Image by Tasha Hylton
Article by Squarely Magazine

Jay Parker is a multifaceted creative working in Bristol who champions authenticity and heritage in her thought-provoking works. From bass-playing and modeling to image-making and styling, there’s little Parker cannot do. We were lucky enough to catch Parker and discuss her process and how she is carving out space for POC creatives in Bristol’s art scene.

How has your Jamaican-British heritage influenced your artistic journey?

Crikey, it’s been a massive part of discovering who I am as a creative. I have always been proud of my heritage and enjoyed discussing how it empowers me. However, going to university and exploring without boundaries or judgements only expanded my appreciation for my community.

I have always been inspired by family, in the food I cook, the clothes I wear and the way I interact with people. Kindness and inclusion have always been the heart of my family. I have always championed the underdog, whether that’s race, gender, socioeconomics, religion, or physical ability. My style and direction have always been inspired by nostalgia. When shooting on film, using authentic models, or taking inspiration from my grandad for styling, my family and my heritage are always in my work.

Could you share how underrepresentation at UWE helped shape your work?

My final project was a 100+ page photo and storybook titled ‘Fuzz’, centred around the theme of hair discrimination – the unjust act of discriminating against others for their natural hair or protective hairstyles associated with their racial, ethnic, and cultural identities. All models were members of my family as I wanted to celebrate just how many different textures, colours and styles there can be in one family alone. Stories were also submitted by other POC explaining their hair journeys and experiences.

I was also lucky enough to model for the black-owned underwear company ‘Nubian Skin’. They create nude garments and accessories for POC, that were never available to us. Working with a brand with such an empowering message and products that align with the wants and needs of my community was a beautiful experience for me and I’m so grateful that I got to be a part one of their biggest campaigns.

‘Playtime is Over’, is heavily based on fashion influences throughout different decades. It explores a subject going through childhood, adolescence and finally adulthood, with the styling changing with each look.

How did your journey with music begin, and what led you to join your band, ‘Gürl’?

I have been a musician since I was 15. I watched ‘School of Rock’ at the cinema with my Dad and immediately insisted I started playing the guitar. He bought a pink one, of course.

A few weeks after I graduated university, I got approached by Josh (singer from Gürl) and he very sheepishly asked if I wanted to play bass for the band. Even though I wasn’t a bassist, one of my toxic traits is that I approach every situation with ‘How hard can it be?’ For the record, it was hard.

Our inspiration falls heavily on the band’s neo-soul roots. I would now say we are more anti-pop; music for people who like ‘Bring Me The Horizon’ but also love a bottomless brunch. It’s fun, heavy, camp, but most importantly, it’s the music I have wanted to play my whole life.

How do you navigate the crossover between your visual artistry and your music?

I had a fear that when I left university that I wouldn’t have the chance to put everything that I’d learned to use due to job limitations in Bristol, but luckily, I have been able to utilise these skills in the band. Our most recent video ‘Hexy’ is like my child. I conceived the idea of creating a music video based on the open scene from Blade, a film permanently singed on my brain as it was one of the first-ever black comic book heroes I’d seen in film. I did the creative direction, the production and the styling for it and I think it might be the best thing I’ve created so far.

I feel like my heritage has pertinence in the band too. Being a woman in music is hard enough, but being a Black woman in a genre that typically has no space for you opens whole new challenges. Doing it for as long as I have and finally seeing women like me take up space in predominantly white spaces only makes me want to work harder and provide escapism for other young POC.

What does your creative process look like?

Music plays a massive part in my inspiration, especially when it comes to styling. I’ve always felt nostalgic about the 70s, even though I didn’t exist! The freedom of fashion during this time has me in a chokehold, with Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Stevie Nicks, and The Runaways being style inspirations for me growing up. Aside from my heritage and music, I get inspired by pop culture. I love the idea of character creation- backstories and mannerisms, likes and dislikes for imagined characters and then getting the chance to play dress up. I did this in an early piece based on the concept of characters for a dating profile, it’s something I would love to explore again now I’m older and my work is more refined.

What can we expect from you in terms of future projects?

My next project is our upcoming music video released in January. The song is titled ‘Boys in the 90’ so we’re pulling 90s pop culture and icons as a focus. It’s a nostalgic era for all of us and the aim is to be playful, candid, and hopefully dusted with some elements of cool.

In the meantime, I am going to continue my creative direction work with other bands and try to develop my live music photography and graphic design skills. I’d love to work with other like-minded creatives on some creative shoots so hit me up if you’re down!

You can learn more about Jay Parker here.

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