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De Morgan Centre Presents William De Morgan & Fine Cell Work

The De Morgan Centre presents William De Morgan & Fine Cell Work an exhibition on view through November 3rd 2011 in the re-designed temporary exhibition space.

The charity trains prisoners in highly skilled and paid needlework, using William De Morgan’s tile designs for many of their cushion ranges. The De Morgan Centre has had a long-standing relationship with Fine Cell Work and now once again visitors will have a chance to see and purchase from a range of cushions, bags and small items.

The charity currently brings skilled craftwork to a sector of the population which would otherwise have no access to it, and shares De Morgan’s commitment to making craftwork a day to day practice in the modern world. Victorian philanthropy embraced these dual interests and William De Morgan’s mother campaigned alongside Elizabeth Fry, who first brought paid needlework into prisons in the 19th Century.

The sense of continuity with the past and connection to the outside world is of great value to men and women separated from society, and they frequently express the self worth it gives them:

“It opens up another world, one that is long-forgotten. It is reinventing the craftsmanship of yesteryear. Then there is the pride and usefulness in seeing something of beauty come together, and the thought that my cell work will bring pleasure, now and hopefully long into the future…”

Fine Cell Work was founded by Lady Anne Tree, who had a calling to help those in “more confined circumstances than my own”. She perceived the match between time-consuming, skilled craftwork and prisoners’ endless hours locked in cells:

“I pondered the necessity of prisoners having something worthwhile to do during their long hours of lonely idleness. I wanted that work to be creative, enjoyable, worthwhile and saleable. I was determined that the work should be a professional standard, no whiff of charitable acceptance about it, and should be something of which its creator could be proud and our future buyers wish to own. I wanted the prisoner on release to have as much money as he or she had earned.”

Fine Cell Work now employs 400 prisoners yearly in a total of 30 prisons, and is inundated by demand. The charity receives an average of three requests from prisoners weekly.

Fine Cell Workers stitch for between 15-40 hours weekly in their cells, and have produced embroidered clothing, shoes, bedspreads, furniture covers, toys, purses, wall hangings, bags and tablecloths – as well as quilts and cushions.

The work gives prisoners discipline, self worth, motivation and the ability to work as part of a team.They can help support their families with the money earned and gain the confidence to avoid re-offending on release.

Fine Cell Work has completed major commissions for the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Jerwood Foundation and English Heritage, all of which have been shown or are on permanent display in major public venues in the UK.

In all of these cases, prisoners have worked as part of a team, and have expressed their pride in being able to “give back” to society.

The De Morgan Centre, 38 West Hill, London SW18 1RZ T 020 8871 1144 E [email protected]

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