Posts Tagged ‘craft’

Inspired And Humbled By Jennyruth Workshops

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Sometimes you visit some people, who really are so good and wonderful that it shames you a bit.  The people at Jennyruth Workshops are some of those unsung heroes that underpin every society in the world; they just get on with it, doing good work, day in day out and neither expect nor want any huge praise.  About a fortnight ago, I had been driving through Ripon as I do almost every day, but this time I had my eyes open when I stopped at the traffic lights on North Street and there was a display in one of the windows about Jennyruth Workshops and I thought I wonder whether they could craft us some spice racks.  So I arranged to meet with them and wow were they lovely, amazing people.

Jennyruth Workshops is a wood and metal craft workshop that provides people with disabilities the opportunities and skills to make things for sale.  Currently, there are about 16 colleagues with disabilities and 30 carers, most of whom give a little time here and there, but some are more permanent like Mark, one of the permanent helpers, who showed us around yesterday with Jonathan, one of the disabled workers, who has been there since the start as his father founded the place.  Jennyruth Workshops is based at Red Farm on the Newby Hall Estate in a large building that looks nondescript on the outside, but has been well built and finished inside with help from prisoners and soldiers.  Although Jennyruth Workshops has been around for some time, having been founded about 15 years ago by Jonathan’s father, it was opened in this new complex in 2004 by the Countess of Wessex

At Jennyruth, they make all sorts of items from bird and bat boxes through to meditation stools, as well as rainbow crosses and wooden clocks; they also make cards and sew products including some brilliant shopping bags from empty, hessian coffee bags donated by Betty & Taylors in Harrogate, who are big supporters of theirs.  They also do a lot of one-off items, for example there was a wooden sign for a toy library in Sharow in progress that was shaped as a giant teddy bear with each letter for “Borrowers Toy Library” being individually cut out and painted.  And Jonathan proudly showed us a farm that he had made with buildings and animals all cut from wood, pieced together and painted; I was awed by Jonathan’s pride, skill and enthusiasm for what is being done at Jennyruth Workshops.  Yesterday, there were also 2 teenage boys from The Forest School in Knaresborough (another amazing place) who were working on a week’s work experience and were busy screwing in the hinges on the kneeling-style meditation stool. 

What I love about the concept of what is being done at Jennyruth and many other similar places is they are trying to ensure that all the disabled workers get involved with every stage in the process from the cutting, through to the piecing together, the painting and varnishing, the packing up and dispatching, so there is no Smith-style division of labour.  It is, therefore, a fun and meaningful place to work.

I was humbled by them all and hang my head in shame that I never help enough, getting so wrapped up in our own relatively mundane and small problems of the daily grind.

What Sophie and I would like to do is start by selling a few of their items on the Steenbergs web site, such as bird and bat boxes and perhaps meditation stools and hopefully spice racks.  We would simply sell them at Jennyruth’s retail price, so making not a penny on these ourselves, and see what happens.  If it becomes popular, then we may add a few extra items, but more importantly we would seek to widen the circle of other great places that also work with people with disabilities and bring their products to our customers on the same “no profit for Steenbergs basis”, since we are all concerned that customers are aware that making such products takes time and that neither Jennyruth Workshops nor places like Botton Village up at Danby are factories but wondrous, traditional crafting places for people with disabilities who should be treated respectfully.

I think it is sad that we as a culture are great at buying ethnic products from the developing world that are fairly traded, but that there is not such a great network for selling products made by people in our own country whether with learning disabilities or just trying to get started and out of a poverty trap.  As they say, charity starts at home, so let’s see if we can develop this more. 

What do others think?

A Christmas Traditional Craft – Making A Pomander

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

Today we’ve had a ago at making pomanders.  Pomanders were used in England from the medieval period until the 18th century as a way of perfuming the air.

They are pretty fiddly when you’ve got clunky fingers like me and the cloves start hurting your thumbs after a bit, but they are good family bit of fun and are another tradition around the holiday season.

What you need

Ingredients for pomander

Ingredients for pomander

1 medium sized orange
25g organic cloves (whole)
1tsp orris root powder
1tsp organic Fairtrade cinnamon powder
Some ribbon and tape
A few pins and a cocktail stick
A paper bag or greaseproof paper 

  1. Gently need the orange in your hands to soften the skinDSC_0756_edited-1
  2. Divide the surface of the orange into 4 equal parts and pin the tape into place.  This is where the ribbon will be attached later.
  3. Pierce the skin of the orange with the cocktail stick and set in the organic cloves.  Completely cover the orange with organic cloves.
  4. Mix together the organic cinnamon and orris root powder and put this mix into a paper bag or on a sheet of greaseproof paper.  Roll the orange in the spices mix.
  5. Leave the orange in the paper bag and store in a warm, dry place, or (alternatively) wrap the orange in tissue paper.  An airing cupboard is ideal.  Leave until the skin under the tape is dry.
  6. When dry, remove the tape and decorate with the ribbon and with a bow.


Carving Your Pumpkin At Halloween

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Carving a pumpkin is really quite simple and (dare I say it) quite satisfying to do.  Here is how we do it in the Steenbergs household.

Firstly, choose a decent sized pumpkin with a good area on the face for you to do the carving.  A too small front face will be hard to carve and be fairly curved in shape.

Next, either draw a pattern onto the pumpkin using a marker pen or get a stencil and attach this to the pumpkin, using either tape or drawing pins.  You can download stencils from the web or buy them from good grocery stores – we bought a set of pumpkin carving safety knives from Booths in Ripon this year which came with some stencils.

I then usually mark around the stencil using a pin or the end of a sharp knife to mark out the pattern.

Marking out the pattern

Marking out the pattern

Put a read newspaper onto the table you are going to use as this makes tidying up much easier.  Now, using a knife cut a circle out of the top of the pumpkin and remove the top lid. 

Next, using a spoon and your hands scoop out all the seeds and the fibrous inner gunk.

Scooping out the gloop

Scooping out the gloop

Carefully and patiently cut out the pattern that you have marked out or drawn on the front of the pumpkin using safety knives if you’ve got them.  I use what looks like a slightly deadly array of pumpkin carving knives, sharp kitchen knives, metal skewers and bamboo skewers to cover all the possible bases while chopping away. 

Finished sea monster

Finished sea monster

The key thing is patience and perserverance.  Sometimes you also need to put your hand inside the pumpkin to give it further support as you are carving away as in the past we have broken off the more delicate bits of teeth or broomsticks and then have had to do emergency repair work using wooden toothpicks to put pumpkin flesh back onto the pumpkin!

As with all things in life, pratice makes perfect so every year you do it the better you will get.