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Scratch That Itch: Be Who You Want To Be

Our identity is never one set, static thing. We are all fluid beings made up of different facets and dimensions that change day-to-day. Recognising this Ace & Tate is an eyewear brand that allow you to experiment with style and mix up the frames you wear depending on how you feel. Their collections celebrate this universal truth that we are complex people made up of many thoughts, feelings, urges, wants, needs, likes, dislikes and itches that need scratching—all the things that make us uniquely individual.

We wanted to explore this further by speaking to some of our favourite women about the multiple sides of their identity and how their style and various creative outlets help them express the different aspects of their personalities. We delved into heritage to discuss how your background and upbringing can impact on identity and why the people around you really shape your outlook.

We travelled to Leeds and Manchester to meet Emma Low of Pot Yer Tits Away Luv, we hung out in the Midlands and London with editor and writer Tahmina Begum and visited the studio of artist/illustrator Joey Yu. The conversations were as rich and diverse as the women themselves and ultimately reveal there is more to each of us than meets the eye.

Tahmina Begum

Tahmina Begum

You know when people say their childhood made them who they are today? I feel as though mine did exactly that. I come from a household where education is taken super seriously. I also learnt not to complain so much—seeing my parents graft so hard and show me that my reality is very lucky, made me quick to realise that actually I have it super good and it’s my job to shine a light on those that do not.

My parents are from Bangladesh and I have a huge extensive family. The one thing I am so grateful for is how much of the history and education of the places I come from was instilled in me. My family are very feminist without even knowing what the current buzzword around feminism is and things like your looks weren’t spoken about.

My style is very important to expressing who I am. It’s everything! It always has been! I am a huge believer that you should dress for whatever you’re feeling. I’m so sick of people scared of dressing and being “too much” or “too little”. If I feel like wearing a red tutu with a band tee one day and a suit the other, dressing however I want and however I feel will only get the best out of me. Of course, there’s huge privilege in this—from my background to the spaces where I work that allows this.

Joey Yu portrait 2

Joey Yu

Growing up, my parents owned a hairdresser’s in the suburbs of London, so I would spend lots of time in the salon staffroom drawing and playing in the garden. I think I just really enjoyed my own company most of the time. It’s hard to sum up the influence of your heritage in words but it does manifest in different ways though—a taste in food, the certain rules in a household, a yearning for a hot climate.

My identity is layered, I can be as equally boisterous as I can be quiet and reflective. How I dress is important to me and often reflects my moods. I’m a big power dresser though! Even if I’m not leaving my house I like to get ready just to feel mentally prepared for the day. It’s funny what items bring you power. I recently got a lipstick in a rusty clay colour, and hair scrunchies in a rich sea blue, looking at those two colours hovering around my face cheer me up so much. I have these huge frilly white shirts that make me feel like Shakespeare, when I wear them I feel especially powerful!

I think a problem with social media is it typically flattens out the depth of personality that everyone has—it’s good to remember there’s always so much more to someone than what they seem online.

I try and draw every day. Making marks on paper is really important for me to process things. It’s a way of consolidating and cementing those soft shoots of ideas that I have, and the things that I don’t understand. I don’t have to be happy with the drawings I make all the time. I actually make a lot of work that I don’t like, which makes me kind of happy. Wherever I go, my work is a mirror to exactly who I am in that moment. I think the “Couples In London” project is something I’m most passionate about. I visit couples for a few hours- painting them whilst we talk. The documentary style and live drawing nature of the project really captures what I care about—meeting people and hearing their stories is one I value a lot.

Everyone I meet seems to leave a mark on me. My English teacher in Year 11 had a big impact on me. She was this incredible woman; one of the rare people who really believed in the subject they taught. I think I learned from her how important storytelling was, and the power imagery has in its many forms.

Emma Low portrait

Emma Low

Pot Yer Tits Away Luv all started with a pot for my boyfriend’s Christmas present! I made him a pot that represented me and someone else really loved it and asked if was planning on making anymore. I then made five pots and sold them via my personal Instagram. People got in touch and asked if I was doing commissions, which got me thinking about how I didn’t know of anyone else making customised tit pots. I wanted my work to be more inclusive so in the last few months I’ve been creating pots that represent a wider range of women. I think people are so hung up on how we look these days so it’s nice to strip it back and say, “Everyone is different, stop worrying, concentrate on bigger things.” As young as I can remember I was wearing clothes that expressed who I was. My mum and I have very similar taste so I definitely get it from her. As I’m getting a little older I’m spending less money on clothing and more on homeware. You can tell just as much about someone from what their home looks like.

I’m so proud to be Scottish. Scotland in general gets such a bad rep. Apparently we’re shit at everything, miserable and the weather is crap. I couldn’t think of anything further from the truth, apart from the weather—that is true. My experiences of Scottish people are that they’re very true to themselves. They’re social, kind and funny. I definitely wouldn’t have the sense of humour that I do if it wasn’t for being Scottish. My work has definitely been influenced by my sense of humour.

It took me a long time to feel brave enough to share my work with people. The pots I create are a replica of someone else so it feels easier to show. They’re way less personal than other stuff I’ve created over the years. Pottery to me is half therapeutic, half frustrating as fuck. It’s always felt like a good outlet for my energy because it’s enjoyable but it’s something I’ve really had to work at, and for the first time I’ve found something to be dedicated to. It’s really nice pushing yourself to become better.

Starting a business has made a massive impact on my life. I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved in the past 18 months. When things go wrong I love a good rant. I’ve just always had to verbalise how I feel before moving on, otherwise it’ll just eat me up. Failure isn’t really something I like to dwell on, you just have to learn from it and move on.

In Partnership with Riposte

Words by: Danielle Pender 

Photography by: Rosie Matheson