Photo credit: Justyna Hodur
OT’s are known for having a creative side. Joanna Fletcher-Smith, Case Manager for UPL is no exception and has raised the bar in the creativity stakes. Here she tells us how her childhood dream to dance not only led to an alternative career in Occupational Therapy but also led to a passion for making beautifully crafted tutus, and more recently a surprise feature in Vogue Italia.
From the age of four I wanted to dance, but a serious accident at the age of 14, and resulting surgeries forced me to re-evaluate my career path. Despite training to become an Occupational Therapist my love of dance remained.
I have three children, two of whom I have encouraged to take to the stage and my eldest has just won a scholarship and is about to embark on her own professional dance journey whilst my younger child has performed in professional theatres in the UK and Paris and represents Team England in the Dance World Challenge competition.
In January of 2018 whilst recuperating from a period of illness, I decided that I would like to make a tutu. Now, to put this into context I hadn’t used a sewing machine in over 20 years since I was in secondary school. My family always joke that I never start small but always dream big and with my research skills honed by many years as an OT, I watched YouTube videos, read blog posts, and viewed countless websites and taught myself how to make my first tutu.
During my first year of creating, I made around eight tutus for my daughters shows, some of which were featured on a live mannequin in the Nottingham branch of John Lewis and I made costumes for three groups of dancers performing in the Videopolis Theatre at Disneyland Paris. The second year I increased production to 275 costumes in a range of styles which was anything but stress free. I spent my days working as an OT and my nights as a seamstress.
I had no idea that one of my neoclassical designs was going to be featured in Vogue Italia until I picked it up on social media. As you can imagine this was a huge surprise, despite not getting a credit for my work!
My love of costume creating has had to take a back seat since COVID-19 hit not just because of the closure of performing arts venues, but because my OT clients have needed me more than ever but eventually the show will go on, and I will be able to return to creating costumes and watching my girls fulfil their dancing dreams.