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Where we started?

The roots of Everyone CAN Craft lie in a church-based craft group for people with learning disabilities. We had nothing to offer other than love and a willingness to learn what people needed. Well, that is not quite true we had led craft activities for other groups such as people with a mental health drop-in and for children. When the doors opened we had one craft idea ready for that week that had been used in the mental health drop-in and were waiting to see what people needed the following week.

The people who came were not what we expected. They came in wheelchairs. Many struggled to talk. Persuading them to do anything was not easy given their limited understanding. Not all of them had the full use of their hands. Somehow we managed to think on our feet and adapt that first activity to suit their needs. We learnt a lot during the four years that group ran. It was a casualty of the first Covid lockdown.

One of the best things about that craft group was that it enriched the lives of people who on the face of things did not have much of a life. Coming to arts and crafts was a time when they could get out of the house meet with people and do something different.

We learnt so much just from watching and listening. It never crossed our minds that dried fruit could be a problem until we watched a carer carefully break apart a fruit scone and feed one of our craftees morsel by morsel. Watching her we soon realised why there was a small pile of currants on the table. After that, we avoided anything with dried fruit in it and stuck to safe things like small soft cakes without fruit. Sometimes it is just the little things that make all the difference.

Then came lockdown

Everything got shook up in 2020 didn’t it? Some things were strong enough to stay standing other things were not. Our craft group got shook up and to be honest it collapsed. If you can’t leave your home you cannot go to a craft group. What do you do now? What many people did was catch up with the “when I have the time then I will…” sort of activities.

For one leader that was to update and improve the books she had written. You can find out more about them here What comes after that? Various ideas were tried. What about subscription boxes? The test of working out how that idea would fly was coming up with a series of six boxes. That was not as easy as it looked. This was when the idea of the activity packs was developed. These are dignified enough for adults but simple enough for children. The initial hope was to be able to sell them online but that provided to be harder than anticipated.

If the idea is to craft a healing journey for people and places then everyone can craft is a movement. The thing with movements is that they have T-shirts and mugs with messages on them. OK why not design a few T-shirts and mugs and set them up on a print on demand web site. Mugs proved easier than T-shirts for a variety of reasons so we dropped the idea of doing T-shirts. These days the online concentrates on mugs and bags.

The post-lockdown reality was that one leader’s health had deteriorated so much that she could not continue doing what she had done. It proved a step too far for the church to restart that craft group. However, by the end of lockdown Everyone CAN Craft had developed a life of its own.

There was one project that was in the early stages of development that fitted in well with a funding opportunity. The thing was that it was necessary to become a social venture. This was not a problem as the intention to set up a Community Interest Company was later along the line. so why not bring that idea forwards a bit. The funding idea did not work out as intended but having a legal structure was more of a help than a hindrance.

What we learnt from going to market?

Next stage was taking some of the things we had designed to the local markets to see what people thought about them. Going to the market and talking to prospective customers is some of the best market research that you can do.

One day four people asked her to set up a craft group for them. It was ridiculous. there was no way that she she could do that. Yet that was one town on one day so surely there are were enough people who were looking for leaders to make running a course for prospective leaders. The first thing Susan the teacher did when teaching teenagers was write the textbook. The dream is to run it a few times and eventually get it formally accredited.

Everyone CAN Craft CIC

Everyone CAN Craft has a community benefit statement and these are the first three objectives.

Promote creative activities such as knitting and cardmaking (but not exclusively these creative activities) as a means of improving the well-being of individuals and hence the communities that they are part of.

This is the idea behind the mugs and bags online and the majority of the items on the market stalls. They have various slogans on them that carry the message that making things is good for you.

Facilitate the setting up of craft groups that enhance the crafting experience of everyone while aiming to support them as they face additional challenges. This includes providing specialist training and support to those who desire to set up and run such groups.

Specialist training like this is often only viable online as online because the learners could be spread out. The alternative is offering residential training courses.

One of the forms of support that we wanted was a resource bank of ideas to draw on. A start has been made on developing such a resource.

Support those using crafts as part of a care package for an adult with additional needs by providing them with ideas for activities and access to materials.

This is where the resource library and the activity packs fit in.

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