We are building a brand-new workshop at Emmaus Oxford so we can upcycle and restore furniture.

Alongside this, we’re absolutely delighted to be working with a local upcycler, Emma Whyte, who will be teaching two of our companions how to restore, repair, and upcycle items.

Emmaus Oxford has received very generous support to make our workshop plans a reality. We would like to thank an individual donor, who has funded the creation of our workshop, The Rank Foundation, which has given us the opportunity to work with Emma, and volunteers from our corporate partner, Penningtons Manches Cooper, who will be helping us to get the workshop ready.

To celebrate the workshop and our upcoming partnership with a local upcycler, we spoke to Emma to find out more about her work and what’s in store for Emmaus Oxford:

How did you first discover Emmaus?

“I’ve been upcycling for over ten years and found out about Emmaus when I worked in France for 18 months learning how to restore old buildings. The Emmaus communities I came across in France were really big, with separate outbuildings for all the different types of goods they sold. It was charity shop heaven! When I came back, I then discovered Emmaus Oxford. Working with Emmaus Oxford has been a long time in the making. I feel very excited to finally be getting this idea, which has been stuck in my head for the last eight years, out and see it become a reality.”

What will you be doing with Emmaus Oxford?

“Currently, I’m working with Karl and Shane, two companions who have shown an interest in upcycling and restoring furniture. A lovely little workshop has just been built in the community in Cowley and we’ve put a shopping list together of all the things we need in there to upcycle and repair furniture, so it’s all coming together.

The first thing we’re doing is a series of oak dining tables that we rescued from a school just outside Newbury. We’re taking them apart, rubbing them down, restoring them, and in some cases, remaking the joints. Then we’re going to put a variety of different surfaces and patterns on the tabletops. From May, I’m going to be working with Shane and Karl one day a week.”

You’re working with local artists as well; can you tell us more about that?

“Yes, I’ve been working with the Oxfordshire based fabric and wallpaper designer, Lorna Syson. We produced three bespoke pieces of furniture featuring the flora and fauna of Watlington Woods which were sold at Art Weeks in Watlington last year. My dream is to collaborate with artist Kurt Jackson, his work celebrates biodiversity and the environment which I’m absolutely passionate about, so watch this space!

How are Shane and Karl getting on so far?

“Shane qualified as a cabinet maker while he has been with Emmaus Oxford, which he really enjoyed doing. It’s obviously quite a passion for him, so that’s working really well because he is already highly skilled. I think they both felt a bit frustrated about not being able to repair donated items that come in, so they are both quite enthusiastic.

After the first day, I came away absolutely bowled over by how Shane and Karl worked together. It was the most amazing, respectful collaboration that I’ve ever come across. I asked Shane about it, and he told me that he and Karl have been at Emmaus Oxford together for five years now, so they’ve got to know each other very well. I think there’s also something about the kind of values at Emmaus which seem to inform the way that they work together. Our first job was quite complex. We had to take apart several of these very heavy, old tables; drilling out the oak dowels, numbering each piece, and making sure everything stayed together in order. The way that Shane & Karl understood each other and worked together was inspiring.”

An example of Emma’s previous work:

Photo credit: Eva Nemeth

To find out more about Emma Whyte, visit www.emmawhyte.co.uk or follow her on Instagram.

Emmaus Oxford’s Cowley store on Barns Road is open seven days a week and has a range of pre-loved furniture, beds, clothing, electricals, books, and more. For opening times and our location, visit here

Photo credit: Eva Nemeth.