Most job descriptions don’t include “drive a wooden car made in three weeks down a massive ramp, over four jumps in front of 1200 people”. However in my second month working with Handcrafted, this is one of the unexpected things I have done.
Along with the other teams, we had two attempts to get down to the bottom of the 450 metre track at Herrington Country Park as quickly as possible. This wasn’t without a shortage of drama, mechanical changes and spectacular crashes. Continue reading “Our Saw-Some Soapbox”
Narrator’s Voice: We’ve been running a workshop in Gateshead since January 2017, practically working out our conviction that the Handcrafted way of doing things can have a powerful effect in other localities. Initially open for just 8 hours a week, and running bicycle repair courses alongside woodworking in a small workshop, we were helped by a lot of interest from other organisations and began to settle into a niche that offered something new and made a big difference to our first brave group of pioneering trainees. You can read about the early days here.
Having moved to a new space in April this year, the project has picked up momentum and the time has come for it to have its own Project Development Officer, someone with the unique mix of passion, creativity, compassion and practical smarts to take things to the next level.
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”
Reclaiming discarded scraps of wood and turning them into something attractive and useful portrays only too well what we are all about at Handcrafted. Even a bit of timber is worthy of another chance. The Handcrafted Pen has been a “bestseller” since we produced the first batch over a year ago. We can’t make them quickly enough.
Ian started coming along to our workshop in Langley Moor about six months ago. He really needed somewhere to live, and he thought he could put up with a bit of woodworking if that was going to be part of it.
“I was staying at a friend’s house, but I couldn’t stay there indefinitely. I thought that, if I started Handcrafted, which I’d heard a little bit about, I thought I might be able to get some sort of accommodation. So, I started coming along, although I knew I wasn’t going to like it as it was working with wood and I’ve never been interested in woodwork. My last experience of woodwork had been over 30 years ago when I was at school.”
We’ve been reflecting recently about how people started to come along to Handcrafted in the first place. Tom told us how he began to get involved.
“I’d been unemployed for a few years and one day when I was at the Job Centre they told me that I’d needed to go on a course and sent me to Groundworks. I went along and the people there suggested a placement at Handcrafted. I‘d not heard of Handcrafted before, so asked around and heard they were a local charity doing woodwork and gardening that had been started by some people who went to one of the local churches. This made me wonder if it would be all Bible thumping and singing ‘Kum ba yah’. I couldn’t have been more wrong! All of the team and the lads that went along were perfectly normal and just wanted to help people get on and do practical stuff. I really enjoy woodwork, but when I first started to go there wasn’t much space in the workshop so I spent most of my time down at the gardening project.
Life can sometimes seem to have a way of pulling the rug out from under our feet just when we least expect it. Brian had been making his way to work when he has hit by a van – he ended up in a coma and spent best part of 2 months in hospital. When he was discharged and made it home it was a difficult coming to terms with life after the accident, because of his injuries a return to work wasn’t possible. Brian didn’t know what the future held and what he’d be capable of. Then a friend told him about Handcrafted…. Brian takes up the story
“Richard said to me ‘Why don’t you come along to Handcrafted, and you’ll be able to help people?’ So I started coming along and things just seemed to fall into place. I’m still recovering and a lot of people are helping me. I’m not fully where I want to be yet but Handcrafted is a big help. It gets me out and I’ve started to do things that I’ve not done since school and I feel better for it, as all I would have been doing was sitting in the house doing nothing, dwelling on things that have happened.