A new term begins at the Design Camp

As the posters around The Marylebone Project say, ‘We’re back’. This is our sixth ‘term’ at the project which means, as Shannon reminded me yesterday, September will be the second anniversary of the Design Camp. Expect something involving cake!

Even though I hated school, and the start of a new term used to fill me with dread, I actually quite like the rhythm of activity followed by rest, followed by activity. It allows space to reflect and re-focus, try something new over a limited period of time, ring the changes or just respond to seasonal opportunities like Christmas.

Over the Easter break we reviewed the Design Camp and decided to try some new ideas this term. This may come as a surprise to some of the women who love their weekly fix of beads and wire but we hope they will also embrace the opportunity to try something else and, as we found with making jewellery, I’m sure we’ll discover hidden talents.

So we started this term, making earrings, an old favourite, but with plans to try out a few new ideas; lampshades, gift bags and tags, and sweet smelling, pretty lavender bags. All made using some of the scarfs that have been collected. We will be grateful for the sewing skills of Katie Sampson and Shi Dolor, two of our regular volunteers who take time out from their own businesses and family life to help with the sessions.

It was good to see some familiar faces returning last week, and three new women to welcome. We’ve met around 15 new women at the design camps since January, over just 10 sessions, which reflects the turnover at the hostel but is also a challenge for us as we seek to build relationships and develop the women’s skills.

The rhythm, terms and seasons; rest and creativity, reminds me of one of my favourite hymns:

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pray with me that this term we would have our eyes open so that we can witness and celebrate God’s faithfulness, mercy and love at work in the lives of all involved with the design camps.

– Polly

Saying goodbye to Marylebone

Last Thursday was my last day to spend at the Marylebone Project during my time living in London. I am so sad that it is over, but I feel so incredibly blessed by the fact that I was given the opportunity to spend any time there at all. Shannon made the overly kind gesture of bringing cupcakes for everyone during the last 30 minutes of the Design Camp to celebrate the return of a past volunteer – Katie Sampson – as well as a goodbye treat. Everyone was super thrilled about the adorable cupcakes and it was so fun to celebrate with the community that has been created at Marylebone over the past few weeks, as well as months.


In addition to the exciting news that Katie will be helping out more often with the Design Camps, Polly and I met last Thursday morning with a ‘proper’ jewelry designer from the Fairtrade jewelry company, Cred and she has volunteered to give some of her time to come talk about, and explain what she does at one of our Design Camps in November!! I am MOST disappointed that I will be missing out on her visit – it was lovely to spend some time chatting with her over coffee and to hear about what led her to designing jewelry specifically in the context of Fairtrade. Another upcoming event I am disappointed about missing, but am thrilled others are getting the opportunity to experience is the trip the Design Camps are taking to the Victoria & Albert Museum December 1st!

As my last  Design Camp came to an end, I was saying goodbye’s to all of the women present and they kept thanking me. While this isn’t a strange thing for them to say I kept thinking, and saying back to them, ‘No thank YOU,’ for allowing me to come hang out with you, and for the graciousness and gentleness you have consistently shown me every Thursday for eight weeks. Despite the reality that initially I was a complete stranger to these women, they have genuinely embraced me from the get-go. Unfortunately this is not exactly a social cannon these days and while over time there is a trust that has to be gained to form any sort of real relationship with the women at Marylebone, I was given the chance to do so from the beginning; I was ‘let in’ so to speak. I have learned so much from the women at the Marylebone Project by the way in which they continue to be open to new people and new things, and continue to wear a smile and remain positive in the face of serious adversity – adversity that I cannot even begin to understand or imagine. They have humbly reminded me that Christ alone is sufficient and that, ‘the Joy of the Lord,’ provides an awesome and abundant strength. What’s more, the delight that the act of crafting jewelry brought to everyone present at the Design Camps each week restored my belief in the healing effects of creating something beautiful – of actually taking the time to enjoy what is beautiful, and seeing the beauty of God even in repurposed jewelry. As I have mentioned before, I believe that God is doing very special things through the Design Camps that occur every Thursday at The Marylebone Project and that He alone is changing the lives of the women who are participating. It has been a true true joy and honor to have the opportunity to experience His work in that context.












Happy Birthday Sweet Notions!!

There is certainly a buzz in the air this Friday morning as we are all preparing for the Sweet Notions event tonight at Drink Shop & Do. We have fabulous designs by Jill Reno, Kendra Scott and Chris Duffy as raffle prizes in addition to a delicious ‘pudding’ – also known as dessert for those living across the pond – to celebrate the 1st birthday of Sweet Notions London. Wow, what amazing things it has done in one year!!

Being part of the process of preparing for the Sweet Notions event today while just less than 24 hours ago I was given, once again, the opportunity to experience the amazing effects it is having has enabled me to get a clear view of the cyclical nature of the Sweet Notions project itself. Like every Thursday, I spent yesterday at the Marylebone Project helping to facilitate the Design Camps that the money from Sweet Notions helps to fund. I will say with the utmost sincerity that every penny that comes out of Sweet Notions is producing blessings in the lives of the women at the Marylebone Project which exceed that penny’s value ten-fold. An analogy that comes to mind is Jesus feeding the 5,000 with 2 fish and five loaves of bread.   One of the coolest things about it is the way by which Sweet Notions and the Design Camps have affected women in such diverse ways. For example, for some of them, repurposing and creating new jewelry has truly become a skill and a craft that is going to enable them to be employed and earn an income, while giving them an actual vocation that they can be proud of and enjoy. For others, having a means by which to exercise their creative side gives them confidence and a reprieve from the less relaxing and pleasant thoughts that pervade our day – to – day lives. In addition, whether you are creative or not, or cannot craft pieces of jewelry to save your life (people such as myself) taking 2 hours out of the afternoon to engage with other people in a quiet, peaceful, and positive environment lifts the soul for a period of time and encourages all of those involved to believe that there is still some good in this broken world.

Yesterday and last week women were showing up to the Design Camp 30 minutes early because they were so eager and excited to come and participate. One of the women who comes regularly now has a job at a hospital in London and told us yesterday that she has rearranged her work schedule so that she will have every Thursday off in order to attend the Design Camps.  Happy Birthday Sweet Notions!!




Meeting Marylebone

I go to the Marylebone Project every Thursday and get to work with Polly; she is the woman in charge of organizing and facilitating the Design Camps that are held by Sweet Notions at the project. She is a lovely woman – a ‘star’ as some have said:) and I feel so lucky to get to work with her!! She has such a gentle spirit and a special way of putting those around her at ease. Go Polly.

The first week Polly and I spent at Marylebone together we didn’t hold an official ‘jewelry workshop’ but used the time to organize and sort the Sweet Notions cabinet filled with all of the jewelry used for the workshops. It was a lot to dig through and untangle but we had LOTS of help from a couple of women who did exceedingly well in the workshops last term and graciously volunteered a little extra time to help out with Sweet Notions! Polly and I could not have finished our day’s work without the help of Adele, Medina, and Lawrence. The three of them have been especially involved with the workshops and have a real knack for the art of jewelry making. Spending the day with all four of these women was a joy, as was it really great getting to know some of the women who had already participated in the design camps before the camps actually began. The next week when we had our first official jewelry workshop I was nervous and so glad to see some familiar and warm faces!!  I have been blown away already by the positive attitudes, friendliness, and enthusiasm of Lawrence, Medina, and Adele.

Our first day to deliver the jewelry workshops this term was last Thursday and it went very smoothly!! Lawrence, Adele and Medina were chosen to help Polly lead the lesson, as well as help some of the women who were new or not as skilled. They were once again a huge help to everyone else and to me – it was my first go-round at jewelry making as well, and let’s just say it was very clear that I was a beginner! In addition to all of the jewelry crafting, the time we got to share talking to and getting to know the people sitting around us was a real blessing. Excitement filled the room as it was very clear everyone was so glad to have Sweet Notions back! We had tea and snacks, and chatted and sang Happy Birthday to Mona, one of the women who came to the workshops regularly last term – such a fun time. Based on my experience so far, the environment that is created by the joint efforts of Sweet Notions and The Marylebone Project is so positive and warm that it transforms the time spent there from merely a jewelry crafting class to a genuine experience of community and love; a community within which Christ’s presence is glaringly evident.

“For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20


‘Sweet’ Happenings in the world of Matryoshka Haus

Hello I’m back again!! I apologize for my blogging absence (I know it has been killing you all). It has been busy busy around here!!!

My first official work week was kicked off by joining Shannon at a funky coffee shop for a meeting with the two men organizing and facilitating a weekend gathering for the Matryoshka Haus initiative entitled The Transformational Index. I suggest exploring the link – finding out more about the ‘TI’ is certainly something of which is worth your time! The gathering for the ‘TI’ is being held at a retreat venue in the beautiful English countryside and I am very much looking forward to it! I’ve been given the task of organizing transportation for all of the guests who are coming to the gathering – 24 people to date! This task has involved loads of emailing and coordinating – especially the last couple of days with the event growing nearer – but it is all coming together quite smoothly.

One of the first things I did that produced very exciting results was contact the University of Texas Panhellenic organization as well as Kendra Scott Jewelry about carrying out collections for Sweet Notions. UT panhellenic responded very enthusiastically and are very willing to get involved, and some pieces from Kendra Scott in Austin, TX are about to be making their way across the pond!! Conversations about holding collections for Sweet Notions have continued into this week with more people in the states as well as the UK, so I will keep you all posted!  Also in the realm of Sweet Notions, I was lucky enough to help seal the deal at a fantastic venue called Drink Shop & Do at which we will hold our September 30th Sweet Notions ‘Pop Up Shop’ event!! Even more great news – we have a confirmed venue for an October 7th ‘Pop Up Shop’ event and another one in the works for an event at the end of October.

It’s encouraging to sit here and write in reflection about the things that were only just beginning 2 weeks ago that have either been successfully completed at this point , or are on their way now!

Saweet happenings with Sweet Notions and Matryoshka Haus!!