Over the years much has been said about Workwise from the media, whether in printed and published form, on third-party websites, and even broadcast through radio and television. Stories, articles, case studies, interviews, reviews and a whole lot more, all help to spread the word about Workwise, and what we do.
However, sometimes printed media can go out-of-print or cease publication, websites and webpages can go offline, temporarily or permanently, causing information to vanish. Some stories are just too good to be “lost” and deserve to be told.
Workwise is proud to re-present some of these stories, once unavailable, that have been recently unearthed. These date back to the 2007 to 2009 era of Workwise, in which our shop CAVERN 4 was in its infancy, and many of the modern technology processes learnt by the trainees at our Workshops, were in earlier stages. Many of the staff, volunteers, and trainees mentioned have long since moved on from our organisation.
HobbyWorldUnited was a social media website for hobbyists, that was launched in January 2007. In April 2007 they ran a feature on Workwise entitled How charity turns crafts into careers, published on their website. The old Workwise website contained a link to this article in its news section. Unfortunately by 2008 the company that owned the HobbyWorldUnited website had dissolved, their website went offline, and all we were left with was a broken link.
A trainee on Workwise’s work-based learning programme at our Chamberlayne Road workshops (who is now a volunteer at Workwise), had thankfully saved a local copy of the article. Once thought lost, this was recently unearthed whilst migrating some old data between our servers, so here is the delightful article in its glory:
How charity turns crafts into careers
Workwise, based in Bury St Edmunds, trains people and helps them develop new skills which they can then use to get a job.
Typically, this includes teaching them the intricacies of needlework, woodwork or engraving to a commercially-acceptable standard.
Such is the success of the charity, it has expanded from its modest beginnings in a portable building 21 years ago to evolving an employment training centre, an additional two designated industrial units, a regular market stall and its own shop selling the trainees’ work – to be opened at the end of May.
Further developments are also on the horizon, as Workwise seeks to set up its individual workstreams as social firms, which will be able to provide the trainees with real craft-related jobs and at an industry-related salary. Emma Collins, arts and crafts instructor for Workwise, estimates that, so far, she has trained around 20 people during the three years she has been at Workwise.
When she started, the trainees were mostly engaged in doing silk paintings or drawing. Emma added a business element to the operation to focus the trainees’ minds and provide a real work-like environment. This has given them a true-to-life setting in which to learn essential skills and prepare them for getting back to paid employment.
“There was quite a lot of training to do,” she said. “When I started, none of the trainees were even using sewing machines and most were nervous about doing so.
“We now make a range of products, like appliqué corduroy bags, embroidered patchwork quilts, cushion covers and seasonal gifts such as personalised Christmas stockings, but we chose to do these as much for the different techniques the trainees could learn as for the commercial opportunities.
“For example, there is a great deal of detail in the bags we make, like zips, poppers, straight lines, curved lines and top stitching. They also use the embroidery machines, including digitising the images beforehand on the computer, and can try out their own designs. We are also currently training them to use the laser cutting machine.
“I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and so the trainees’ work has to be absolutely correct. As we sell the products on our market stall, through our website and – soon – through our shop, they have to be of marketable quality.”
Ann Gunn, a former trainee who now works at Workwise as a volunteer, said the support of the charity had been invaluable in helping her recovery from mental ill health.
“I am amazed at what we have achieved, and it has all been down to Emma,” she said. “I was very unwell about two or three years ago, but Workwise has slowly built up my confidence.”
Emma herself graduated with a first class honours degree in fashion in 2000.
After working as a fashion design assistant in London, holding her own trade shows and, briefly, venturing into the world of styling – she sourced Geri Halliwell’s costume in the pop star’s It’s Raining Men video – Emma “met a soldier and moved to Suffolk”.
“I started doing craft fairs with my own designs and sold tea cosies, cushions, corsages and other patchwork items,” she said. “But what I really wanted was an arts and crafts job, which, in Suffolk, was very hard to find.
“I saw a job advertised for an arts and crafts coordinator at Workwise, so I sent in my CV. At the interview, I thought to myself that the job would be challenging as the department needed a complete overhaul, but I was really inspired by what the charity was doing for people and wanted to come in, make the changes and be involved in its success.”
It’s a similar story for John Cahill. A former self-employed cabinet-maker, John originally joined the charity as a part-time instructor and now, 12 years later, heads up Workwise’s house sign and furniture-making operation.
“For me, the training was the big challenge,” he said. “To make the activities meaningful and have tangible outcomes, like helping them achieve qualifications and give them something to walk away with, like opportunities in the workplace.”
The woodwork department makes furniture using CAD and CNC technology (computer numerical control) – a skill which is easily transferable to a commercial environment.
John said: “I introduced the technical side of things as a way of providing some consistency to the woodwork we do. We found it difficult to produce items which matched each other because sometimes the trainees themselves were not well on a consistent basis. Now, we can use that technology as a tool to demonstrate their abilities.
“Workwise is as much about individual triumphs as about quality crafts. It’s about team working, learning new skills and self-confidence. All these things make up a picture and give something to somebody who may have been out of a job for a long time.”
It is arguable that the people who get the best training in CNC and computer-aided manufacture (CAM) technologies in Suffolk are those with mental health problems. Workwise offers the only Open College Network-approved courses in these two areas, both written by John specifically for the charity’s trainees.
The time passed years ago when John took personal pride in others’ achievements. Now, everyone works as part of a team and if he can help someone be proud of their own efforts and work to a professional standard, that is more than enough for him.
“There’s this phrase which sums me up perfectly,” he said. “‘I do good, I’m not a do-gooder’. Satisfaction for me is a job well done.”
Anglia Exclusive was a printed magazine published by Anglia Newspapers Ltd. Their April 2007 edition featured an article about Workwise entitled Colour and Light, written by journalist Jo Thewlis. Online digital archives of Anglia Exclusive only appear to cover 2009, which the aforementioned article predates. Whilst a scanned image of that article could be found on the old Workwise website, this was lost when we migrated to our new website, and subsequently, this wonderful story has been unavailable online. Until now, with the text content of the article restored, as follows:
JO THEWLIS discovers a surprising source of all things bright and beautiful.
Colour and Light
HIDDEN away like an Alladin’s cave of colour and light is the Workwise studio. A bland unit in the corner of Chamberlayne Road industrial estate, in Bury St Edmunds, has been transformed into a thriving studio where vibrant creations come to life.
Dramatic bags, towels and sunny sarongs spring from a team of workers with mental health problems, who operate though the Suffolk charity Workwise.
Designer Emma Collins, heads an enthusiastic team of cutters, seamstresses and technicians who suffer from mental ill health. She said: “It really builds up people’s confidence to come here and get used to the working day.
“They learn how to use the sewing machine, cut fabric and get an idea of colour and textile awareness.”
Providing a range of skills from wood working and fabric design, Workwise offers employees the routine and discipline of a part-time job. Sumptuous quilts, intricate stitching and hand designed beachwear pour from the cheerful workshop, which buzzes with life.
Allan MacDiarmid, 35, has been working in the studio for the past two years as a stitcher. He said: “I just like coming here. The people are nice and the working environment is good and not at all stressed.
“This is the first time I have ever tried stitching and I am taking to it quite well.”
Exotic creations produced on state-of-the-art machines are currently sold on a Bury market stall making a small profit which is ploughed back into the business.
But thanks to Lottery funding, Workwise is about to open a shop in Whiting Street, Bury, to showcase a dazzling range of wood signs, bags, paintings and pottery its members create. For more information about the impressive products sold by the team, visit www.workwise.org.uk or call 01284 755261.
National Lottery Good Causes
The National Lottery Good causes website published a case study of Workwise, and our shop CAVERN 4, pertaining to the lottery funding that we had received during the early stages of the running of the shop. The exact publication date is not known with certainty, but is thought to be 31 March 2009. Their website changed at a later stage, and the case study was consequently no longer available online. A local copy of the text from the case study was saved at Workwise, which reads as follows:
Cavern 4 in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, is no traditional charity shop. It’s a craft-lovers’ paradise of quality oak furniture, individually designed quilts, bags and cushions and beautifully engraved glasswork.
The shop is run by Workwise, which helps people with long-term mental ill-health. It launched Cavern 4 using funding from The National Lottery, which paid for the shop’s lease and overheads, as well as the salary of a business development officer to help the project expand. The grant also pays the rent on an industrial unit where Workwise runs a corporate embroidery business and workshops for furniture, textiles and engraved products, many of which are stocked at Cavern 4.
The scheme’s workshops provide training opportunities for people with mental health problems, which business development officer Melanie Jones says can be vital in helping people get back to work: “People with mental health problems face a big stigma, and they often lack confidence. Workwise provides a stepping stone to get them back into employment.”
Training courses include furniture-making, engraving, textiles, glassware, business administration and ICT. Every year the courses are completed by around 200 people, some of whom stay on to work for Workwise, while others enter employment, training or voluntary work. Everyone taking part can gain NVQ qualifications up to level 3, but that’s not all. “The ‘soft’ skills are just as important,” says Melanie. “It’s about providing a supportive yet business-like environment where people can develop self-confidence and prepare to go to job interviews.”
The people of Bury St Edmunds can also enjoy a range of individually made furnishings and craft products. And local artists and craftspeople are benefiting too: Cavern 4 stocks locally made jewellery, paintings, candles and other items alongside its own products, while downstairs it hosts a gallery displaying local artists’ work.
Total funding received: £193,016