This week, as part of our Barnabas Makers Series, we had social enterprise and jewellery makers Pivot come to the House to lead two workshops for both our Employment Academy participants and our members. We spoke to their Master Maker, Jason, about his journey from homelessness to Programming and Workshop Lead at Pivot. He shares with us his experience working with our Employment Academy on the day and his aspirations on continuing his outreach work in the future.
1. What’s your journey been to become the “Master Maker” at Pivot?
After coming out of Prison I was left without a home. Before joining Pivot, I was living in a hostel in London which was a dismal experience. The opportunities felt few and far between. I felt like I was on the dark side of the road. I was placed on a programme at Fat Macy’s – a social enterprise that uses their restaurant business to train and support Londoners living in temporary accommodation. That’s where I met Pivot’s CEO and founder, Alice.
At the time, Alice was doing a social enterprise scheme before founding Pivot which put her on placement at Fat Macy’s. Halfway through my placement, she started Pivot and came to the hostel I was staying in to trial one of their workshops. I picked it up pretty quickly and realised that I could buy one or two things to make the workshops easier to conduct. I ended up streamlining a lot of the processes to make more jewellery in less time, making it more cost effective and easier to run for the company. From there, I became a trainee for a couple of months, and before I knew it Alice offered me a job – 2 days a week part-time and the first person on the payroll after her. Just as she employed me, I finished my placement at Fat Macy’s – everything fell into place.
2. What kind of impact has working with Pivot had on your life?
The organisation has changed my path, but if it wasn’t for Alice engaging with me during my placement at Fat Macy’s and helping me get involved with Pivot, I would still be in a dismal place. She’s effectively changed my life. She’s given me the opportunity to develop within the organisation and I’ve had the experience of going through different job roles. When I first started, we were doing a lot of outreach in the community getting people involved with the brand. I then moved onto programming and leading the workshops myself. Alice trusts me to manage all the sessions we run independently. We still run sessions at the hostel where it all started, and I’ll be doing a few pop ups with them over the next few months. I enjoy engaging with people to share Pivot’s message and demonstrating the good work we do.
3. Did you have a creative background before joining Pivot?
Nothing like this. My creative background is in dance – I am a dance teacher by trade, but I’ve always been able to engage people through some form of activity. Before I went to jail, I was a teaching assistant in a school and have an educational training qualification. Pivot saw the potential I had through my leadership skills and slowly built me up by repeatedly trying to make me believe: I can do this.
4. How do you find leading the workshops and what do you hope people will gain from them?
When I’m in the workshops teaching, I’m in my element: engaging with people, getting people to find the aspect of the process that they enjoy and bringing their creativity out. I’m quite confident as a leader and I’m happy sharing my own experiences. I’m aware that my story has its ups and downs – to some it can be a bit daunting to hear, but to others it can be motivational. When people remind you of the mental health benefits when you’re teaching and how relaxing the experience is, it gives me a really warming feeling. Being in a creative environment and seeing people’s reactions to producing something unique from start to finish makes me feel like I’ve achieved something great.
I want everyone who engages to get a positive outcome, which will look different for each person. Some people might be going through life and its stresses and need an hour or two to switch off – to focus on something else and take themselves away from the difficult places. I’ve had some people that I’ve trained who’ve gained the inspiration from the workshops to start something up for themselves, like their own Facebook marketplace or Etsy shops. If I can be an inspiration to a select few – to encourage them to take the baby steps to better themselves, then I’ve done a good job.
5. If you had any advice for your younger self, what would it be?
I don’t know if I would change anything. Who I am now is unique and is a product of the journey on and the experiences I’ve been through – good and bad. If I had given myself hints and tips, I wouldn’t be the person who I am now. Would I still be complacent? Would I still be in a dark place? Would I be able to be a leader like I am now? I don’t know if I would. So I’d say to my younger self – be happy. The rest will follow.
6. What are your aspirations for the future?
I have a dance company that I run alongside Pivot – they’ve just won a couple competitions and are doing well, so I wouldn’t want to do that again as I’ve achieved success here. I’d like to move onto something different.
I’d like Pivot to get to the place where I can go full-time with programming and leading our workshops and I’d like to develop the financial security to start my own social enterprise. What I’ve learnt the most being in these environments is that so many people have lots of different ideas but lack having the person to give them the kickstart. There are schemes in place, like the Prince’s Trust, designed to give people an opportunity. But the reality is, for someone in a hostel it’s not an achievable venture. If I had my own social enterprise, it would be making that link to encourage people to start something for themselves. People need you to invest in them, not just their projects. When you’re stuck still it’s very hard to get the ball rolling but if someone comes and gives you a push – makes you feel accountable for something in life – it encourages a mantra of “I can’t mess this up”, helping them to push on and grow.
7. What items do you make in your workshops?
We currently have two types of workshops – one is an acetate workshop where you can make earrings or a glasses chain, and then other is a silver ring making workshop. We outsource a professional ring maker to run these, but I’m hoping one day I’ll teach these too.
8. What was it like working with our Employment Academy participants?
Everyone had a unique take on what to create. We generally have a process that we follow in the workshops and about 80% of the participants had ideas that broke this mould. I was sceptical at first, but when I saw their work develop, they managed to produce some pieces that I’d not seen before – I loved them! We all made earrings apart from one participant who made a keyring – he managed to cut the acetate into a key shape and embellish other details. These workshops are all about creativity and are great because I can teach you to make a product with an outcome that I want, but if you’re willing to show me your imagination and expand on the idea at hand, I’m all for it – let’s play around. I’ve got additional tools, glue – if someone has a bigger idea, then we can try it.
Overall, I think everyone loved the experience. One of the participants ended up leading a sub-group during the workshop, showing others how to mould the acetate because they’d got the hang of it really well. I saw some natural leadership which was great and the conversations that were coming up were really holistic – people were actively engaging in mindfulness and switching off.
Looking to buy some sustainable presents for your loved ones this Christmas? From Monday 7th to Sunday 20th December Pivot will run a pop-up in the bustling heart of White City’s Westfield London, making it the first social enterprise the shopping centre has ever hosted as a kiosk tenant. Check it out!
Interested in booking your own workshops? Get in touch with the Pivot team – HERE.