Several months ago we set up a furniture “transformation” lab in a building that confiscated from the mafia, which the Erba town hall has allowed us to use, free of charge.
Certain pieces of furniture that are collected through our normal removal activities are selected to be sent to this workshop. These items of furniture are difficult to sell due to their poor condition, or because they are unfashionable and not desirable.
An artist has been hired to carry out this “makeover” work. It is Patrizia’s creative spirit, along with the help of certain companions, that gives “new” life to “old” things, sometimes even giving them a different purpose from that for which they were created.
For example, unusable drawers become “children’s toy boxes”.
Various activities go on in the lab: sanding wood, painting different items, treating holes in wood, removing dust and dirt to give new “life”.
Time passes peacefully here. Companions and volunteers, working in groups of two or three, spending intimate time together. They have the opportunity to talk and tell stories, all the while transforming something.
In total, there are 10 companions in the community.
The workshop is only open one full day and two half days each week. Currently, only one companion works in the lab, and the head chef also spends one afternoon there each week.
The town hall, that has allowed us to use those premises, free of charge.
Unusable drawers become “children’s toy boxes”.
“Old fashioned” bedside tables are still bedside tables… but with a new look.
Currently, we want to consolidate the work that we’re doing. After that we’ll have to see, because we need a lot of space to increase our activity.
As regards the volunteers, we prefer to have volunteers who are inspired by the overarching Emmaus message rather than those only interested in the workshop.
At the moment, we only have one volunteer working in the lab, who is also in charge of toys on the market. This way, she has got to know us: the companions, their daily work, life in the community, the other volunteers, and the Movement itself.
We have received several requests, in particular for chairs or for children’s toy boxes. However, we are Emmaus, and so we have learnt to first of all use what we have.
To improve sales, we use Facebook and we send photos by email to our contacts, asking them to circulate them.
Through “giving objects a new lease of life”, everyone discovers a new dimension within themselves, and realises that they can give themselves another chance.
Around five months after opening the lab, we have started to count up and put a figure on the different pieces that have been transformed and sold.
Around 50 pieces have been made over, and we have sold almost all of them. Undoubtedly, if we look at the profit/loss sheet we are (economically speaking) making a loss (due to heating, electricity, water, the artist’s salary, materials, etc.) because we have chosen not to greatly increase the price of furniture in order to sell them. However we aim to continue seeing how things develop and what public demand is like.
At the market, various customers have paid us many compliments on our makeover work. Some have asked to become volunteers at the workshop, or want to know if we organise classes to teach techniques.
The makeover lab is an experience that does not aim to provide professional training to companions. It was thought up as a place where more elderly companions could spend time doing different activities from their day-to-day routine, and where certain pieces of furniture could be given a second life rather than being discarded.