The Neighbourhood Sweat Shop is an enquiry in how we work together and how things could be made in Australia. Over the past year or two I’ve delivered maybe 60 odd workshops predominantly using unskilled or first time woodworkers from typically an at risk background. At some point I started thinking about what would happen if there was 10 of me. 10 skilled pairs of hands. Workshops are normally a paid exercise where you put your $120 down and come along and craft – this worked in a different way where I paid you to participate.
Payment was in several different forms (listed above in the invite). The payment structure was devised for several reasons – Money: being able to pay rent is great. Beer: I wanted to explore sponsorship with this project and 3 cartons of glorious Gage Roads beer was donated by writing maybe a 200 character email – that’s about $150 worth for 2 minutes of typing to a local business. Barter systems and sponsorship I find mighty intriguing. Sausage in white bread: I want people to sit and eat together. It’s a really easy way for strangers to get talking. Lotterywest Scratchie: This is somewhat a tip of the hat to my cultural forefathers. Growing out of Fremantle at the end of World War 1 was a group entitled “the Uglymen“. They were a group of returned soldiers who went around and worked on war widow’s homes and raised money for charities. They grew and grew over the years and had branches spread over the country. Here in Western Australia they raised enough money to build two hospitals (predominantly through competitions, drinking, dancing and gambling as well as many good hearted enterprises). I’ve always felt a great affinity with the group since I stumbled across them mainly due to it being about people coming together to do good because it made sense and there was a need in the local community. The two founders of the Uglymen were original board members for Lotterywest and Lotterywest has sunk more money in to the arts than just about anyone I reckon. They’ve propped up the film industry and subsidised emerging creatives for as long as I can remember.
The Neighbourhood Sweatshop was a commercial job for the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority – there was a need for these objects to exist in a public space where anyone could use them. An order of 25 stools for the Perth Cultural Centre. Instead of just getting to work and making them I pulled together 10 fellow makers who are tenants of MANY 6160 and 10 people who were interested in learning how furniture was made. I did this to get my fellow maker’s in to teaching something – sharing what you know is a really great way to expose your business and potentially a stream of income through running workshops and creating relationships. The other attendees were people who were interested but also complimentary – architects, stylists, space activators, potential tenants for the space. People who need us makers.
Most everyone has a full time job so part of the appeal I think is to make the time commitment fairly small – I’d far prefer to have 40 people for 1 hour versus 1 person for 40 hours. It’s a real pleasure to see what can be achieved when a group works together.
I ended up with close to 60 man hours of work, people had a great time and got to know each other and more than anything they know how to build these now. It’s a really interesting way to work where you ask a lot of people for just a little bit of time and you make it worthwhile for them in a way more than just dollars.