Jenny loves coming to work at the Rowan Foundation two days a week, says Steven Raven. She has an individual learning programme and we help her learn not only how to express herself in clay but also how to work as part of a team, contribute to the success of the many Rowan projects and develop the skills which will enable her to find employment.
Since 1984 the Rowan Foundation has been providing training and work experience for adults with learning disabilities. At our studios and gallery we prove that a learning disability is no barrier to working at a professional standard. We work with the National Open College Network and our local Further Education college to provide Jenny and 25 other trainees with accredited qualifications. Our reputation for high quality wood and ceramic art ? often made to commission ? enables us to compete successfully in a commercial market, and grant and contract funding from a variety of European, national and local bodies supports our extensive training work. The people we serve are often excluded from mainstream education, but at Rowan they are not only included but fully engaged in a successful commercial enterprise and motivated to gain essential work and independent living skills.

Our large art panels are the mainstay of the work in the woodwork studio. Our style evolves constantly and currently benefits from the talents of Janet King, our designer, and Neil Christie, our lead teacher in the woodwork studio. Neil?s three-dimensional interpretation of Janet?s subtle, organic designs gives a distinctive edge to the work. His keen eye for perspective and texture gives a strong lead for the trainees who carefully carve and finish the hundreds of small wooden elements of each panel. Our panels can be seen in the Cambridge Guildhall, Addenbrookes Hospital, the Cambridge Corn Exchange and many other locations locally and farther afield.

Another trainee, Ian, has become a skilled wood carver over the last couple of years. He has developed the patience and determination to overcome severe communication difficulties and has begun to design his own carvings. ?I am really happy that a visitor to our gallery bought the ash kingfisher I carved,? says Ian. ?Now I?m carving a large salmon in beech.?

In our ceramics studio Janna Edwards has inspired our trainees to produce works of distinction and character. From the smallest ceramic butterfly to the tall and elegant figures, the pieces are highly collaborative, quirky and challenging. They provide excellent scope for teaching, and our trainees are very involved in design. We are all delighted with the work emerging from the kilns and work is selling well from our gallery. We also exhibit at other galleries and shows around the region.

Our gallery and studios contain the product of much hard work and inspiration. They tell many stories of individual progress and discovery. Above all, they demonstrate what can be achieved when individuals are enabled to exceed the expectations of those around them.

Steven Raven is the Training Co-ordinator at the Rowan Foundation. t: 01223 566027;