Idea’s Test were the funding body that helped get the idea of Unravel & Unwind going.
They provided Faye with a small experiment grant of £1800.00 to trial the idea of a creative community drop in back in January 2014.
Faye was interviewed by Idea’s Test at the end of 2015.
Unravel & Unwind: from creative therapy to successful creative entrepreneurship
Written in collaboration with Chloe Barker, Idea’s Test, Creative People and Places; Swale & Medway – 2015
When Faye Brown became seriously ill, crochet was her solace. By taking the plunge into entrepreneurship with Ideas Test’s support, her dreams of running a creative business have been realised.
How did the project come about?
The story of Unravel & Unwind began back in December 2011 when Teaching Assistant Faye Brown collapsed at work. “My body just decided it didn’t want to do anymore. I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ME and Fibromyalgia and my energy levels had reached an all time low,” explains Faye. Faye was signed off work and on doctor’s orders was told to rest and change her life and activities to accommodate the illness.
During her 18-month recovery period Faye taught herself to crochet as a distraction from online games that seemed to take up her entire day. “I wanted to do something more productive,” she says. “I found that with the crochet I wasn’t just making yarn look pretty, my mind was becoming clearer. Events that would have distressed me in the past became easier to deal with because I was using the crochet time to think and ‘meditate’.”
While crocheting, Faye began visualising a lively hub of creative activity, much like a craft group that would meet once a month. “It felt like it would be a dream to have somewhere I could visit on days that I felt well enough to go out. I kept searching for a place just like this and although I found craft groups in the area that met either weekly or monthly, there wasn’t anywhere with the flexibility that I was searching for.”
CFS/ME & Fibro is an unpredictable illness that causes pain, fatigue and intermittent crashes of exhaustion. Faye continues: “I can be fine one day and not the next. I knew that there were others like me out there and wondered if they had a similar issue with finding suitable places to socialise and chill out while enjoying their favourite craft activities.”
By December 2013 Faye was feeling ready to go back to work. She had been on the Job Seekers scheme for three months and applied to more than 90 local jobs, with not one offer of an interview to show for her work. “I was feeling demoralised,” she says, “but I still had my crochet. I was already getting lots of requests to make hats, notebook covers, scarves and more. So I decided to chat with my Job Centre advisor about the daydream that I had been experiencing for more than six months and that was where the journey truly started.”
Faye began testing her idea via a Facebook page to get feedback on the idea of a full time drop-in creative community space. “Little did I know that is was going to be such a huge hit!” says Faye. “By the end of the first week the page had reached 500 fans. This was when I thought I could start 2014 with a series of café flash mob meets.”
Faye began her flash mobs by picking a Medway café, time and date and encouraging people – young, old, able and disabled – to come along and craft in public. Whilst there, Faye would use the opportunity to explain the idea of a community space that would be open full time, for fellow home crafters and artists to come along and have fun.
What was learned and what difference did the project make?
Faye’s initial aim was to provide a comfortable environment for creative people to come and ‘work’ alongside her during the day, with the added opportunity of running classes and workshops so that we could pass on skills and new ideas to other like-minded people.
“I did not know then how important the space would become,” says Faye. “For me having the opportunity to be creative every day meant that my own skills and knowledge was increasing, but Unravel & Unwind quickly became more than just a place to learn new things.
“It became a second home, a sanctuary, a place to escape for many local crafters who had found that they were becoming quite isolated in their homes – I understood this feeling far too well as I was also finding a new lease of life.” The regular visitors quickly became good friends, mentors and family to Faye and each other.
As the community drop in grows, the regular visitors have begun to volunteer extra time to help out with general day-to-day tasks and promoting the idea to others. Some even provide classes to pass on their skills and knowledge. Faye’s dream is a reality in Unravel & Unwind.
Faye now has good links with Aztec day care & Everycare, a team who provide support services to adults with learning disabilities; the local job centre; Medway Family Integration Team and the local branch of Talent Match South East, a Princes Trust organisation.
Faye says: “Through these links we are providing creative drop in sessions for those with current creative hobbies and introducing them to new hobbies. The group of adults who visit have been introduced to mainstream creative endeavours and have experienced many different crafts over the past 12 months.
“I have learned so much from the group about confidence and social interactions that I would never have experienced in any other job. I also love seeing how other regular visitors to the drop in enjoy coming in at the same time as the group from Aztec – time spent interacting with them is very rewarding.
“It has been an amazing journey watching participants grow in confidence and knowledge, to see those trying new ideas and venturing out of their comfort zones. I have watched as new endeavours crop up as a result of workshop and class attendance and to be at the heart of it all, to be the one who gets to see firsthand all that everyone is achieving is the best antidepressant I could have asked for.”
What’s happening next?
So where does Unravel & Unwind go from here? “This is the largest and most daunting question of all,” admits Faye. “I know that the drop in is a ‘lifesaver’ to some, it has been a lifesaver for me on various levels and I look forward to sharing the experiences with more people.”
Faye’s next step is to trial the same idea in Sittingbourne later in 2016: “I am hopeful that it will be just as well received there as in Medway,” says Faye. “As for the future – well the world is our oyster – a crocheted one of course!”