Words tamsin blanchard
PHOTOGRAPHS EDD HORDER
When Turkish students were denied access to study in America in the aftermath of the Iraq War, Esna Su’s future plans were crushed. She was living in Antioch in southern Turkey, just 12 miles from the Syrian border, which was increasingly becoming home to refugees fleeing war and decided to move to London to improve her English instead. After completing a Foundation course in Richmond, she was accepted onto the jewellery design course at Central Saint Martins where she developed a unique approach to jewellery, incorporating traditional Turkish craft techniques to create wearable sculptures. The crochet and weaving techniques were taught to her reluctantly by her mother and grandmother. ‘People don’t want their children to learn craft, they want them to do a “proper job”,’ said Su.
When she graduated from CSM in 2015, she was one of the first cohort of graduates to be awarded a studio space at the Sarabande Foundation, established by Lee Alexander McQueen, which she says gave her the time and space to develop her practice as an artist as well as giving her mentorship on finding her way commercially. There, she presented her performance, The Rubble Talks Too, during Refugee Week 2017, with her sculptural collection of knitted leather bags and backpacks representing the burden of having to leave your home with so few possessions.
In 2018, she presented When the Nest Falls, which used traditional Middle Eastern techniques of carpet making, ‘hasir’, to continue her narrative around displacement and need for protection and preservation in times of political turmoil.
She recently moved into her own studio in north London, where she makes her delicate jewellery pieces to help fund her work with refugees. She is working towards London Refugee Week 2020, as well as taking part in Amman Design Week in October.
‘My pieces are a tool to express my feelings about what is happening in the world,’ she says. ‘I am expressing how refugees need protection, how they have to leave their belongings behind – their journey and the sense of how much life is a struggle.’