When I tell people that craft can transform the world, I often hear cynical murmurs. When I talk of prisoners who craft with the support of Fine Cell Work, who work with top designers and who sell their products across the world, raising awareness of the prison system and breaking down stereotypes, often that cynicism turns to interest.
Fine Cell Work teaches prisoners needlepoint skills resulting in beautiful cushions, patchworks and tapestries. When you buy one, you fund the organisation’s work, and the prisoner gets cash so that they can start saving or pass money to their families. Time spent crafting fosters hope, discipline,self esteem. This helps the person to connect to society and to leave prison with the confidence and means to stop offending.
An Officer at HMP Wandsworth said, “Fine Cell Work gives these men dignity in work and, through this, dignity in life. When a man gains self-respect he may start addressing his offending behaviour”. Craft changes the lives of inmates often written off by society, and 53 such craftspeople provoked thousands of visitors of the V&A British Quilts exhibition including myself in 2010 (and more around the world- the exhibition is currently in Australia) to think about the socio-political situation in the UK through the medium of quilting.
Fine Cell Work sells crafted pieces by the prisoners many of which have been specially commissioned from designers such as Emily Peacock, Cath Kidston and Tom Dixon. Emily Peacock was inspired by the charity’s work and offered to design a cushion: ‘I wanted to get involved with Fine Cell Work because I strongly believe in the therapeutic benefits that needlework offers. Not only does Fine Cell Work offer inmates a new skill, but needlepoint also brings creativity and beauty to a challenging environment.”
The Craftivist Collective have supported Fine Cell Work for nearly 5 years, I have set up volunteering sessions to make craft kits for prisoners to cater for the demand over the Christmas period when they are locked in their cells. I have bought a cushion and when people ask about the label ‘Made in Prison” I tell them about Fine Cell Work and encourage them to support the organisation. Why not add Fine Cell Work products to your Christmas list this year?
You can Join in our projects and connect with me & the Craftivist Collective at www.craftivist-collective.com , buy our products on our Etsy shop (to help sustain our existence) & you can find more top tips on how to be an effective craftivist in our new book A Little Book of Craftivism.
Sarah Corbett grew up as an activist and has worked in the charity sector for over 7 years in engaging people in global injustices working for Christian Aid, DFID and most recently Oxfam as a Community & Activism Campaigner before she became a full time Craftivist. She founded the Craftivist Collective in 2009 after craft-lovers around the world asked to join in her craftivism (activism through craft) as a way to make positive change and give introverts a voice outside of traditional extrovert forms of activism.