Home/Made is a goal-oriented, project-based craft platform that provides monthly craft kits for women in shelters. Projects use simple, repeatable hand work to create a finished piece that is particularly suited for re-establishing a sense of home and self. Examples include hand-embroidered pillow cases, stamped wall art, or a hand-stitched change purse. Kits provide materials (including alternative color choices) and detailed instruction guides for each step, mapping out the project and final result. Kits contain two or three projects per month.
While this product shares similarities with art therapy programs, there are two key differences. First, Home/Made is a goals-based approach that allows for planning and anticipation of a specific end result. Participants meet at the beginning of each month to receive their kits and spend time reviewing the projects and starting them with peer support. In another important difference, users then have the opportunity to continue on their own independently or work with their peers. This flexible system allows creativity and self-determination in solitude and/or with other shelter guests. This meeting and work schedule is not dissimilar from knitting groups, which have similar therapeutic benefits.
The platform is based on research surrounding the therapeutic value of self-forgetting movement and working with one's hands in a way that is rhythmic and repetitive, thus becoming meditative. It seeks to provide an additional coping support for those struggling with depression, anxiety, and stress, with particular emphasis on goal-oriented activities to bolster self-esteem. While a specific end result is provided with each project, material options and alternatives provide opportunities for making unique choices throughout the process.
The act of making something with the hands is a profound way to allow the mind a rest while still engaging in healthy thought. Crafts are undertaken within the safety of the shelter environment and do not employ difficult-to-use items. Craft group interactions frequently have a feeling of safety, as the tasks at hand preempt off-topic conversations. The kits contain brief surveys that ask clear and concise questions that are not overly personal, like how the user felt when working on their projects, how happy they are with their final result, and would they make the project again.
Kits provide an opportunity to craft independently as a self-actualizing agent of progress in the user's own life. This can be important for shelter guests whose self-determination has been taken away by trauma and may have difficulty viewing themselves as agents of change in their own lives.
When not working independently, craft making in groups allows for peer support opportunities and relationship building. Both during meeting times and independently, users can assist each other with techniques, discuss materials and choices, and encourage progress. They can also choose to collaborate on projects and make group decisions. With the many small decisions these kits offer comes a sense of empowerment and choice. Users have the ability to choose color palettes and make small design changes to their pieces, ending with a final product that shows development of the user's own aesthetic voice. The final pieces help participants establish identity within their new living space.
Home/Made shares some core tenets with art therapy, however it is fully original in its goals-based approach and curated project system. At the time of this writing there are no curated, therapeutic craft kit curriculums that exist solely for use in shelter environments.
One exciting facet of Home/Made is a feeling of anticipation. The kit itself is anticipatory; "it's going to arrive soon, what will be in it? What will I make?"
Along with this, the actual act of making is anticipatory as the brain constantly projects what the finished product will look like, triggering executive thought patterns that are integral to assisting with larger scale decision making. For this reason the product is a wonderful addition to the shelter environment--while these projects are creating opportunities for very tiny decisions, over time and with the inherent repetition of this product, this can start to make a huge difference for a women struggling with hard situations. This can lead to true feelings of empowerment and choice.
Additionally, it promotes peer support in a way that strays away from conflict, as each kit user will have the same two or three projects and discussions can easily stay within the bounds of the projects while still being helpful and supportive. This allows for a safe zone of craft/making that provides a respite from everyday struggles while still promoting mindfulness and goal-making.
The program will be ready to implement in June 2015. This project is the culmination of a graduate thesis at Pratt Institute that will be completed in May 2015, and implementation can begin soon after the thesis is filed. Since much of the design of kits will be occurring between February and May, production of the first month of kits for up to 29 shelter guests can happen in May and distribution can happen as soon as June. Kit materials are sourced through normal retail channels and kit packaging and instructions are designed and produced in-house at the applicant's studio; no third-party vendors are used.
********* Estimated costs below are based on one user receiving one kit a month for three consecutive months. ********
Do the production costs decrease as the number of units produced increases?:
Space and Staffing Required:
A recreational room is ideal to start on these kits (when they are delivered each month, for instance) for an hour or so to become familiar with the projects. However, each woman can (and hopefully would) continue working on her pieces in her own personal time. Since the kits will contain two or three projects, it is not feasible to complete them all in one sitting, and the nature of creative expression is frequently a personal journey. However, women may enjoy meeting in a non-scheduled capacity to work on projects together, and more “official” working time may be welcomed throughout the month—one might think of this in the same vein as drop-in meetings at knitting studios, where ladies bring their current work and chat.
Does your product require training of shelter staff to use appropriately?:
"Training" here would only refer to reading the instruction guides that come with the kits simply to be familiar with the projects and make decisions on how heavily staff would need to be involved based on their understanding of the participants. Because they will have a unique understanding of the kit users, they may be simply required to schedule crafting/making time and be available. The crafts provided will not require advanced skills or training beyond what is contained in the instructions, which are thorough and created by a professional graphic designer. The kits also contain very brief surveys for each user to complete before and after completing her kit; staff would need to familiarize themselves with these surveys for evaluation purposes.
The initial supply of kits would be for up to 29 shelter guests receiving one kit a month for three months. The shelter could then evaluate their needs and continue for an additional period of time or go month-to-month. The product is being developed for availability throughout the country and draws from a database of projects that are curated with the aim to provide respite and interest to women suffering from overwhelming situations. It is therefore expected to remain available to any organization that would like to participate each month. In terms of costs, further funding would potentially be needed; however there is a large crafting community in this country with a very generous habit of donating materials. Material donations could be coordinated with the applicant, as kits could be designed around the donated materials. Materials donations could mitigate a huge chunk of the costs of upkeep for the program, and funding for the remaining costs could be found via crowdsourcing and social media campaigns on a yearly basis. Kit costs will also drop as the number ordered increased; for instance if the shelter would like to order kits for all 29 women in the shelter, the cost will be significantly less than noted above due to bulk discounts.
Additionally, several craft supply companies could be approached for sponsorship opportunities.
Yes, definitely. Home/Made is ultra portable and flexible in that its only space requirement is a meeting area for peer support. Projects are simple and do not require complicated tools or skills, while still leaving users with an impressive end result. It is also possible for shelter staff to request certain skills be included (for instance, if they know that 90% of their users know basic knitting, they can request a small knitting project be included, et cetera).
Each kit will include brief surveys for each user to complete and return to shelter staff for evaluation purposes. The surveys will include thoughts on the final project and questions regarding mood and enjoyment of the process. Surveys can be edited by staff to better reflect their understanding of the group or for additional treatment purposes.
Impact on each woman will be an individual process and should be discussed as part of her overall journey as a guest at the shelter. Since the process of making/crafting has been shown to bolster self-esteem and feelings of control, it should be considered as part of the recipe that leads shelter guests to success as they progress out of the shelter environment. One clear sign of positive impact is a user continuing with hand crafts/meditative hand work independent of the program (or after she leaves the shelter).
Since trauma and healing are different for each person, a combination of survey response evaluation, general evaluation through the program period as part of the shelter's standard operating procedure, and comparison between users and non-users can be used to evaluate program success.