Spectacular wood art made by prisoners to go on display at Exeter Quayside

A spectacular piece of art handcrafted by prisoners at HMP Channings Wood is to go on display at Exeter Custom House.

The giant piece of art took four months to make – a total of 200 man hours – and was made from offcuts of wood from the prison’s Wood Mill workshops.

‘Road to the Outside’ is made from Tulip wood (Poplar wood). It was painstakingly cut and shaped to a full-scale template designed by the prisoners.

Initially inspired to be a side project for the prisoners to learn creative, design and manufacturing skills during quiet periods in the workshop, this project evolved into something far bigger!

Once each piece was shaped it was then sanded on a linishing machine to get the curved “bubble” profile, then hand sanded to create an incredibly smooth surface. Once assembled, two colours of tinted wax were applied to individual segments to give the entire project the smooth shiny finish with the ‘cobblestone road’ effect running through the middle.

Education, the industries and workshops at HMP Channings Wood provide regular access to arts and creative opportunities, not only supporting mental health and wellbeing but also highlighting employment opportunities available within the creative industries for those with lived experience of the criminal justice system.

“It is widely recognised that the arts and creativity can help to change public perceptions, support individuals in building strong ties with their communities, encourage positive reintegration and therefore reduce reoffending rates,” said Kate Linden, of the Library & Arts Centre at HMP Channings Wood. 

The display of the piece at Exeter Custom House has been made possible thanks to a working partnership with the Library and Arts Centre (Weston College) at HMP Channings Wood and through their connections with local arts and cultural organisations.

The piece has been entered into the 2023 Koestler Awards, for arts in criminal justice where each year over 3,500 people in custody and in the community share their creative work.

“The creation of “Road to the Outside” has been an incredibly positive experience for all involved, working collaboratively to produce the piece of artwork you see here today,” added Kate.

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