- What were you doing before you started Craftworks?
Really? I was not doing much of anything. I was bored. I was sitting at home and id watch a lot of television with my boyfriend and although I might read a little, no, quite a lot, during the day I kind of didn’t do anything apart from go to appointments. One thing that happened before Craftworks was that I was introduced to the women’s centre. I had a little contact with them but I was really nervous about doing anything with them so when the Craftworks come up after the future options – which was only 3 days and I couldn’t see what I’d do afterwards – it was ideal! Because I was already worried about what I was going to do and here’s the honest part – me and my boyfriend were sitting at home doing drugs and drinking all day – and that was it.
And I was like – I’ve done three days on future options so what the hell am I going to do now? Because I’d really enjoyed those 3 days, being with people. The first day I was in there was bad. I sat there shaking and my tea spilt all over my knee and everything. I was shaking so bad. And by the third day I was perfectly fine. And I was like, this is cool, this is how I used to be. This is normal. And craftworks just happens to have happened, like, a few weeks afterwards. I really was just doing nothing. Yeah.
- What practical skills have you learnt during you time?
The one that really sticks out for me is more of a reminder than learning, but I wouldn’t have remembered without the course. And that is about the colour wheel and the complimentary and contrasting colours – because I remember learning it at college when I was 15/16 and I’d never ever used it and I was taught it in art history – and I never finished my AS levels and I‘d never thought of it again to be honest – and I’ve always loved making stuff so to be able to actually re-learn and remember stuff to put into stuff I loved doing was just brilliant.
- What other skills have you gained from being the class? I.e. leadership within the team (because I really feel you’ve come out in the class, when we had visitors you showed them what we were doing, you helped your peers…)
Anna said to that to me – thank you for taking Ellie under your wing. And I was like, did I? I didn’t even notice. And you know what I loved more than anything was, like, just feeling comfortable around people. It just happened. It just happened from sitting there shaking and one or two sessions of Craftworks and I was back to my old self. Yeah man! It was like, literally, taking 8 years, 8 whole years off of me. Really was.
- How has being on a Craftworks course benefited you? For example confidence, etc.
Confidence again, yeah, but I never thought I could do something that I always thought was a playgroup skill, like making things. My daughter is 16 now and hasn’t lived with me for years and I’ve not been able to do those create things – or not thought of doing those creative things. And it was only when I was in prison, in the Jailbirds when I realised, actually, you can do those things. And then I came out. I had nothing. No home, no clothes, living in my car and I had to be homeless 6 months in Cambridge before I could get in a hostel, right, so all those hopes I’d had in Jailbirds had gone out the window. She (Jailbirds) was selling the stuff we’d been making but I had no way of doing that because I had nothing. And now I’ve come into Craftworks and realised it’s like a parallel, isn’t it, it’s doing what I was doing in jail of all place! And remember what I was doing there and it’s progressive. I’ve progressed. It’s so cool.
I make wreaths from old books. I learnt it in Jailbirds.
What reaction did you get when you bought them in?
Everyone wants one. It makes me feel good. Embarrassed a little bit, but, yeah, kind of proud. They used to sell for a tenner and people have said they would buy them from me for that.
- What do you want to do once he course finishes? Progression routes?
Well, obviously all my thought were going back to work and prior to seeing the career advisor (in class) I didn’t know what to do. She was brilliant because although she didn’t say this or that career would suit she asked what do want out of it? I was able to work out that I need to see something finished or completed. So that could be inputting a database, red to green, or a finished product. Now I’ve got something to aim for. With Craftworks encouraging us to apply for funding for the craft room to do our own social enterprise that is a much easier focus for me as it’s a little bit of a smaller step than going back to work fulltime. So I hope we get the funding. And even if we don’t I can make to build up stock to sell at next year’s Christmas Fair (at Mill Road). Maybe that will give us a boost to continue into the following year. It doesn’t have to pay for my whole salary – I could easily do a couple days work a week and make for a couple of days – balance it between the two things.
- Is there anything you’d like to tell me about how craftworks has impacted on you, personally? What’s changed for you?
Everything. Everything, I mean back in March I had an alcohol detox in hospital, right, and I thought after that, everything is going to be so easy and fine because I won’t be ill anymore. Well I’d built myself up to that point when I was beginning to feel ill in the mornings again and now, it was the Craftworks and the volunteering as well, that has kept me engaged with other stuff when actually, and although I may not be perfect and I still like a couple of beers in the day, I am actually at a level where anyone is going to say to me – no you can’t join in because you’re intoxicated. Which is what I’d had before. Or no you can’t apply for this because you’re incapable. And although there’s a lot of things out there that say they don’t exclude you, there are. I was excluded. No, not that I was excluded. You exclude yourself. But now I’m actually capable of going and joining in with things where I never would of before. It’s brilliant. You know. That’s the main thing. Realising it’s a possibility to do something. I was so… stuck.
Proper stuck. And it sounds really stupid because some people have real problems and health problems or as ill but we all have our barriers.
Honestly, I’d never have believed, like, a few months or a year ago – oh this is a cliché thing isn’t it – I’d never have believed I am where I am now. I really wouldn’t. Because I didn’t touch drugs and that until I was 28, and I’m only 36 and it’s not something that’s been a lifelong thing problem for me. It’s just something I just got in rut in the middle of my life, and it happened and my boyfriend says to me well I’ve done this since I was 17, well actually… you know one of the most important things is – me doing stuff has made him do stuff. Do you know that? It’s made him do stuff. And you know what I never thought when I started acting on my plans (that I hadn’t told him about) that me and him would split up. It hasn’t happened. He’s doing 2 voluntary jobs as well now. He actually doing stuff. His was the drugs more, mine was the drink more, but yeah, we’re actually coming through it together. That’s probably the most positive thing in my life yet it’s the last one I think of. But don’t tell him that.
"I plan to be more independent and become an entrepreneur/successful business woman in the long run, yes, GAP Learning helped me."
"I'm going to get back out to work, probably part time to begin with. I gained confidence at GAP Learning."
"It was good to meet new people."
"The tutor was very professional, knowledgeable and kind."
"It was nice that it wasn't just about making things, but also about mindfulness, future career and more."
"Time flew I was enjoying myself so much!"
"I enjoyed the friendships I made and the fun and laughs we had whilst learning new skills together."
"It didn't feel like learning, I had so much fun!"
"I feel I have gained confidence and a direction to follow."
I’ve been a full time mum since my daughter was born 13 years ago. I have been making jewellery as a side-line for 5 years but have struggled to make money. I have suffered from migraine and chronic back problems which have made it difficult to even contemplate working, my health simply wasn’t reliable enough.
My son had developmental problems which meant that it was difficult for me to find care for him when he was of pre-school age, so he needed all of my time and attention. When he did start school his slow development meant that although he was the oldest in his class his mental age was more like that of a 3 year old and he found it very hard to cope. At the same time my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She wished to spend her remaining time at home and my brother and I cared for her. I was with her when she died. We were very close. For years I felt as though I was only coping from day to day, carrying on for my kids. Shortly after my Mum died my best friend cut me off and hasn’t spoken to me since. It severely damaged my confidence and it took a long time to feel that I could really trust people again.
I have made sporadic attempts to tackle my migraines but doctors are often not well-informed about possible treatments. Medication was either ineffective or had adverse side effects. I am now taking part in a clinical trial of a new medical device for migraine with the best relief of anything I’ve tried. Osteopathy helped my back but was expensive. I had counselling after my Mother’s death – it really helped to be able to talk to someone not family or a friend.
The Craftworks course was far better than I expected. Teresa’s enthusiasm and creativity inspired me to try things that I hadn’t tried before and believe in my own abilities. The whole class was very supportive and I felt that we all cared about each other and wanted everyone to succeed. Assisting at GAP made me feel valued and saw that I could have a role in the world of work. I need not think that the only option for me was to work for myself because no one else would employ me.
With my new-found confidence I applied for and got a job with a small hi-tech company in a totally different field to anything that I’ve done before – and I love it! I have a regular income, a job that fits in around my family and I still make and sell jewellery but I am able to enjoy it now, as it isn’t my only source of income. GAP has been a springboard into a new part of my life.
I didn’t feel at home in higher education. Although I never quit and came out with good qualifications, I never felt that the tutors were there to support me. They were often critical and negative, I didn’t feel that I could trust them. At GAP I always felt free to fly. I don’t know how to put a monetary value on what GAP has given me, it was beyond price.