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MEET OUR MATE - JESS LEITMANIS

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Jess Leitmanis featured on Salt Gypsy Journal | www.saltgypsy.com #saltgypsy #styleinthelineup #sustainablesurf #sustainableswimwear

Where are you from and what's the female surf community like there?

I grew up in Jan Juc on the Surf Coast of Victoria. After a few non-committal dalliances with surfboards, it was around age 16 that I began surfing. At that point in time the female surf community down there was tiny. It wasn’t uncommon to be the only girl in the water. There were a handful of us scattered between the local breaks. So my surf community generally were the boys or my dad. In my 20s I had more female friends that surfed, but I was also accustomed to rolling solo to surf Winki and Bells with the hungry crowd… Definitely forced me to earn my waves. Over the years I’ve gathered a female surf community who I’ve travelled or adventured with, and I also have some great guy friends I enjoy surfing with. It was always a novelty for me to visit somewhere like Byron Bay and find myself surfing with a majority of girls in the water. Nowadays there are more and more girls back home braving the crisp Victorian waters, which makes me happy. I’ve been based up north the last few years, but I still love that icy Southern Ocean… It definitely reminds you that you’re alive.
Style us out for the lineup, what would you have us wearing:.  
My sister and I invented a technicolour-lycra-batwing-cape-hat during one fine 40 degree Victorian heatwave. Unfortunately, it never went past concept phase, otherwise I’d offer you that… I like it functional, minimal and elegant. High waists, cropped rashies and sleek onesies. Generally black. Salt Gypsy and U & I are my go-to’s. Coming from a surf industry background, I find it super refreshing to see independent labels forging their own path, creating their own classic and functional style, and redefining the landscape of women’s surf with considered and conscious design. Patagonia’s Yulex for the cold stuff, and environmental innovation. I’m also quite prepared to don a questionable hat if it means I get 3 more hours of ocean time in the heat of the day.
Artist & surfer, Jess Leitmanis, featured on Salt Gypsy Journal | www.saltgypsy.com #saltgypsy #styleinthelineup #sustainablesurf #sustainableswimwearArtist & surfer, Jess Leitmanis, featured on Salt Gypsy Journal | www.saltgypsy.com #saltgypsy #styleinthelineup #sustainablesurf #sustainableswimwear
Define style in the lineup/what does style in the lineup mean to you? 

Reading and responding to the curve of the wave with grace, flow, poise, creativity. For me it comes in many forms and varies from craft to artist… Deep bottom turns, high lines, fluid arcing curves, old school lay backs on singles, cheater fives, toes on the nose, big drops, smooth tuck ins… Hard to go past a good cockroach though. Hopefully I’ll master a pinch of it all one day. I love watching my little sister, Sashasurf the most. She is a master of style.
Artist & surfer, Jess Leitmanis, featured on Salt Gypsy Journal | www.saltgypsy.com #saltgypsy #styleinthelineup #sustainablesurf #sustainableswimwear
Favourite surf spot or destination: 
Secret spots with your favourite people. Down the coast back home, Tassie, Mex, NZ, Indo. Little windows of opportunity with no one out. Serendipitous sessions when the elements align.
Words you live by: 
Dive in. Fall over. Multiple times. Pause. Dance. Laugh. Love. Work hard for the things that make sense to your soul. The sun that sets is also rising.
Jess, where do we begin?? We LOVE your sculptural pieces so tell us, what informs your artistic practice and why is this important? 
It starts with observation and reflection, me making sense of my place in the world. Through living a life connected to the ocean and travel, I’ve been privileged to experience diverse cultures and landscapes… But its also highlighted to me cracks in our collective society and flaws in our fundamental systems of production and consumption. I work predominantly with marine debris rope, so the material itself informs a lot of my work. The debris that I collect has lived many lives before it has found its way into my possession. It has navigated wild oceans and endured unforgiving elements. By the time I get my paws on it, the plastic polymers have become brittle and weathered. They break apart in my hands. The things that we discard as a society, can tell us a lot about the society as a whole. It sheds light on our collective values and practices. The important thing to me is that it gives us an opportunity to reflect. And to choose. Currently the health of our oceans, and in effect, everything that depends on it, including ourselves, are under threat from the excessive wants and waste of man. What we have is the opportunity to do is rethink and redesign our systems, to create comprehensively considered sustainable solutions. 
Your recent exhibition, Excavations of the Deep, explores the relationship between mind and matter: questioning the way we think, feel, create, consume and discard. In a nutshell, can you explain what informed your thinking and making of the pieces in this exhibition? 
I think its interesting to reflect on how our own internal world is intrinsically connected to our environment. Our internal dialogue and values inform our physical choices, actions and contributions to society. Our external world, our social constructs, conditioning and environment influence our behaviour, values and perceptions. It’s a feedback loop, and we can’t remedy one without the other. In Excavations of the Deep, I used the idea of archaeology to challenge our perception of time. To invite ourselves to step outside of the present moment, and look at our society or selves from a historical or more observational point of view. What conclusions about our values can be drawn from the objects of our acquaintance? What I love about art is that it offers us an opportunity to change the lens through which we see, if only for a moment. I’m definitely trying to provoke reflection, but everyone can form their own relationship with the work, and arrive at their own ideas. The names that I give my work are playful but also cynical… It’s a black comedy. The flip-side is that I’m fiercely optimistic because I’ve seen that focused attention and action can create considerable change. As a species we number about 7,000,000,000, consequently we play a significant role in sculpting the face of our planet. But we each play a part.
What are some challenges in the making of your pieces/exhibition/art practice in general and how do you overcome this/these?
If you peek into my studio prior to an exhibition, you would definitely question my sanity. Arranged loosely by colour, there are salt encrusted piles of rope and rope fibres everywhere. I unravel most of the rope that I work with to expose the weathered variation in the fibres. The unravelling process is a messy one… I wear a face mask to protect my lungs from any airborne plastic particles that are created during the high friction process. I have to vacuum myself thoroughly before leaving my workspace to contain the plastic crumbs and dust particles. The fibres can be quite coarse, so I have invented finger socks (which are children’s size gardening gloves cut ‘leg warmer’ style) to protect my hands from the abrasion and prevent blisters, whilst still allowing for grip. In the months leading up to a show I work intensively into the wee hours of the morning, juggling my time with other work. Over-caffeination and sleep deprivation are a given. I wake with achy hands for 2+ months following a show. I have a stretching routine for my fingers. I’d like to become more consistent, and less of an extremist in my weaving practice. I tend to fluctuate between zero and all encompassing mayhem, as life sometimes dictates. Art makes one to strange things.
Anything else we need to know about why you do what you do? 
Weaving has taken me on some wild rides and to places I’d never dreamed of. Most of my rope collection has been retrieved on these adventures. I have ventured to the rugged Southwest National Park, Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area twice by boat with South West Marine Debris Clean-Up. I have been elbow deep in rotting seaweed extracting marine debris from this largely inaccessible coastline. I have also travelled to the opposite end of Australia, navigating salty croc country with Clean Coast Collective, in Far North Qld. The clean up missions are hard work but highly rewarding. I guess ultimately, I do what I do to protect what I love. A healthy ocean is one of those things.
Any goals for 2018?
I’ve eased off on the physical side of weaving at the moment…But I’m still dreaming big in that space. I’m heading to NY, California and Hawaii in Aug/Sept to fill my eyeballs with art, check out exhibition spaces, and maybe find some rope! Let me know if you have any hot tips!

SHOP JESS' STYLE  \\  WWW.JESSLEITMANIS.COM

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