“The Elves At School Youth Project aims to inspire the spirit of creativity, design and entrepreneurship at schools, using timeless needlecraft skills like sewing, crochet, knitting and embroidery as a foundation.”
Abigail Florence is the inspirational founder of the Elves at Work project. The EASY Project is an Elves at Work initiative and Abigail’s brainchild. It is a pilot program and Abigail is trying to show people how important it is to go back to the ‘old school’ skills and reinventing it, making it hip and reintroducing it into schools. The program is mainly aimed at Grade 10 and 11 students to equip them with needlecraft skills in sewing, embroidery, knitting and crochet. During this time they will produce a series of ten projects which will be showcased at KAMERS 2013. The products sold, partially funds the program and thus aids sustainability.
The six girls in the project are young and have big dreams of being fashion designers or owning their own shops. “I have a passion for fashion.” Saajidah’s (17) father wants her to be a doctor, but she dreams of being a fashion designer. “Tinkerbell is my ideal.” She giggles nervously and explains that she loves lace and sparkles and wants to reinvent lingerie and how we wear it.
Nicole (17) is a dancer and choreographer and she has been struggling to find people to make dance costumes the way she envisions it. She wants to learn these skills in order to make her own costumes.
The program makes use of two facilitators who have years of experience. EASY uses the knowledge and skills of experienced people and transfer those to the younger generation. Diane Theunissen and Lusanne Nadasen are helping the girls by teaching them the basics of hand crafts. Lusanne says that most of the students want to become fashion designers, but to be able to dream big, you need to have the basic skills of sewing, using a sewing machine, knitting and more. And that is what they aim to teach them here at the EASY Project. It is a way to empower these young learners. “The aim of the project is to mould and equip learners who are close to leaving school with skills that will allow them to enter the creative and design industries as entrepreneurs.” All the learners are from Alexander Sinton High School in Athlone.
Amy-Jane (grade 11) cuts up old clothes and makes it new. She imagines something, but here she wants the EASY Project to “help me to perfect what I imagine.” Miche (grade 10) dreams big and wants to open her own store in Paris.
It is not just basic skills that are being taught here. Every week there is a different topic and professionals come to teach the learners skills which will equip them to start and manage their own businesses. Topics like branding and marketing and product development are part of the program.
Shaina (15) “wants to see the end product. I’m a natural, I’m proud of myself.” You can see the learners are proud to be part of the program and excited to learn. They stay after school hours to be part of the program. Ntasko’s (16) smile is contagious as she tells me how she wants to see the whole production process. She loves bags and wants to design and make her own bags.
Amelia van Zyl, KAMERS Founder & Business Developer, shared an inspiring session with the EASY learners. She shared the KAMERS story of commitment, hard work and creative vision. The topic of the lesson was Product Intervention and Coaching. All the learners had a chance to tell Amelia about their ideas and products and she helped them to refine and adapt it to market trends and the consumers’ needs and wants. She gave them valuable advice on how to be playful with ideas, how to start small and sell products to friends and family to cover the costs, and using that as a market research tool to see what works and what doesn’t. She shared her philosophy of using what you have and being innovative with resources and recycled materials. Amelia encouraged them to channel their passion to make things which are different.
Amelia and Abigail smiled their big smiles and you could feel the room breathe in their enthusiasm and passion. Amelia left the EASY learners with these final words: “Make it, sell it, persevere!”
KAMERS proudly supports the EASY Project. Be sure to look for them at the KAMERS 2013 Stellenbosch to meet the new faces of the hand craft industry.
Show your support by liking the EASY Project on Facebook.
– Written by Marchelle van Zyl