14 young people aged between 14 and 21 worked with printmaker Michelle Wood and graphic designer Nicola Golightly to design the bags which will be for sale online and will raise funds to help improve the lives of other care-experienced children and young people.
The young artists, who all have experience of being in care – such as foster care or residential care – also achieved a Bronze Arts Award qualification in recognition of the skills they gained. Arts Award qualifications are available at five levels – Discover, Explore, Bronze, Silver and Gold – and support people aged 25 and under to develop as artists and arts leaders.
Jane Gray from North East charity Blue Cabin, which coordinated the project and worked in partnership with Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council and South Tyneside Council, said: “The group learnt what it’s like to be part of a professional design studio, working together to take inspiration from the North East coast, as well as words and phrases, and creating a final design which has been professionally printed onto a range of limited-edition bags.”
As well as learning design skills, the young artists gained confidence, with one of them saying: “The most challenging thing I have done today is meeting new people. But I feel good about it now!” Another of the young designers added: “I learnt valuable new design skills and to work on a live brief was fantastic. It was great to find out about the design process and how much work goes into making your design come to life. To see the bag that I worked on actually go on sale is a dream come true and I’m sure the whole experience will stand me in good stead when looking for employment.”
South Tyneside Council supported the project in South Tyneside, and Councillor Adam Ellison, Lead Member for Children, Young People and Families, said: “We are committed to giving all our young people the best start in life and it is vital that they have the right skills and qualifications they need to achieve their life goals. We know from feedback that this project enhanced the confidence and creativity of those taking part.
“This project is another example which demonstrates how we are meeting our priority of supporting our young people in need.”
He added: “As a “Department for Education Sector-Led Improvement Partner and one of the highest performing councils in the region for Children’s Services we will be able to share our learning of this innovative project with other local authorities across the country.”
Chloe Lawrence, Programmes Manager at ARC in Stockton, which hosted some of the design sessions, added: “We want to make sure everyone gets a chance to take part in creative activity, so working with care-experienced young people is a really important part of our work. We’re thrilled to be part of this project and can’t wait to see what these brilliant young people go on to create next!”
Jenny Young added: “The designs produced by the group are absolutely fantastic and I hope people will take the opportunity to buy what is essentially a piece of limited-edition art, created by up-and-coming young designers from our region.”
Any profits from the sales will be used to support Blue Cabin’s work with care-experienced children and young people and the bags are available to buy at www.wearebluecabin.com/shop.
Blue Cabin, a charity based in Gateshead, uses artist-led activities to help improve the lives of care-experienced children and young people.
Photography: Sophie Ingleby