Big Lottery News

pink-largePleased to report that Shift Makers has been successful in securing an ‘Awards for all’ Big Lottery grant!

This is our first ‘pot’ of funding and will allow us to deliver our  Art ‘n’ Shine confidence building courses to 2 groups of women: one in Caerphilly and the other in Blaenau Gwent.

Our first partner is Llamau, the homeless charity, who work with young people and vulnerable women. We began the eight week course, last week in Caerphilly, with women from their refuges and housing projects.

DB3d6p1V0AEf1uRInitial responses were positive and people enjoyed the relaxed format of the course.

‘I like the way you’re not forced to talk like on other courses.’  

 Unlike traditional courses we don’t use workbooks- but art and crafts and quotes. As people make stuff we chat- that’s the simplest way of describing our methodology.

Our theme for the first few weeks is ‘self love.’


In the first session people decorated a box for themelves and personalised their ‘Proud of me’ journals. The journals are their place to record the small things that they are proud of…like summoning up the courage to come along to the course.

There is no quick fix to confidence -neither is there ever an end point. I don’t think anyone ever feels ‘I’m completely confident’ as there is always more work to do as the challenges we face change. It’s just about moving up your own personal scale at own pace.

On behalf of everyone at Shift Makers and Llamau ‘Thank you- Big Lottery’ for funding us to run these courses over the next few months.


Who made your clothes?

Picture1 LBLWho made your clothes? What’s the real cost?

Last week I met Nicola Round of Labour Behind the Label, a fantastic small campaigning group based in Bristol. We were both presenting at the USW’s ethical business conference. Labour behind the Label exposes and works to take action to help change the poor conditions of garment makers across the globe. We live in a world of fast fashion, we all love a bargain but at what cost?

Take a look at their website to gain a better understanding of who might have made your clothes and how. One of the case studies they shared was the daily wage of a woman in Cambodia- presented as £3.60. After daily essential living costs were taken into account she was left with just 31p. They present a great formula for a fair living wage that can be applied globally.

Also speaking was Mick Antoniw AM, Counsel General, Welsh Government. He spoke of the ethical employment bill and code of practice they are implementing within their supply chain. Pleased to hear that diversity and equality will remain high on the agenda here in Wales post Brexit.

I was presenting as founder of Shift Makers CIC. We are on the road to creating a ‘conscious clothing label’ where the makers are upskilled women from across the UK. It’s an ambitious project but, as a team, we are inspired and committed to creating positive social change through business.


Art & Shine Week 3- Visioning

LauraLast Tuesday’s ‘Art and Shine’ was my final session with this lovely group, though it is actually their penultimate workshop. Though I’m really sad to miss the farewell next week, it has given me a different vantage for this 3rd session and the opportunity to observe impactful moments that might otherwise have passed me by.

The dynamic of the group has evolved so beautifully in just 3 short weeks and has created a really welcoming and nurturing space. There is a wonderful, positive and trusting energy amongst these once-strangers, and even as I engage in a dual-role both as a participant and as a mentee, I feel very much part of this group.

Tuesday’s activity was the formation of a ‘vision board’, a creative task that uses magazines as a stimulus to help bring thoughts and aspirations to the fore by laying them out in pictorial form. Prith invited us all to look through the magazines and cut out pictures that we felt represented what we wanted to see in our future. This could be a very literal interpretation (a picture of a flourishing garden to show that you want to nurture your own green space) to a more abstract representation (a picture of a plane to show a yearning to journey somewhere new).

Prith gently challenged all of us to consider and respond to the significant question ‘what do you want?’, which referenced and built on guided talk from session 2 about the theme ‘what you focus on is what grows’. Everyone had agreed with this idea – that our energies should be directed on what we want in order that we might reach that goal.

Vision boardingHowever, the process of identifying that goal revealed the insecurities and vulnerabilities that I think exist in us all. By proclaiming your desire out loud, you feel more exposed to a reality where you could ‘fail’ in reaching that goal, or even be told by others that it is ‘unachievable’.  The group activity of producing individual vision boards was perfectly timed as now there was a sense that we were bonded by common experience, and we were keen to encourage one another to fulfil the potential that we saw in all of us. Creating vision boards in this context therefore provided a lovely space to combat fears and declare dreams as publically or privately as you wanted, whilst also providing a focus and giving permission to believe that, as Walt Disney once proclaimed, ‘if you can dream it, you can live it’.

It also allowed for the subtle crossover of multiple goals which in the process of acknowledging as important you can also begin to prioritise. A great way to organise thoughts, realise what is most valuable to you and so start thinking about the steps you need to get to where you want to be. The vision board is designed to be both long-term and flexible, it is there to inspire and motivate but not dictate and as you grow and flourish so your vision board can adapt and grow with you.

The Welsh Government sees the arts sector as playing an important role in supporting education and creating employment. The 2015 – 2020 report ‘Creative learning through the arts – an action plan for Wales’ recognises the vital role that creativity plays in schools for educational attainment and personal development. On a wider scale that looks at the benefits to society, the Arts Council Wales’ ‘Inspire – our strategy for Creativity and the Arts in Wales’  recognises that ‘increasing the reach of the arts is fundamental to addressing inequality’ and that the arts bring ‘meaning, authenticity and joy to our everyday lives’.

This is what is so relevant and valuable about the ‘Art and Shine’ sessions as they provide a space that not only has more tangible practical benefits in terms of skills development but also has hugely and vast-ranging benefits to mental health and wellbeing by simply being a space where joyful moments are created. And, if you’re still not convinced of the particular benefits of a vision board for helping to achieve this – see the Huffington Post’s 7 reasons as to why a vision board will help you accomplish your goals, and perhaps have a go yourself!

Laura Davies


Art & Shine impact of week 1

I was delighted to have recently been asked to support Shift Makers’ programme of confidence-building workshops ‘Art & Shine’, which combines art-making with learning and aims to build confidence through creative practice.

Shift Makers was founded by Prith Biant and offers training and development opportunities to help people make a positive shift in their lives and become empowered through creativity. In keeping with their ethos, I was thrilled to have been invited to be part of the Shift Makers’ journey and to have the opportunity to invest in my own interest developing my expertise in this area.

There is a growing body of evidence which recognises the value of creativity in many facets of life. The speed at which technology is evolving means that many areas of traditional work are fast being replaced by automated machinery, and yet there are (reassuringly!) some areas that computers cannot yet successfully replicate – and one is in the wonderful open-book that is the human endeavour in creativity and arts. Creativity is therefore of huge value to the economy as it enables us improve our collaborative and partnership working as part of a more social economy, and meet the needs of a society with an increasing thirst for innovation.

Furthermore, and particularly pertinent to the workshops run by Shift Makers, there is a growing body of evidence which shows the significant positive impact that creativity can have on health and wellbeing. Embedding the arts into our lives can help us to have stronger immune systems, be more resilient, caring, altruistic, more socially engaged and more successful in our own lives – helping us to be the best version of ourselves that we can be.

During the 2-hour session on Tuesday, we were invited to decorate a plain cardboard box using as many elements taken from a wonderful collection of craft pieces as we wanted…the excitement in the room was palpable and the sense of relief that there was no ‘form filling’ seemed to dance across the room.  Though we entered the room as strangers we were able to leave with the sense that we had shared something quite special, as talk during the session flowed naturally and evolved organically.

It is Prith’s ability to step-back from the role of ‘teacher’ to one of facilitator – gently and deftly guiding the discussion in order to approach what can sometimes be challenging themes, but encouraging participants to really direct the flow of the session – that makes these workshops so unique. The method of sharing a creative experience which allows participants to focus their energies on something that is fully within their control (quite literally in their hands) opens up – as one participant put it – the opportunity for more ‘genuine and real conversation’. There is a real beauty in a process that allows us the freedom to express ourselves as individuals and yet at the same time talk about commonalities and shared experiences in a safe and trusted space.

The benefit of allowing people the opportunity to build confidence and self-esteem (as well as a host of additional skills – such as communication, team-work and leadership) in their own time and at a pace that develops almost as its own entity is invaluable.

20160614_142244[1]Everyone was invited to share their finished piece at the end, and the diversity within the group was amazing – everyone had come at the task in their own way and with their own reasons behind the design. From beautiful, personalised boxes for daughters which embraced the idea of loving the skin you’re in, to adorned boxes to keep treasured keepsakes – you could see that each participant really valued and took pride in the art that they had created.

Enthusiasm for the next sessions was high, with much of the content finalised from input taken during the workshop – ensuring that it is ‘owned’ by the participants as much as possible. As one participant put it at the end of the session, they were leaving the room feeling like they were amongst new friends. If that is what can be achieved in 2 hours, I cannot wait to see what can take place over 4 weeks.

Laura Davies


We start….

20160525_133007Our first blog our first course. Tomorrow we start. We are over-subscribed with 13 women booked on to our confidence building course Art & Shine. I didn’t have the heart to say no- so we have more than planned.

I have a small case full of art materials and another carrier bag full of small boxes and more craft materials- just in case they want to experiment with collage and fabrics.

I have been telling people I had the idea for this social enterprise 18 months ago but actually it appears in one of my sketch books and a vision board 4 years ago! Then I just thought about the clothing label and didn’t realise that a small suite of training programmes needed to come before, but that’s how ideas build. We explore, we chat, we learn, we design, we tweak, we create…in no particular order.

But now it starts for real…I am quietly super excited. I have spoken to some of the participants on the phone and they are looking forward to the art and all want to build their confidence. The youngest is 18 and I know someone else has been off work, looking after her eight year old daughter, so we have a mix of people.

Initially I thought I would plan out all sessions in detail, but now I have just done the first and I will let the interest of the participants guide the rest. Confidence building is a huge area. I’ll share a menu of topics and we’ll see which ones seem most attractive. This feels more in flow…

journalsAs a gift, tomorrow, they shall all receive a Shift Makers  ‘Proud of Me’ journal. I think we should all have one of these. When we have a dip in confidence we just go to the journal and remind ourselves how awesome we are.

Better finish off my prep. Wish me luck!