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Pottery making class

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Empowering Through Heritage: Past:Present:Work Project Transforms Lives in Derbyshire

‘Past:Present:Work’ is a National Lottery Heritage Funded employability project, focused on local heritage. It provides a unique opportunity for YMCA Derbyshire residents and learners aged 16-35 to explore heritage and conservation sites in Derbyshire.

The Museum of Making – learning through craft

Between December 2023 and February 2024, the Past:Present:Work Project has been hosted at The Museum of Making. Project participants have been exploring heritage through craft skills, engaging in workshop sessions designed to foster an appreciation for traditional crafts whilst empowering participants with new skills.

Participants have been exposed to a diverse array of craft skills and practices, ranging from willow weaving and veneering, to ceramics, lino printing and stained-glass design, under the guidance of skilled Derby-based artists and Museum Educators.


Engaging Workshops and Expert Mentoring


In addition to learning the technical aspects of craft skills, the project has sparked a journey of personal growth for participants. Each week individuals have grappled with the complexities of traditional techniques using a range of mediums and tools, whilst developing essential employability skills such as patience, perseverance and attention to detail. The museum workshop has provided a space for exploration and self-expression, nurturing participants creativity within a professional workshop environment.

Skills for Life

The sessions have provided a platform for meaningful interactions between participants and makers who are currently employed in the heritage and creative sectors. The exchanges have not only provided learners with an insight into how to develop as a maker themselves but have also offered a sense of being part of a creative community, bridging the gap between classroom and a public facing heritage space.

Beyond the acquisition of practical skills, the project also offered participants a sense of pride and accomplishment, with the amount of work being created growing each week. Following the final ceramics session led by Derby-based potter Mary Johnson, it was acknowledged that the participants had crafted more work than the onsite kiln could fire!

As the second phase draws to a close, it is clear that the impact of the Past:Present:Work project has extended outside of the confines of the museum workshop, with learners discussing how their newfound skills have served as a springboard for further exploration and interests.

The Museum of Making is one of three delivery partners in the two-year Past:Present:Work Project. Other workshops led by Cromford Mills and Derbyshire Wildlife Trust.

The success of this project is attributed to the support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the National Lottery players who made this work possible.

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