Start­ing over is an art

Central Leader - - News - By Janie Smith

Women com­ing out of prison can pick up the threads of their lives again with the help of a fab­ric arts pro­gramme.

Way Out, Stay Out starts this month at the Auck­land branch of Pil­lars, an or­gan­i­sa­tion that pro­vides ac­com­mo­da­tion and sup­port for women com­ing out of prison.

It also sup­ports chil­dren whose par­ents are in prison.

The pro­gramme will pro­vide a range of fab­ric arts in­clud­ing flax weav­ing and other tra­di­tional meth­ods to help women re­con­nect with their cul­tural back­grounds.

It also in­cludes gar­den­ing and par­tic­i­pants will be able to make in­di­vid­ual veg­etable gar­dens in bins to take away with them, as well as work­ing on a com­mu­nal project.

The pi­lot six-week pro­gramme is run by the Marco Trust, which pro­motes cre­ativ­ity for well­be­ing, and Grey Lynn fab­ric artist Nora West.

“They will have some­thing to take away when they go to their new life,” says Ms West.

The idea came from an ex­hi­bi­tion Ms West held at the Uxbridge Gallery in How­ick of art done by women pris­on­ers and a talk on the ther­a­peu­tic value of do­ing arts and crafts.

She and Marco trus­tee Amanda Levey de­cided to start a project for women mak­ing the tran­si­tion back into the com­mu­nity.

“One of the prob­lems with the pro­grammes in prison is it falls apart as soon as they leave,” says Ms West.

While there are arts pro­grammes run­ning for male pris­on­ers, there isn’t much for women in­mates, says Ms Levey.

“This is a pro­gramme we are pi­lot­ing with a small group. We hope to have women re-bond­ing with their chil­dren through arts and gar­den­ing.”

Ms West says learn­ing the skills can help women feel bet­ter about re­join­ing their fam­i­lies and the com­mu­nity and pro­vide work and life skills.

“I was in­spired last time I was in Eng­land and saw beau­ti­ful tapestry cush­ions that had been made by longterm male pris­on­ers,” she says.

“In prison you have to fill a lot of time. The te­dious­ness of very labour­in­ten­sive projects is an ad­van­tage be­cause it does pass time and it makes some­thing lovely at the end of it.”

The trust is call­ing for re­fer­rals to the pro­gramme. Call Ms Levey on 623-6596 or email amanda@marco. org.nz.

Photo: JA­SON OX­EN­HAM

Creative threads: Fab­ric artist Nora West, left, and Marco trus­tee Amanda Levey will help women learn new skills.

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