Meet the Designers: ARTHOUSE Meath

Have you ever thought that your other half could do with some instructions on how to be a Good Valentine? Fancy wrapping a gift in more than just paper? Maybe you’re just buzzing for something a bit different? Enter ARTHOUSE Meath, a social enterprise group and design studio based in Godalming, UK.

Founded by Becky Sheraidah, ARTHOUSE Meath creates unique artwork in an effort to showcase the talents of people living with severe epilepsy, learning or physical disabilities. ARTHOUSE Meath focus on social inclusion and the philosophy that “everyone can contribute”.

The ARTHOUSE Meath design studio is located on Godalming High Street in the South of England, and shares the space with its shop where the whimsical, colourful designs are sold. Customers can see where their purchases are created and the artists get to see their work being appreciated.

Ben Kennedy, designer of the Good Valentine Knot Wrap, said “It makes me feel proud and brilliant” to see his design being sold in Lush shops across the UK. It is this philosophy of making people feel valued that is deeply ingrained in the ARTHOUSE ethos.

Inspiration for designs is often inspired by environmental and animal conservation, something that the artists are very passionate about, and that foster a particular focus for creativity and individuality.

Becky explains: “We need to make sure we are creating a design that every artist can contribute to. Something every artist can engage with and bring their own character and personality to. We look for ideas that inspire everyone, and also encompass every person’s abilities and skills.”

Taking this into consideration, a design concept is conceived. There are 94 artists with varying levels of disabilities who work alongside professional instructors to create the designs we see on the finished products. Generally, the artists follow a brief and a theme is chosen that can encompass everyone’s skills. Animals such as tigers, gorillas, sharks and bees are among the most popular designs.

“All of the artists have different levels of physical and emotional support needs. But no matter the challenge each artist faces, every mark made, brush stroke painted and line drawn is of immense value. It’s a collaborative effort and every contribution is of value” Becky says.

Once all of the artists have decided the final artwork is finished, a team of designers scan it in and digitally arrange it onto products for sale, all the while carefully ensuring that the integrity of the original is kept intact.

But, more than creating pieces of unique design, ARTHOUSE Meath is dedicated to changing the perception of disability. Becky explains: “It’s all about social inclusion. More often than not people living with disabilities are on the periphery of society. Not included, engaged or involved in the world and their skills are not recognised. When people feel valuable and purposeful their health improves and they have a better life. We want to encourage other people to include and change their perceptions of people living with disabilities.”

An investigation run by the NHS found that 1 in every 218 people are living with learning difficulties in Britain, and according to the New Economics Foundation, being content and happy, feeling engaged and having purpose in the world are all vital to an individual’s mental well-being.

Becky explains the problem that many people living with disabilities face: “People living with disabilities gain a really good education and up to the age of 19 are in school. After the age of 19, there is often not the same level of activity and opportunity on offer. That's our goal. People can be involved in drawing, painting, design, woodwork, in ceramics, in the selling, in the distribution, in so many different areas that can result in a really positive end product.

“When I started working with the artists, I saw that every single person was creating artwork that every artist strives to create: pure, open, honest mark making. I knew there was a business there, where people living with disabilities could feel valued, and validated in commercial successes."

100% of ARTHOUSE’s revenue goes into sustaining the project and helping it grow, meaning their fantastic work can continue to help people living with disabilities feel included and appreciated.

If you want to see more of the bright, cheerful, and often humorous work by ARTHOUSE Meath, and maybe even treat yourself or a loved one to something a bit different, it can all be found on their website or on a variety of Lush gifts and Knot Wraps.

*Arthouse Meath are now ARTHOUSE Unlimited.

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