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Cranford Ceramics Project


This project explored the role of art in addressing issues that individuals face in their daily lives that affect their mental well-being, such as isolation, depression and lack of self-confidence. With the help of professional artists, participants were encouraged to discuss various aspects of their day-to-day lives that caused them stress and to use art to express their emotions, via activities such as pottery classes.



  • explore the use of participatory and explorative art in addressing an individual’s mental wellbeing
  • use art to address social issues such as isolation, self-confidence, depression, low esteem, racism and anti-social behaviour
  • enable participants to share experiences and learn about each other
  • use art to break through cultural and ethnic barriers
  • provide a platform through which individuals could express themselves in an artistic and nonconfrontational way
  • provide an alternative and creative way of providing vital services to those who need them most


The project was run by APORENet, a group of London-based professionals with a shared interest in issues affecting members of the African community in the UK and in Africa, with a particular emphasis on human rights.

APORENet’s experience in the human rights field led to them identifying a need to help people build their self-esteem and confidence through art. Their previous work had shown there was a need for alternative methods of addressing social issues such as loneliness, insecurity, isolation, peer pressure, motivation and mental well-being at all levels of society.

In tough economic times, APORENet’s aim was to build people’s confidence and self-belief in order to limit the negative effects of job loss and unemployment.

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The project was run in two blocks – a 13-week summer programme and a 13-week winter programme.

Posters and leaflets were distributed in the Hounslow and Cranford areas advertising the project. It was also advertised via local churches and schools.

APORENet took a stall at the Hounslow Carnival, which volunteers from the project helped to set up and man. Visitors had a chance to take part in the creative process by using the potters’ wheels and painting on bisque, and also to see some of the work produced by project participants. This was a great success and generated a lot of publicity for the project.

Two sessions a week were then organised at APORENet’s base in Beavers Lane, offering participants a choice of activities:

  • Creating clay products such as plates or bowls using potters’ wheels. The products were fired to bisque and everyone was given a chance to decorate their piece as they wished. These were then glazed and fired, resulting in beautiful ceramic pieces
  • Decorating supplied bisque products such as cups, vases, tiles, etc
  • Using canvas and paper to draw and paint

Two trained artists were employed as art facilitators to help guide participants during the art sessions. Volunteers helped arrange and set up the sessions, and cleared up afterwards.

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The key evaluation criteria used were:

  • number of participants
  • number of artworks produced
  • frequency of attendance
  • profile of participants in terms of age, gender, race and cultural background

The number of participants has varied – the number of people who turned up at the studio for the first sessions was overwhelming due to the amount of publicity generated by the carnival and the fact that they were held during school holidays. Initial numbers were between 25 and 40, but this figure has now stabilised to 15–20 people per session.

An evaluation questionnaire was used to gauge the impact and needs of the project. Participants were greatly impressed by what they could do and achieve, describing the art sessions as ‘therapeutic’ and ‘good value’. There has been a spirit of community cohesion. Some participants have created pieces to give away as Christmas and birthday presents, for fellow participants as well as friends and family.

We would like more art activities in Hounslow.

Peter aged 20.

I enjoyed it every time I come here. Good atmosphere, helpful staff, I can't wait till next time. Hannah Tankaria, aged 9.

The project has improved people’s mental well-being, with 81% of respondents reporting feeling much more positive (0% reported feeling more negative!). Somewhat surprisingly, 56% of people on the project reported improved access to healthy eating choices, with 44% reporting improved access to healthy food. APORENet has attributed this to the social interaction and sharing of information between participants, as the project didn’t involve any dietary aspects.

While the project itself was not physical, there is some work involved in creating artworks and running a potters’ wheel, and 81% of people reported increased physical activity. Higher levels of physical activity lead to a more positive attitude to life and a better state of mental well-being.

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Working with clay was a new and very popular experience for many people, and creating a beautiful product from a lump of clay provide to be a great confidence builder.

In some ways the project was a victim of its own success, because only three potter’s wheels were available and people often had to wait. Another challenge was the capacity of the kiln – so many pieces were produced that volunteers had to work long hours to fire them all!

Participants in the project recommended the sessions to their friends and families – a great reflection on the enjoyment and empowerment of those who attended. The open sessions led to people sharing experiences, helping each other out and exchanging insights – it was a great teambuilding experience. When families attended sessions there was bonding between children and parents as they worked together to create works of art.

The project has enabled participants to share their experiences and learn about each other, as well as breaking through cultural and ethnic barriers to build cohesion in the community. The project has increased confidence among participants and given them a platform to express themselves.

The project continues to be very popular and is attracting both adults and young people of different ages. However, it has not been possible to run three sessions a week due to the cost of materials and other fees. There is now a ‘potter’s wheel’ supervised session for adults only on a Tuesday evening for 5–8 participants and the Ceramic Café is open every Thursday evening for families and young people.

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  • Encourage the development of creative activities such as art, music, poetry writing in local areas to help improve the social cohesion of the community and the mental well-being of individuals
  • Educating people about the benefits of creative activities to overall mental well-being encourages take-up, especially amongst the younger generation
  • Create spaces in local communities where works produced can be displayed as a way of sharing experiences and allowing individuals to express themselves
  • Where such projects exist, make them more accessible to people, irrespective of economic, ethnic or cultural status

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