Words & Photos by Caroline Finn
A creative calm welcomes visitors to Crafting Together CIC’s new studio in Clydebank’s Titan Centre.
Young makers’ eyes smile a greeting from behind their masks as they look up from their intricate work building sparkly angel bracelets.
The studio walls are covered with bright works of art, woven tapestries and shelves of art materials and jewellery-making supplies fill the room.
What started as a craft group at Kilpatrick School back in 2017, has turned into a social enterprise building creative links and employment opportunities both for local young people with additional support for learning needs, and African artisans thousands of miles away.
Thanks to Young Start Lottery funding which allowed the social enterprise to rent their studio space, they now sell their handmade jewellery and craftwork in independent shops in Dumbarton, Glasgow and Paisley, as well as online.
Linda Murray, a teacher at Kilpatrick School for 20 years, has been with Crafting Together from the start.
She explains: “For a lot of our young people the expectation of what you do when you leave school is to keep your days busy with social activities; that’s great but there should be the expectation of some kind of work activity as well.
“This is what we’re trying to address while also showcasing our young people’s talents and skills.”
Crafting Together grew from the school’s Developing Young Workforce programme which believe any young person should have the opportunity to enter the workplace if they wish, there should be the expectation of that possibility.
And with their new studio beside West College Scotland, the transition from crafting together to independent studying is made a little bit smoother.
“We started as a craft group, and crafting is what we do. But there’s also that sense of getting the skills for life and work and building on what we’ve done,” Linda adds.
Gillian is at college three days a week.
She said: “I’m doing Steps to Work, it’s a mixture of classes. A lot of our friends from school go to the college.”
For Sarah, who is starting a catering course, the makers group has helped grow her confidence and she is looking forward to becoming a college student.
The run-up to Christmas is a busy time for the young makers as demand for their unique handiwork grows.
Danielle proudly displays the row of sparkly angel earrings she is working on to fulfil their orders in time for Christmas.
She loves her jewellery making so much she asks for a kit of materials and tools to take away to work on at home each week.
“Danielle is the only person in the world who asks for homework,” Linda laughs.
The positive impact of the social enterprise stretches far beyond Scotland’s shores as Crafting Together is passionate about creating with recycled and fairly sourced materials.
Many of the recycled beads have an interesting origin Linda says. “The powder glass and hand-painted beads come from Ghana and the paper beads are from Uganda.”
She explains the maker in Uganda is given Scottish maps which are cut into strips then spun to make the beads, creating a unique product of Scottish heritage.
And the group is keen to develop more pieces connected to local and national heritage.
Place is a huge inspiration to them.
Drawing on local heritage across West Dunbartonshire they made jewellery pouches influenced by Renton’s Turkey Red dyeworks and learned to sew on Singer sewing machines.
They are keen to learn about Faifley’s Cochno Stone to inspire future work.
“What we want to do is to create a new twist on the traditional Scottish gift using heritage inspired stories,” Linda adds.
“I don’t think there’s anybody doing anything quite like this at the moment.”
Recently the makers have learned different skills like lino printing, sewing and weaving, allowing them to create new lines to sell.
They also have their own line of Christmas cards.
The young creatives are thrilled at their recent admission to sell their unique Scottish map jewellery at the prestigious Scottish Design Exchange in Glasgow.
Sarah is one of the original makers, working with the group since 2017.
She recently visited the store in Buchanan Galleries to show her mum some of her work on sale.
“It was exciting to see the bracelets I made. I like making them,” she says.
And Linda is excited for Crafting Together’s future: “We’ve got some great artists in our team, the work they’re doing is just amazing.
“We love to provide inspiration and see what artwork they come up with.”
Many of the makers have asked to attend the studio full time but more volunteers are needed to support the young people.
Linda hopes the organisation will be run entirely by the young people in the future.
“Our ultimate aim is to create employment.
“So if our social enterprise could become sustainable, and ultimately self funding, that would be a dream to be able to offer full time employment.”
Locally Crafting Together products are available from Made Guid in Dumbarton or can be purchased from their website: http://www.craftingtogethercic.co.uk where you can also find out more about the young makers.