John Lewis’ New Birmingham Store Raises Flag for Bipolar Artist

Birmingham-based Mental Health charity BITA Pathways are delighted to announce they are supplying an exclusive range of cushions to the new flagship John Lewis store in Birmingham City Centre. The cushions are based on the artwork of BITA service user Jason Clarke, a well-respected artist who uses art to manage the symptoms of his Bipolar Disorder. The cushions, manufactured by BITA’s very own soft-furnishing Social Enterprise, Textiles by St Anne’s, will be on the shelves and available to the public at the new store in Grand Central, Birmingham, from 24th September.

This exciting opportunity came about after leader of Birmingham City Council, Sir Albert Bore, initially linked the two organisations at the official launch of the new home of Textiles by St Anne’s. From there, BITA Pathways Business Development Manager, Pat Bend, and Textiles by St Anne’s manager, Helen Costa, were invited to pitch the product to the buyers at John Lewis HQ in London.

Pat and Helen identified the potential of Jason’s artwork 2 years previous and worked collaboratively with Birmingham City University who supported prototype printing onto fabric. At the meeting, John Lewis recognised the potential both in terms of the uniqueness of design and how the strong social core would add Social Value to their business model. As a result, John Lewis decided on the spot to take the brand on. This was fantastic news for both Jason and BITA Pathways and signalled the start of five months hard work to ensure the cushions were ready in time for the opening of the new store.

Jason Clarke and BITA Pathways are hoping this collaboration will empower other Bipolar artists and raise awareness of the positive impact he has experienced, both through his art and through his engagement with BITA Pathways.

Jason uses art therapy to help manage his symptoms of bipolar disorder. He draws every day, creating incredibly powerful and detailed images that offer an insight into his mind. His work has been widely exhibited and often receives very positive feedback.

He added, “art helps me to manage my illness, it is an absolute necessity. If I was offered life without bipolar I would turn it down. It is who I am and without it there would be no art work. It allows me to focus and empty my head. Recently my artwork has become a more organized chaos. It has evolved, as I have, as my illness has.”

Jason Clarke’s cushions are not the only BITA Pathways produced products that will be on the shelves at John Lewis. Given its proximity to Birmingham’s creative hub, the Custard Factory, Textiles by St Anne’s has a long history in product development with many of its designers. As part of BITA’s ongoing relationship with creative Birmingham designer, Abigail Borg, who recognises the important role in society that Social Enterprises can play, Textiles by St Anne’s will also be manufacturing Abigail’s designs into cushions for the John Lewis store.

With both the screen printing of the fabrics and printing of promotional material also carried out in Digbeth, these products are very much made in Birmingham and have a strong social core to its production processes.

Formed in 1963, BITA Pathways have been successfully providing a range of services for adults experiencing mental ill health for over 50 years. Jason first engaged with BITA’s services in 2011 and the support he has received is helping him manage his condition and achieve his potential.

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