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The Restoration Station X Yinka Ilori works in progress at Zetteler HQ.
3rd September 2017

Restoration Station at LDF: Q&A with Sheona Alexander

This Monday, the Zetteler office looked a little different. Pots of paints could be found balanced on every available surface, dust sheets draped over the tables, luminous masking tape got stuck just about everywhere, and we all consumed far more tea and biscuits than is probably advised.
On 21 August, Zetteler had the pleasure of hosting the second in a series of three workshops with Restoration Station volunteers and designer Yinka Illori. The workshops are being held in preparation for the social enterprise’s London Design Festival project which sees upcycling extraordinaire Yinka Ilori teach Restoration Station volunteers his craft. The resulting chairs will be exhibited and sold throughout London Design Festival with the Restoration Station shop opening every day of the festival, 16–24 September between 9:30am to 5pm.
With the pieces receiving their final licks of paint at the third workshop in early-September, we caught up with Sheona Alexanderdirector of services at Spitalfields Crypt Trust, to get some inside information on the project.
Yinka and one of the trainees discuss a design. Photography by Dan Weill.
Why is Yinka Ilori a good fit for Restoration Station? 

Yinka is fresh, interesting and creative: all things we love to stand for and be part of.
In what way do you think the collaboration will benefit Restoration Station volunteers?

It’s completely untrodden territory for Restoration Station! It’s easy to get used to doing the same thing so it is great to switch it up every now and again and to have a fresh approach that is bold, brave, and different. Hopefully this will inspire our trainees to step out of their comfort zones and be a little more creative on some of their next pieces.
How have volunteers responded to the project and the prospect of working with Yinka?

Anyone new can at times seem daunting, however everyone seems really keen and excited.
In the long term, beyond the sale of the furniture, what do you hope Restoration Station will gain from the collaboration?

It will demonstrate that we can keep up with Shoreditch and all its creativity! A new audience and greater following would also be great. Spitalfields Crypt Trust is an innovative place and collaboration builds on that.  More importantly, the collaboration creates an even greater sense of community. We love community here – we love being part of something greater than ourselves and also realise that others having amazing talents and get joy out of being part of something with meaning – so we hope that there’ll be many future collaborations and we all grow from them.
Some of the colours Yinka chose for the trainees to use in their designs. Photography by Dan Weill.
The results of the collaboration will be unveiled during London Design Festival. Why is it important to be a part of the festival?

London Design Festival holds real clout in the design world. If we can be part of that and showcase work done by people in recovery, it is one step towards patching some of the stigma around addictions. We hope that it will also help put us on the map for furniture design, both in Shoreditch and further afield.
By participating in London Design Festival you are putting Restoration on the design map. Why is it important to be positioned yourself to a design audience?

Ha! I only just read this question, great minds think alike!  Much of what I said above really. We are proud of the work that we do here: proud on a social level but also on a design level. We want to grow and start equating good work by people in recovery as just a natural thing in the design world.
You have received donations for the collaboration from high profile design brands. This is slightly different to how Restoration Station usually works – can you tell us about the thinking behind this?

If we are going to be a part of London Design Festival then it is important to start with some really good donations. It’s not to say we don’t already get really amazing donations but in order to ensure that we get the best donations we have asked from the best.
Each of the chairs was first sanded and restored by the Restoration Station trainees. Photography by Dan Weill.
Yinka will run workshops that will teach volunteers his approach and as a result he won’t be restoring any of the chairs himself. Why was it important that the volunteers remain at the centre of the collaboration?

There is no better way of learning that doing it yourself. Without our trainees, Restoration Station is just another furniture shop, it loses its essence. Without investing in trainees and trainees growing and being inspired we will no longer be doing what we set out to do: be an amazing social enterprise.
Yinka’s pieces have been known to sell for over £1000 but his collection with Restoration Station will be priced in line with the other pieces in the shop. Why did you decide to do this?

We want to create a neutral platform. The trainees would have restored and made the chairs themselves so whilst Yinka has been amazing in helping us, he hasn’t actually made the chairs. We want to honour that and keep design accessible to all who would normally buy from us/ Someone like me! I am so buying one, possibly two…
A design in its rudimentary stage. Photography by Dan Weill.
Want to know more about the Restoration Station X Yinka Ilori project? Read our interview with Yinka here or contact Jodi (jodi@zetteler.co.uk).

Visit Restoration Station on 118 Shoreditch High St from 16 – 24 September during the London Design Festival. 

Restoration Station isn't just for the London Design Festival, you can visit year round! Opening times are: Thursday 12:30-8, Friday 9:30-5 & Sunday 10:30-5:30.

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