Artist Spotlight // Ness Lee

Tell us about your art, your background and what inspires you?

I grew up mainly in Essex and Surrey in the 1970’s/80’s in the UK. I attended a large, chaotic comprehensive, which did not provide much artistic education. Later I went on to study Drama and Theatre Studies at The University Of Kent, and Trinity College Dublin, and from there I co-founded a feminist physical theatre company, Spin/Stir, where I co-designed sets and directed and performed in plays for ten years with Joelle Taylor. 

Although very successful, we were also very unpopular, as it was deeply, mainstream-uncool to be a feminist in those days. Eventually I began to work in TV to pay the bills as I had two poorly paid jobs…Mother and Feminist Theatre Practitioner. For the next ten years I worked in TV Comedy, but mainly in managerial/organisational/producer roles, as these gave me a permanent salary. I had no idea how much of my creative self was in hiding, and how that was affecting me. 

Then I had an earth shattering spiritual experience. It was, I suppose, a crisis of identity and non-belonging. I lost three stone in three months and shook for two years. I began to disappear. I studied yoga and Reiki and shifted the trauma and shaking out of my body. I became strong. I started to teach yoga and conduct Shamanic healings. 

Initially I got into the habit of journeying and asking what to draw. “Eyes,” I was told, again and again. Eventually, I went for a check up at the opticians and was diagnosed with Glaucoma; I was at high risk of going blind. But in the dark, I continued to draw. I received a shot through the lenses of both eyes to save my sight. During my time without sight, I had out of body experiences, panic attacks but I drew and sewed, and recorded poems and stories through it all. I recovered. 

How do you use VIDA x Studio?

I work intuitively, taking sections of my drawings and resizing and reshaping them on various items until a home is found. The right bag for the Spirit Lion… the Spirit Bee on the candle. Sometimes an individual will request a certain animal on a certain item for a certain performance. Performers, dancers and DJs wear the Tiger wrap for added power!

How does VIDA impact your work as an artist, designer, and yoga instructor?

As a Vinyasa Flow Yoga teacher, it has been wonderful to create clothes for yoga practise. There are Lion Tiger and Bee racer back tops and even Bee leggings! When I teach in class and on retreats in Spain I wear these items. My power animals are Lion Tiger (now VIDA wraps, dishes, candles, cushion covers) and Owl. VIDA products enrich and honour these animal guides, experiences and stories.

What made you want to explore art-inspired fashion?

It was a complete surprise and one that I happily surrendered to. When VIDA contacted me I couldn’t work out how they even knew I drew! My son, unbeknown to me, uploaded some of my pictures onto a website, VIDA contacted me and asked me to collaborate with them, and now these tiny embroideries are huge robes, cushions, yoga tops, cushions, scarves etc. 

It is immense fun and I am very grateful. It wasn’t something I was trying to manifest or had a history of doing. But when things happen easily, however daunting, irrational or surprising, I have learnt to flow along with them.

My work became 3D and I can hold them and wear them. They have a life of their own! The ability to give and receive spirit honoured, totemically luminous, pieces of art, music, writing or performance, has become the most life-enhancing thing I do.

How do you think VIDA x STUDIO is different from other choices out there?

VIDA is an ethical company and as someone who likes to up-cycle and recycle and shop from my wardrobe it is very important to me that the items are made in an ethical and ecological way. Each VIDA product is uniquely produced in small quantities and comes from local mills, wholesalers, and printers across India, Turkey, Pakistan, China, and the United States. Every VIDA purchase helps fund education and empowerment programs for the makers, promoting material, lasting change in their communities. VIDA believes in empowering local communities and giving them the tools so they can build a better future for themselves – for generations to come.

Explore Ness’s Art World on VIDA