Fine Cell Work have been producing highly sought-after needlepoint canvases for decades. Some of these are specially-commissioned tapestries which are then often upholstered onto furniture and family heirlooms. FCW was very keen to replicate some of this tradition, so, in association with the Association of Master Upholsterers (AMU), we have begun a new upholstery course at our Wandsworth studio. Not only does this course deliver FCW goals such as taking initiative, confidence-building and team work, but it also meets the prison’s goal of providing opportunities for prisoners to gain qualifications. As part of the course, prisoners study traditional and modern techniques in order to pass the AMU’s Level 1 Basic Skills Certificate. As prisoners learn these new skills, we hope to gain some upholstery commissions which will in turn allow us to teach even more prisoners these skills and enable further study to Levels 2 and 3.
Alongside the existing FCW studio at HMP Wandsworth, we have installed a new upholstery workshop. We have four complete tool sets, materials and chairs. We also have an enthusiastic set of students, who are eager to learn and dedicated to this qualification and the ongoing success of the course. There is not much upholstery that can be done in a cell, but the benefit of this structured course is that there is a lot of additional learning, way beyond simply teaching a learner the next step to completing a chair. These prisoners have taken to the rigours of learning by making highly detailed notes and thoroughly absorbing the research materials we have provided for them.