For the second consecutive year the prison charity and social enterprise Fine Cell Work has been nominated as the show’s official charity at Decorex 2014.
This year, on Stand C20, Fine Cell Work will be unveiling cushion patterns that have been especially designed by Kit Kemp and John Stefanidis. In addition, a new collection by Pentreath & Hall, will be displayed at Decorex and will also be available to purchase from its shop as their contribution to the London Design Festival.
Fine Cell Work is a social enterprise that trains prisoners in paid, skilled, creative needlework – undertaken in the long hours spent in their cells – to foster hope, discipline and self esteem. The incentive is alone in finding a way for prisoners to occupy their “cell-time” in activity which is not only creative but also generates a steady income. The pursuit of skill becomes an alternative way of life to the lack of opportunity and freedom in prison. It offers a chance to internalise a work ethic and is entirely voluntary, with prisoners’ success depending on the time they choose to put in.
“Of all the aesthetic projects offered down the years to capture the imagination and tame the frustration of prisoners, fine needlework is one of the oddest,” says Libby Purves (Patron). “Yet it has worked, and borne fruit, and perhaps after all it is not surprising. Prisons even at their best are stark and utilitarian places. The chance to create a piece of ‘unnecessary’ beauty and send it out into the world is at once a defiance of that environment, and a good use of the time spent there”.
FCW is committed to working with prisoners through their entire sentences and offers the chance to belong to a larger and more meaningful entity. Needlework requires focus, rhythm and accuracy. It is the antithesis of the roughness, the carelessness and the loss of control which characterise offending behaviour. Indeed, prisoners’ most common description of doing needlework in their cells is “a therapy.”
The idea for Fine Cell Work was conceived by Lady Anne Tree in the 1960’s when she was a prison visitor to HMP Holloway. She became aware of how much of prisoners’ time was completely wasted and that they might do a skilled job in their cell, get paid for it and have the money presented to them on release. Her idea that if the work was top quality there would be a market for it. She thought embroidery would be a useful skill as it was easily transported in a kit bag when the workers moved prison.
Lady Anne’s mother-in-law owned Colefax & Fowler while Lady Anne herself was on the committee of the Royal School of Needlework. She managed to broker a beautiful and prestigious commission for two needlepoint carpets which were worked through the offices of the Royal School of Needlework and sold by Colefax & Fowler. The prisoners who produced the work however were not allowed to be paid for their work After many years of trying, it was 1995 that the Home Office agreed the prisoners might be able to earn a wage for their work and the Charity was registered. In 1997 it begun to operate as it does today.
The charity plans to raffle off a heavy-weight Mozambican aquarmarine worth £40,000 on 20th November to raise funds for its work. Donated by gem hunter and merchant, Guy Clutterbuck, the aquamarine will be raffled off at an exclusive party at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, with tickets available here.