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