.The artist, Kevin Leahy, was born in Glasgow in 1965. He attended The Scottish College of Textiles (part of Heriot- Watt University, Edinburgh) where he became impassioned by textiles. He learned many skills including knitting, weaving, sewing and embroidery of fabrics; textile technology and development alongside the designing of prints and pattern-making. He obtained a BSc. (Hons) in Textiles and Fashion Design.
His first employment in the textiles industry was making crinolines for the theatre, an influence that has surfaced in his Peace Pod series. Shortly after this, he started working for a company making body armour for police forces and armies around the world. This is where his interest in the highly sophisticated materials used for resisting bullets, bombs and stabs started. The strength and lightness of these materials including Kevlar and Dyneema fascinated him.
During his employment, he visited many Top Secret Ministry Of Defence sites. He made armour for the British, Egyptian, Indian, Pakistani and Algerian armies. His other projects include creating protective uniforms for the Metropolitan Police, MOD Police, Hertfordshire Constabulary, British Transport Police, Sussex Police, Cambridgeshire Constabulary, Staffordshire Police, Strathclyde Police, Tayside Police as well as for the Italian Carabinieri and Mexico City Police.
His work is comparable to that of Tracey Emin in both her use of textiles redolent with meaning, and the homely, time-consuming method of stitching. In the same way, War Boutique exploits the symbolic quality and potential of the requisitioned and recycled uniforms, military and ballistic materials to explore ideas of war, power structures, and our involvement in shaping these. War Boutique plays on parallels with the concept of the 'fashion house' to examine cultural trends, and to experiment with new ways of presenting, distributing and contextualising work.
As one commentator noted he "symbolically transforms instruments of war and destruction into constructive items embodying creativity, peace and critical social commentary".
He went on to obtain an MFA in Fine Art from Goldsmiths College in 2009 and became artist-in-residence at Our Lady of Sorrows church in Southwark, London in 2010.
Selected Exhibitions and Collaborations:
2010 'DIY: A Revolution in Handicrafts' Society for Contemporary Craft, Pittsburgh (touring USA 2011)
2006 Noosphere, as part of 'Mount London', Tate Britain
2006 Peace-Pod installation, Save the Children, The British Museum
2005 'Sit?', Geffrye Museum, London
2005 'Army Dreamers' photographic shoot of wearable artworks, featuring Alexander McQueen, I-D Magazine
2004 'Peace Not War' ballistic vest collaborations with Maharishi, Sarah Lucas