Women Build – Ellie’s Story.

Before Women Build –

Prior to joining ‘Women Build!’ Ellie was unemployed and in receipt of Universal Credit due to long-term health problems. In previous years, she had been successfully self employed. 

Ellie was keen to learn something new and expand her capabilities in a safe and controlled way through her participation on ‘Women Build!’. However, committing to one day in every seven was a huge challenge. She had significant concerns regarding her ability to attend for full days; she has been affected by fluctuating energy levels, constant double vision, and a lack of left hand strength. She also had concerns around her sense of confidence and social abilities and felt somewhat uneasy about meeting people in a group setting.

Ellie was not in a position to self-fund a learning opportunity, nor did she feel confident of her capacity to commit to a standard formal programme of any kind. However, she was very motivated to progress her personal situation, and at the time, though the carpentry was definitely of interest to her, the carpentry tuition offered on ‘Women Build!’ was secondary to the help and support on offer to help her make positive changes in her life.

During Women Build –

Ellie speaks very enthusiastically about her experiences as a ‘Women Build!’ participant. She has said that the 1-1 sessions with a wellbeing coordinator have made the biggest difference to her, having a sounding board to verbalise her thoughts and feelings to and having them validated and put into a wider perspective has helped her to move forwards. Ellie had the opportunity to speak about private concerns and raise any issues she faced, receiving feedback on them in a safe and supportive environment.

Through continued participation over a number of cohorts, Ellie was able to incrementally increase her stamina, continue to practise her social and life skills, as well as demonstrating a clear enthusiasm for carpentry. 

Through the practical work, Ellie feels she has made improvements to her proprioception and cognition, making effective adaptations to increase the precision of her work – for example, using digital callipers to measure rather than trying to read from a ruler, and marking up wood using a marking knife rather than a pencil so that she can feel where her marks are.

Through online research, she had found courses that interested her in a number of locations in the UK, and secured an interview at the Boat-building academy in Lyme Regis whilst she was attending ‘Women Build!’ sessions. She was offered a bursary to train at the Academy based on the strength of her interview but was unable to accept it at that time for personal reasons.

After Women Build –

At the time she left ‘Women Build!’ Ellie was looking for part-time volunteering opportunities because she had a much clearer idea of what was manageable for her on a day-to-day basis.

After finishing ‘Women Build!’ Ellie went on to complete the three month furniture making course at the Boat-building Academy, and she is currently on the advanced furniture making course, due to complete at the start of April 2022.

She feels very open to what can be achieved and says she never anticipated that within less than two years of first meeting Astrid, she would be so far through a formal furniture making programme.

Ellie’s Next Steps –

Ellie is making practical steps towards setting up her own workshop, she is focusing on expanding her understanding of business operations and workshop setup by building her network of local timber businesses, whilst looking for experience and opportunities to expand her skills.

She is keen to find work experience alongside established carpenters and furniture makers.

Ultimately, Ellie aims to own/manage woodland in some form, and at this stage is open to any wood-related work. She has spoken about the idea of an income stream from wood fuel which will give her a degree of financial security even when problems with her eyes and hands make detailed designing and making of wooden items difficult. 

Ellie is excited about her future, about the people she will meet on her journey and the adventures that await her as she pursues her goals.

When she began her carpentry journey with ‘Women Build!’ in September 2020, attending one day in seven was a huge challenge, it would usually take Ellie a minimum of 3 days to recover. Today she is flourishing.

Ellie with finished cabinet

Ellie with one of her final pieces from the advanced furniture making course at the Boat Building Academy, Lyme Regis. April 2022

Photo by the Boat Buiding Academy

Click here to visit our ‘Women Build!’ page to learn more.