Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with the amazing work carried out by prison charity Fine Cell Work. The social enterprise, which employs prisoners to create top quality needlework items, is having an extraordinary year. This month sees the launch of its first pop-up shop in Chelsea, and it has been nominated Decorex's official charity this year.
It started with a simple concept - give prisoners paid work which fills their time productively, and enables them to save a nest egg for their release. This was Lady Ann Tree's vision in the 1960s, which led to the birth of the needlework charity.
As unlikely as it may sound, today around 400 prisoners, 95% of the men, spend 20-40 hours a week embroidering in their cells. The prisoners are given needlework classes by Fine Cell Work. All the classes are over-subscribed. The work gives the prisoners purpose, dignity, new skills and independence. The embroidery work is mostly turned into cushions, quilts, rugs and other soft furnishings. The prisoners earn 37% of the proceeds of sales of the products, which are bought by some of the big names in interior design such as William Yeoward and Nina Campbell.
Decorex sees the launch of a brightly coloured new pineapple cushion, in two colour ways. Fine Cell Work are also making bespoke cushions for the lucky Decorex Awards winners. During the show, an ex-prisoner will give a talk about his experience in prison and the benefits of working with the charity. There will also be tutorials in embroidery on the Fine Cell Work stand.
Fine Cell Work recently opened its first pop-up shop on Chelsea's Kings Road. Celebrated designers such as Nicky Haslam, Cath Kidston, Karen Nicol and Daisy de Villeneuve have donated special designs for the inmates to stitch. You can also order bespoke upholstery and even take your unfinished needlework projects into the shop to be finished by a Fine Cell Work artisan!
Decorex runs from 22-25 September at Perks Field and The Orangery, Kensington Palace. Visit the Fine Cell Work pop-up shop at 54 Sloane Square, London SW1W 8AX, open from 10-7pm.