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New upcycling and craft centre coming to Norwich

PUBLISHED: 20:01 25 August 2019 | UPDATED: 07:34 28 August 2019

Emma Steer is setting up a new upcycling training business from an old store room at the synagogua off Unthank Road in Norwich

Emma Steer is setting up a new upcycling training business from an old store room at the synagogua off Unthank Road in Norwich

Archant

A mother-of-two who was once homeless hopes to teach money-saving skills and improve people's mental health with her new furniture upcycling and craft centre.

Emma Steer is setting up a new upcycling training business from an old store room at the synagogua off Unthank Road in NorwichEmma Steer is setting up a new upcycling training business from an old store room at the synagogua off Unthank Road in Norwich

Emma Steer's passion for craft began as a teenager, when she first started repainting and upcycling old pieces of furniture aged 15.

Her creative flair has grown with her, helping her through poverty, depression and abuse, and earlier this year she moved from west Norfolk to Norwich to open her not-for-profit centre and coffee bar The Living Studio.

Looking back on her time running a business in King's Lynn, she said: "It became quite successful, but people were always asking me how I did it and how they could learn.

"I've always done it save money, I've never been rich and I have never been able to buy a two-drawer cabinet for £400. I thought this could help other people save money."

But with major work needed at the studio - which will be based at the Adat Yeshua Messianic Synagogue on Essex Street, in the golden triangle - she needs to raise £8,000 before it can open.

Once up and running, she hopes visitors will benefit from the calming effects of craft.

Emma Steer is setting up a new upcycling training business from an old store room at the synagogua off Unthank Road in NorwichEmma Steer is setting up a new upcycling training business from an old store room at the synagogua off Unthank Road in Norwich

"It has always helped still my mind," she said. "It's a relaxing thing for me. I do suffer from depression and while I'm stable now I have been very, very low. Being able to do these little bits and pieces has boosted me.

"It's given me a goal and the self-confidence that I needed to pick myself and say that I am worth something."

When it opens, Ms Steer, 51, says the studio will have a 'pay it forward' board, allowing people to buy a coffee with a token and, one day, repay the gesture by buying someone else a drink.

Her determination to give back to those in need has, in part, been inspired by a brief homeless spell some years ago.

"It was terrifying," she said. "It was terrifying not knowing where I was going to spend the night.

"That is what [The Living Studio] is aiming to be - a whole community hub for people who just do not have the money to pick themselves up."

Previous upcycling projects by Emma Steer. Photo: Emma SteerPrevious upcycling projects by Emma Steer. Photo: Emma Steer

It was seven months ago that she sold her belongings to move to Norwich, after the Rabbi at the synagogue said it had a perfect space for a studio.

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But with the room in need of electricity and insulation and a wall to be removed - as well as tools, machines and equipment - cash from her business loan is fast running out.

So far, she has received an encouraging response from people living locally, with plenty of "little treasures" already donated, including a piano and chairs from a nearby pub.

Ms Steer, who hopes to open before the autumn and Christmas season, will run free daily demonstrations, as well as paid-for crafting experiences, where, for a few pounds, people will spend 30 minutes to an hour learning skills, from using a staple gun in upholstery to clay modelling or painting techniques.

She hopes the drop-in approach - rather than fixed weekly sessions - will appeal to parents (she uses non-toxic paints, making it safe for parents to bring their babies), full-time workers and those who can't commit to a regular slot.

Previous upcycling projects by Emma Steer. Photo: Emma SteerPrevious upcycling projects by Emma Steer. Photo: Emma Steer

Meanwhile, her partner, Mason Brown, will use a portion of the studio to upcycle bicycles for students living in the vicinity.

She said, down the line, she hoped it would have the potential to become a hub in NR2, hosting baby showers, birthday parties and even women's defence and health and fitness talks.

If you can help, email thelivingstudionorwich@gmail.com or click here.

Previous upcycling projects by Emma Steer. Photo: Emma SteerPrevious upcycling projects by Emma Steer. Photo: Emma Steer

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