High Wycombe social enterprise Out of the Dark is using traditional craftsmanship to engage with youth and breathe new life in to old furniture.
Out of the Dark, based in the once epicentre of British furniture making, recycles, repurposes and revamps salvaged furniture as a means to train, educate and employ young people from disadvantaged backgrounds; through a variety of training activities they are encouraging young people to get creative, learn about design, master crafts, and work towards telling the whole world about the beauty of iconic British craftsmanship.
Antique and retro furniture is discovered abandoned, or donated to Out of the Dark by people who no longer want it, and a team of young people who are being specifically trained set about recrafting it.This involves a wide-ranging design process, in order to turn a decrepit piece into a newly restored one; planning, sketching ideas, and then fixing, cleaning, sanding, priming, restoring with the required craft, painting, varnishing, and waxing the piece. The process is followed for every piece, with each step teaching young people practical and life skills.
The social enterprise is trying to stop the new generations from forgetting our traditions related to craft and teaching them about sustainable living.
The great thing is that they are not alone, and the general interest in reviving items that are 'Made in Britain' has meant that they can collaborate with others to make sure these traditions don't fade away. Retired crafts people are handing down their knowledge and skills, and keeping the crafts alive. The first teacher they had was a 90 year old, who taught them chair caning, until he passed away over Christmas; their new caning teacher, canes chairs for Windsor Castle; and then they have a bank of gilders, upholsterers, weavers, restorers and wood turners who all volunteer some time to show teenagers that craft is cool, and that it does have a future.
Ken, the 90 year old loved teaching and meeting the youth once a week; he used to say 'I am not ready to sit in a corner and wait for my days to pass till it is all over; I want to share what I know, and leave a legacy behind'.
Out of the Dark co-founder Jade Blades commented:' The youth love it; it becomes a matter of pride to work on a piece that looks like it has no life left to it, but then through their effort becomes a piece that even they themselves like and would consider owning!' Walpole's Crafted scheme has been a great next step for Out of the Dark, through which they are receiving expert advice on developing the enterprise and help on how to become financially self sustainable; they have been allocated Lulu Lytle, founder of Soane Britain, who mentors them and supports their development. With the craft industry still contributing £3 billion a year to the UK economy, getting the younger generations to keep it going seems like a necessary move.
Youth as a whole like to be different and rebel against the norms; if, like Out of the Dark, we can introduce the joys of craft to more young people and connect them to our rich heritage, the young people will rebel against the mass produced way of living and use dying crafts to lead us in to prosperity again.
For more information
Out of the Dark, T: +44 (0)1494 550286, www.outofthedark.bigcartel.com
Posted: 27 August 2013
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