Interview with Fine Cell Work's Katy Emck

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1. Why did you join Fine Cell and what made you want to stay in the organisation for this long?

I joined in 1997, I was friends with the the original founders, daughter at school. I loved how not every day was the same, and how prisons, as well as Fine Cell, are constantly evolving and more and more new challenges arise.


 2.You wrote an article about how prisons are being expanded two years ago. Has this continued and if so has their been an effect on Fine Cell.

Yes this has, big prisons are not good due to the lack of personal attention the prisoners get, and without this they will not get better. A lot of prisoners suffer severe mental illness's and it is crucial they speak to someone personally and that someone knows about them and cares for them.

"Prisoners need to feel cared about if not they will have no motiation to get better."


 3. Fine Cell came into fruition by lady Anne tree in 1997. Please give our readers little more insight into Lady Anne and why she decided to set up Fine Cell.

Lady Anne Evelyn Beatrice Cavendish was born on November 6 1927, second daughter of the 10th Duke of Devonshire and Lady Mary Gascoyne-Cecil, Mistress of the Robes to the Queen. She grew up at Chatsworth in Derbyshire, but was never sent to school because her father disapproved of the idea. During the war she moved with her governess to Eastbourne, where she worked in an Army canteen. She was a bit of rebel though a lovely and kind spirited lady. She began visiting prisons at the age of 22. Lady Anne cited two reasons for focusing on needlepoint in her campaign. Her mother-in-law, Nancy Lancaster, owned the interior designers Colefax and Fowler, so "I had the possibility to sell good-quality needlework for good prices through shops." She was also convinced that sewing was therapeutic: "It is meditative, a way of thinking, of taking stock."


4. Why has it transpired that more men than women prisoners work with Fine Cell?

There are just more men in prisons 95% of inmates are men.



 5. Could you give a little insight into the schedule of the prisoners and how many hours in the day are they allowed to stitch.

Prisoners stick as much as possible, they spend up to 17 hours a day in prison, which is a form of torture and so the siting they do really relaxes there mind, and time goes faster.



...spend an average of 17 hours each day locked in their cells, and even longer on weekends and holidays


6. How often do the volunteers visit and what would their visit entail? What interaction do they have with volunteer’s?

Once every 2 weeks for a 2 hour class. Here the help prisoners with there work, complicated patterns, as well as taking in finished pieces.


7. If someone wanted to volunteer for Fine Cell, how would they go about doing this?

Have a look on the website, or ring up. There is a waiting list of over 100 skilled needle workers, so it shows how keen people are to help inmates as well as teaching them new skills. To help you need to be skilled in needlework, and just a friendly face.


 8. Do you give the prisoners a design brief or do you encourage them to let this imagination go wild. Can you qualify an example of this?

We work with great designers including most recently Kit Kemp - a world renowned interior designer. a multi-award winning hotelier and interior designer. In 1986 she co-founded the Firmdale Hotel Group, which includes prestigious hotels such as The Soho Hotel, Charlotte Street Hotel, Covent Garden Hotel, Knightsbridge Hotel, Number Sixteen, Ham Yard Hotel, Dorset Square Hotel, Haymarket Hotel and Crosby Street Hotel in New York. Kit first commissioned with FCW in 2007, and has served on the charity's design committee for the past 2 years. She joined the Fine Cell Work board in September 2014.

Prisoners also sometimes come up with fantastic ideas 


9.How do you source the yarn that the prisoners stick with? Is it donated?

We normally buy it in, though have great connections with top fabric companies, including Osbourne and Little, who give us their off cuts. We also recipe some donations. One of our best sellers the Geometric Cusions is made up on wool ends.


10. Any stories from ex-prisoners which showcase     how working with Fine Cell has helped their livlihoods?

All stories I hear are very touching - we have many on our site. Though mainly just hearing about how someone used to be a thug a bully, and during stitching prisoners have a sense of release and realise it is not everybody else's fault. And hearing about how their families take up stitching and support their relatives new hobby.


11. Are the prisoner’s encouraged to continue their work and do they have mentors to support them through this transition

Fine Cell offers work experience to prisoners after leaving. We are working to relocate our offices to somewhere bigger, therefore being able to have a work shop to host more ex prisoners.


12. Do you have any collaborations or new project in the pipeline?

We currently have a pop up shop on Motcomb Street - Belgravia until February 13th, hosting a rang of our pieces. Next year e are planning on introducing lamps and stools to our homeware range.


 13. Are you seeing a shift in the perception of ethically handmade items from the public and press and if so how has this impacted fine Cell in recent years?

Yes! Stitching and needlecraft is becoming more trendy, you see people on the tube young and old stitching away. And hand made products are becoming more original and fashionable, moving away from mainstream fashion stores to something a bit different and quirky.








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