This morning I reviewed my notes and invited a friend to join me on the next stylishmews research and reconnaissance outing.
By chance, as I was walking towards Sloane Square, something caught my eye in a new pop up shop ( this is the same pop up shop location I blogged about a few months ago) next door to Emma Hope.
The shop is filled with extraordinary needlepoint cushions, quilts and wall hangings.
What really makes the items extraordinary is the fact that they have all been created under the auspices of the charity Fine Cell Work, 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 prisoners are paid for their work, which is then sold around the world; the pieces are the perfect choice for unique and handmade gifts. Some pieces are interior design commissions, others heritage pieces for organisations such as:
- English Heritage
- Tate Modern
- National Gallery
- Jerwood foundation
- Duchess of Cornwall and Prince of Wales
Craftwork in prison can help prisoners discover a more constructive and reflective side to themselves. They can learn new skills and help support their families with the money they earn. Fine Cell Work aims to broaden horizons beyond the prison walls, helping inmates to make a contribution by connecting them to wider society and giving them a brighter outlook on their future.
The idea for the charity was the brain child of Lady Anne Tree, when she was visiting HMP Holloway women’s prison in the 1960s. Lady Anne worked with two long-term prisoners on intricate needlepoint carpets which were subsequently sold as collectors’ items in New York.
She felt that the women who had put so much hard work into the pieces should be able to earn money from their work, and so she became determined to establish an organisation in which prisoners could learn a skill to the highest level and be paid for their efforts.
“I NOTICED OVER THE YEARS WHAT A TERRIBLE WASTE OF TIME THERE WAS…AND I GOT SUCH A LOT OF FUN OUT OF EMBROIDERY”
LADY ANNE TREE
Today, Fine Cell Work has 60 volunteers training over 400 prisoners in 29 prisons across England, Scotland and Wales and prison systems in other countries have expressed interest in starting similar schemes.
If you purchase an item, you are asked to write to the prisoner who created the piece. The positive feedback helps to build self esteem and a sense of pride and accomplishment to those often languishing in our prison systems.
The work has been exhibited by the V&A , commissioned by English Heritage and sold to leading interior designers.
Fine Cell Work is supported by celebrated designers such as Nicky Haslam, Cath Kidston, Karen Nicol, Daisy de Villeneuve who have donated special designs for prisoners to stitch. Come along and judge for yourself the remarkable quality and variety of work for sale. The shop closes October 6. Get your holiday shopping accomplished early this year!
Address: 54 Sloane Square, London, SW1W 8AX
Open: Monday to Saturday 10am-7pm, Sunday 12pm-6pm