The Craft Unit is a recently established online shop that provides a marketing platform for fine crafts and decorative arts, made by people who work in supported environments. The work, which comprises a unique selection of ceramics, woodwork, hand-woven textiles and silver jewellery, has been carefully sourced by founder Jade Ogden, from across the UK and Scandinavia.
The Craft Unit has partnered with a number of creative organisations that support people with learning disabilities, physical impairments, mental health conditions and people experiencing migration and settling issues. It provides a unique platform in which to showcase the work to a wider audience, and engage customers from a broad demographic.
The makers’ artistic potential is realised – and flourishes – with the support of the fantastic organisations within which they work. A large percentage of sales revenue therefore goes back into the organisations, continuing and developing this valuable work. The Craft Unit itself, currently strives only to cover costs rather than to turn a profit, the focus being to promote and celebrate the work, enabling it to reach a wider network.
The list of The Craft Unit’s contributors is ever growing – there is no set selection process – but the work must evidence skill, commitment and passion as well as having a contemporary, fresh aesthetic. The Craft Unit welcomes new partnership opportunities and endeavours.
Some of the makers have spoken about how stocking the shop makes them feel
“It has made me feel competent , which is something you often lose with mental health problems.” – ‘L’ maker.
“I feel very proud, happy and optimistic because it gives me the incentive to try and reach the best quality I can” – ‘M’ maker.
“It makes me feel very happy and proud! I enjoy making things, I would like to make one of my rabbits for the website so people can see how good they are! They are very friendly rabbits and they are all different. I like making things and helping people.” – Sally, ceramicist.
“At Kisälli I weave carpets, table cloths, hot pan mats. On top of that I’ve made patchwork and screen-printing. I’ve collaborated with several Finnish artists too. It’s magnificent to have my crafts on sale in England, It’s very important that the skills of disabled people are acknowledged. Still quite often their skills are not noticed.” – Sini, weaver.
“I weave carpets, hot pan mats and also rugs, when someone assists me. Also I do some important stages of weaving independently. For instance, I reel threads for rugs. It’s very nice that the hot pan mats I have woven are on sale in England. It feels good.” – Hilma, weaver.
The organisations’ capacity to pursue sales opportunities can often be limited beyond Christmas fairs and markets, so The Craft Unit assists by providing that ongoing platform. Fundamentally, it acts as a force for social change. By enabling such makers to contribute to cultural production, get their work seen and therefore appreciated by the wider public, awareness of the skills and talents of disabled people grows.
Jade Ogden, the founder of The Craft Unit has worked with adults with learning disabilities in various contexts for the last ten years, and recently completed an MA in Participatory and Community Arts at the University of Goldsmiths, where the idea for The Craft Unit was crystallised. It began as a pop-up shop in London’s design district Clerkenwell, providing customers with an exciting window in which to buy unique and inspirational pieces as well as meeting some of the makers themselves. Following the great success of the pop-up, the online shop was recently launched.