It takes a Village - Building an Artisan Workspace (Part 2)

Earlier I wrote about beginning the journey to incorporate the social mission of Eden + Elie into the heart of our business.  It has been months in the making, I'm a little late in telling the story.

I liken it to reaching a milestone experience and being too exhausted and caught up in the arrival of the "thing" to produce a coherent account.  In this case, the gestation period was almost 3 years.

The Eden + Elie artisan workspace at Enabling Village opened Oct 5, 2017.  It houses our 6 artisans who work at their dedicated desks and our job coach.

An invaluable collaborator in designing and building this space, is my friend, Ken Tan from @openfieldssg - a fellow architect and ex-colleague from the Experience Design practice we were part of.

Because it was hugely important that the space meets the needs of our artisans - all individuals with autism - we talked to our job coach, Rayner, to understand how to create a setting that best supports their needs and be a wonderful space to work in.

Bead-weaving is by nature, highly focused and meticulous work.  And coupled with the quiet way in which our artisans like to work, it became clear that the most important piece of the design would be the artisan's worktable.

We learned from Rayner that the previous long tables that they shared were problematic when one person kicked or rocked, causing a disturbance to his/her table-sharing partner.  The artisans also needed visual structures - instructions/explanations made explicit, which meant that there were many things to pin up in direct view of their table.

Finally, each artisan worked with a dedicated tablet, containing our design patterns digitised so that they are able to work without the use of paper patterns, thus reducing table clutter and minimising strain.

We sketched several details of how the tables could be built off-site and then assembled in a row, concentrating on the details of how the different materials came together in the manner of architects obsessing over building details.

Ken called me one day to say he had gotten hold of some solid ash wood and would I be keen on using it for the space.  The weight of the wood would give the tables a solid footing when they were all fitted together, and to be honest, nothing beats the look of solid wood.  (I go to my happy place and reminisce.)

He also got hold of thick sheets of cork - which would create an immediate surround, acoustically dampen noise, and provide ample surface for pinning up visuals.

All that was left were chairs. I roped in the husband and kids to spend a Sat afternoon assembling chairs we bought and we're almost ready.

The final touch was the colour of the back wall.  I chose a shade of blue that held a deep personal meaning to me. It's the blue that was in my own artist studio in San Francisco, the blue that was in my first studio apartment and it's been part of spaces from the most creative, imaginative seasons in my life.

Because the ceiling was so high and we didn't hire a painter, I almost gave up on the wall.  But Ken and his team rolled up their sleeves and did it.  Here's Mark from @openfieldssg (who also has a day job) moonlighting as a painter in our workspace.

On Oct 5, 2017, we moved in. Rayner had planned where each individual was going to sit and who was going to be next to whom. Each artisan was escorted to their new table, given their new Eden + Elie work apron, and settled in.

This process took a few hours. And it was a very happy day. Here's a group photo of us (one artisan missing) and a second photo of our fearless collaborator Ken, who felt the need to express his joy with a jump shot.

More about our artisans in another post!

Stephanie