Be Still My Sacred Heart’ jacket with studs on the shoulders. It’s a nod of gratitude and foresight to my grandmother, the woman who inadvertently saved my life when she gave me a modelling course voucher instead of the cash I so desperately wanted for my 17th birthday. Miles Kington said, ‘Knowledge is knowing tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad’, and Jim Rohn said, ‘When you see a person heading dow the wronf track, he doesn’t need motivation to speed him up. He needs education to turn him around’. Thank Goodness Grandma had the wisdom to hand me the opportunity in the form of a voucher that educated me and changed my, and many others, life. The irony that Grandma died of a heart attack on the day of the 2003 Fashion Week casting was not lost on me.
Our Heart Speak pieces are opportunities with the beauty beingthey’re collaborative. Fundamentally, people come together with what they have to give, and they create joy, together.
If a young person makes a sellable piece they’re prepared to sell, we style it up on models (or they model it), photograph the pieces and sell them on Trademe or at events to raise awareness and funds. The artist receives a $100 voucher to spend at certain stores.
While our cut and customize workshops are for anyone, our focus is on at-risk, vulnerable young people and young people who can’t ordinarily afford such classes. We’re working with teen parents on budget restraints motivated to find inner resources to get creative, and enterprising!
We affectionately call the people who sew the pieces, Sera Mitchinson & Centrepoint Fabric’s AJ, & Mandy, our embroiderer, our ‘Heart Speak Piece Makers’. But anyone can be a ‘Piece Maker’, as long as they’re willing to be taught. So we’re creating a legacy anyone can be part of.
BTGP is based above Eat My Lunch, a place our young people are welcomed by the loving, non-judgemental community of people who stand shoulder-to-shoulder making lunches for kids in need, in Galatos Street, Newton.
We’re fortunate that people are inpisred by what we do and how we do it, with our biggest supporters and the first to put their hand up to help us help youth help themselves being iconic pre-loved designer/vintage clothing store, K’Rd’s Paperbag Princess.
We’ve also been enabled by good people who encourage us to keep forging through challenges to find creative ways to be a charity that does business with our hand on our heart rather than our hand out. Cotton On's head, Mark Singleton, has stepped up to enable us to do more with less. With generous donations of clothing for our young people, we’ve used Cotton On Foundation bags on some of our pieces, & cut & customised designer pieces, like Karen Walker, Stolen Girlfriend’s Club and Kate Sylvester, on Cotton On pieces.
All proceeds go toward enabling us through experiential learning programmes, experiences and connections to help youth willing to help themselves.