Last Thursday morning, Margit Wittig welcomed us to her elegant apartment in Earls Court for a breakfast and talk with Fine Cell Work and Blithfield.
As we hurried in from the cold morning, we were greeted with a delicious cup of coffee and pastry – no better way to start the day! We moved around Margit’s space having a sneak peek at all her lighting features, her collections of colourful candle sticks and unique screens – each one as exceptional as the next.
Margit would describe herself as a sculptor, painter and maker. She began creating bespoke lighting but more recently she has started making screens too, working with various materials such as bronze, clay, resin, glass and jesmonite.
We took our seats and the talk began…
Fine Cell Work was founded in 1997 by Lady Anne Tree and is now run by Katy Emck, who explained to us how the charity was set up, the challenges it faces, their continued work and the collaborations they have in store. Fine Cell Work is not only a charity but also a social enterprise which enables prisoners to build fulfilling and crime-free lives.
Skilled volunteers teach high-quality, creative needlework to each prison group. Starting with a traditional cross stitch kit to gauge their interest in pursuing this as a job, they continue to produce bigger, more intricate pieces.
Their work, for which they get paid, fosters hope, discipline and self-esteem. The aim of the charity is to allow them to finish their sentences with work skills, money earned and saved, and the self-belief to not re-offend by utilising the art of craft.
While Fine Cell Work is a business that requires quality controlled products for sale, they also nurture the prisoner’s creative streaks by providing material and support for their own craft work. In fact, Victoria Gillies, the creative coordinator behind the company, shared a few snippets from the work the prisoners produce, including a scene of a house with a burglar appearing to be sneaking out of the window!
Fine Cell Work is always looking for contemporary and innovative designs to include in their repertoire. This is where Kit Kemp and Blithfield have come to join forces. Liz from Blithfield talked about the perfect synergy she feels her company has with Fine Cell Work as a charity; helping people through the tradition of craft.
Blithfield, founded in 1997 by Anne Dubbs and Elizabeth Downing, is a timeless collection of home furnishings, fabrics and wallpapers. Liz and Anne draw inspiration from around the world and from their shared American heritage for their ever expanding collection. They offer beautifully printed and woven designs in a range of vibrant colours. Blithfield shares our love of textiles and craft.
During a brain storm session with Liz and Melissa Wyndham, we came up with the idea of using Blithfield’s beautiful prints and stitching brightly coloured threads over the top. Embellishing fabrics with hand stitching and embroidery is the ultimate luxury; it makes the work feel special and unique.
With the conversation at Margit’s coming to a close, we felt enriched by the information we received, considering signing up to volunteer and ready to come up with commissions for Fine Cell Work! We were inspired by the work of these amazing women and left with the reinforced knowledge of the importance of craft.