Even though our trainees keep telling us that they are pleasantly surprised how friendly and inclusive our workshop is when they first come along, those first impressions are so important. It’s like day one in a new job or school: you don’t know what to expect and if you are going to fit in okay.
Adam landed on day one with a skateboard under his arm. This wasn’t his main method of transport for getting to the workshop but a lifelong passion he’s had since the age of six. Together with his previous experience as a joinery apprentice, he was rearing to take things to the next level.
When I first heard the words ‘Kentucy Stick Chair’ it was hard to dismiss the image of a piece of furniture somehow constructed from pieces of deep-fried chicken. It turned out that what we were really talking about was no less extraordinary.
The original Kentucky Stick Chairs would have been made from humble sticks and slung together with rope. All that would have been needed was a saw and a way to make holes in wood – a perfect example of ‘off grid’ innovation. Our chairs are made with cut timber and threaded bar, but they stay true to the spirit of their ancestors by using whatever is to hand and keeping the original simplicity of the design. Continue reading “Backwoods Ingenuity: The Kentucky Stick Chair”
At Handcrafted, we talk about ‘changing stories’. As people become part of a community, they find it easier to exit destructive cycles associated with other places and people. As they, turn their time and skills into real things like chairs and tables they reclaim a sense of self worth. Overcoming challenges, they turn ‘can’t’ into ‘can’.
Whether it is working with a team against the clock to complete a commission, making something they are proud to see being sold at one of our fayres or getting through another day without panicking, we see trainees grow in confidence through challenges.
Friday the 13th of April has dawned; the most recent in a hat-trick of grey days when the weather has conspired to drag our moods down. Superstition dictates this is an unlucky day, that you might be safer to stay under the quilt, but we have a full compliment of trainees in the workshop, rearing to go at 9am.
Of course, we always keep a wary eye out for hazards and aim to stay safe, regardless of the date, but why not make this a day to count our blessings?
‘Why doesn’t the Queen—’ [raises left hand] ‘—wave with this hand?
Because it’s mine!’
Laughter erupts around the table over steaming shepherd’s pie as jokes and banter flit across the room one after another like an impeccably coordinated symphony.
Except there’s no one conductor; everyone’s directing, everyone’s performing, everyone’s judging if the joke or remark is worthy of hoots or boos or awkward silences. Take what you have, bring it to the table, share it with everyone: a rich feast.
There’s one area where there’s no judgement involved, and that’s the lives of the lads’: past, present, future. What an array of experiences: the good, the bad, the ugly. How beautiful to see people come just as they are: take it, bring it, share it!
And every now and then, amid the good-natured banter, they let slip profound truths and wisdom, lessons they’ve learnt over the course of their lives. Though they might initially seem like just pithy comments, one senses that they’ve come from a deep, deep place of experience and reflection. Continue reading “Wisdom from the Workshop”
Our new women’s support worker, Mim, writes about how her experience in prisons led to her to come and work for us.
Three years ago, I started working in Durham’s prisons. Among the many new things I learnt were a couple of phrases that kept repeating themselves. The first is ‘the conveyor belt’ and the second, ‘the revolving door’.
The ‘conveyor belt’ is an image which describes people reaching the end of their prison sentence and falling off the end of the support plan. And unfortunately, the first often leads to the second. The revolving door: A spin-cycle which means you’re regularly in and out of prison. Stuck in a cycle. Life’s spin cycle is not just something that happens in the prison system. It’s also a familiar idea to those stuck in a cycle of addiction and violence. Continue reading “A New Door”
Staff and trustees spent a day at the start of this year talking about what makes Handcrafted tick. We asked how we could make sure we keep working on those fundamentals and find evidence that they are turning into actions, more than warm, fuzzy feelings (although those are nice, too).
Every day, we hear stories, big and small, that give us confidence that Handcrafted Projects is making a real difference to real people. We want to meet the people we can help and give them the best possible opportunity to join us.
Recently, we looked again at how many people actually came along to our Durham workshop in the last few years. The figures are encouraging. In four years we went from seeing 68 individual trainees using the workshop in a year to 119 – that’s 175% growth in the number of people we reached.
Then we asked a tougher question: “How many people stick around”.
Speaking to Anthony today, it’s hard to imagine he was at rock bottom just five months ago when he first showed up at our workshop. It had been a tough year. Anthony had started drinking after a relationship breakup, and he lost his job soon afterwards as things spiralled out of control. Estranged from his family and living in a hostel he had nothing to lose by giving Handcrafted a try.
The culmination of a few months of planning and creating seasonal products, our annual Christmas Fayre this year surpassed all the previous ones in the quantity and quality of products on offer and the amount we raised. When it comes to the intangibles, the conversations, the atmosphere, the encouraging stories and the sense of pride – the stuff that really matters – we have been overwhelmed with the response.