Making Together: Women living in refuge

Working in partnership with Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid (BSWA)

Various materials lie on the table with 3 hammers.

Exploring metal with Rita Patel and Melanie Tomlinson

Working in partnership with Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid (BSWA), we developed our families project Making Together for women and early years children (0-5) living in refuge. The project used metal as a material focus, working with Birmingham based makers Rita Patel, a jewellery maker, and Melanie Tomlinson, an artist and illustrator

Creating a safe space to explore as a family

Coming into refuge is difficult for women and children. They have the trauma of their previous experience, are isolated from their usual support networks and have to cope with a new living situation.

Making Together supported the rebuilding of relationships, boundaries and trust between mothers and children, offering space and new ways for them to interact by fostering connectivity and creativity across a range of accessible approaches and materials, in a supportive and nurturing environment.

Children were encouraged to play and make with their mums and staff. Together they explored the textures, noises, shapes and movements of metalwork tools and objects including metal balls, hammers, shim, wire, nuts, bolts, magnets, bowls, boxes, wheels, bracelets, bangles and necklaces alongside softer, malleable materials like raffia, playdoh, felt pens, paints and feathers.

Inspiring confidence and encouraging independent play

Amira was withdrawn and anxious at the start of the project.  The makers gently introduced a range of materials and objects to them and, over the course of the 8 weeks, they were able to move away from mum more, play independently and communicate with others. Staff saw this confidence continue to grow after the project finished.

Supporting mothers to take time for themselves

Offering a rare opportunity to carve out time to learn and develop their own interests in making, the sessions provided a series of directed making activities just for the women.

Working alongside one another in a relaxed, social setting, participants created special items for themselves and the spaces where they were living. They learnt new, sometimes challenging metalwork and jewellery making techniques: metal and hot foil embossing, saw piercing, filing, forming, hammering, buffing, soldering, polishing, oxidising, texturing, metal stamping, riveting, drilling and wire work

Despite the challenges presented by their circumstances and hectic everyday lives, the women committed to every piece they made, making their own creative decisions and producing a range of beautiful objects including jewellery boxes, mobiles, silver plated bracelets and bespoke sterling silver rings.

“Through Making Together the women learned new skills, tried things they have never done before and began to see themselves as creative. They experienced relief from stress and felt pride in themselves for what they had made. One woman told us how it had helped her to feel normal, and that for two hours she didn’t need to think about her problems.” Deirdre Buckley, Craftspace

a flower design made from cut and coloured metal.
Wrist adornment made with feathers, fabric, copper tubing and washers on a wrist.
A circle shape made from jewels and wire.
Various materials lying on a mat.


BSWA’s services meet individual needs on terms which suit them, enabling women to regain control of their lives and be given the space and time to make their own decisions. Vital therapeutic and creative work lessens women’s isolation, encouraging them to come out of their flats, engage in social activity and recognise that they are not alone, building a sense of community in refuge.

Through engagement in open-ended and more focussed making activities, Making Together enabled women to carve out time and space to develop their creative interests individually and with their children, alongside one another. The project supported the transition from abuse to safety, helping both physical and emotional recovery.

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Making Together was funded by Birmingham City Council through the Cultural Re:generation scheme.

Making Together

Making Together is a programme of intergenerational making based activity initiated by Craftspace in partnership with organisations around Birmingham. The project provides an opportunity for children, parents, carers and grandparents to engage and connect through materials and making, using a wide range of accessible approaches and processes.

Craftspace believes that the exploration of materials through making is a transformative and positive process that develops social, cognitive and communication skills, and encourages a lifelong connection to creativity and making that supports mental health and wellbeing.

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Adult and very young hangs reach for clay spinning on a potters wheel.

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Building physical strength and skills in early years.

A toddler concentrates as she spreads paint onto paper with her hand. She is messy and calm.

Making Together: Women living in refuge

2019: Exploring metal with Rita Patel and Melanie Tomlinson.

Various materials lie on the table with 3 hammers.

Making Together at Birmingham Settlement

2019: Discovering materials with young children and families.

An older man works with a young boy hammering a metal punch.


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