Fine Cell Works is a not for profit organisation that work within the prison system with the aim to rehabilitate and teach new skills to prisoners. Through their work they have achieved many great things. From their service users creating embroidered peices for the Queen to gaining commissions to produce art works for David Bowie and the Rolling Stones.
The organisation was set up in 1960s after a visit by Lady Anne Tree to Holloway prison in London. Lady Anne worked along side a select group of women in the prison to create intricate needlpoint works that were later sold to collectors in New York (USA).
After the sale of these neelepoint works Lady Anne became determined to create an organisation through which prisoners could gain training of the highest level and consequently gain earnings from their hard work. Fine Cell Work’s volunteers are members of the Embroiders and Quilters guild and with their passion and knowledge of needlepoint enable the prisoners they work along side to become as passionate and as skilled as they themselves are. This of course has a very positive impact on the future lives of the prisoners;
I am learning a new skill which I did not think possible. I also know that people do care about me and what I do because otherwise why would people take an interest in my fine cell work! I now believe what others think about me makes a real difference to how I conduct myself. Steve, HMP Wandsworth
You may think that the art of needlepoint would not sit well within a prison environment, however there is a long and substantial history of inmates creating intricate works of art – making work using matchsticks is a long standing tradition with in prison’s, great examples of which can be seen every Autumn at the Royal Festival Hall as part of The Koestler Prize. (I will be writting a piece in the foreseeable future about the history of the koestler trust and the awards).
For many prisoners the opportunity to learn a skill and ultimately earn from that skill is something that they have never been given. Take the story of Kieron; after working alongside Fine Cell Work volunteers for many years Kieron was given the opportunity to collaborate with one of Britain’s most acclaimed artists and sculptors to create the work pictured below – Gavin Turk. Not only did this opportunity give Kieron a great boost to his self esteem he decided to us the money to marry his fiance.
You can read so many more brilliant and triumphant stories by following this link.
For me the beauty of this organisation is that you can be a part. The pieces produced by the volunteers and prisoners involved up and down the country are available for you to buy and have in your home. They are priced accesibly with items from just £10 to more extravagant purchases.
Through the quality and professionalism of their volunteers the products of Fine Cell Works are absolutely beautiful and of course highly desirable. Being exhibited in the V&A museum and commissioned by English Heritage. To anyone looking to begin a project in a similar vain here is the most important point. Products of quality sell and with that the aim of your organisation will follow.
You can gain so much more information about this great social enterprise by following this link, and while your there why not treat yourself to one of the wonderful creations on offer.
(All information and images can be found on the Fine Cell Works website unless stated otherwise).