Post People: Dagenham teacher’s crafty creations preserve precious memories

PUBLISHED: 11:24 20 February 2017 | UPDATED: 17:24 20 February 2017

Kemi teaches people in Barking and Dagenham to create mementos from clothing Picture: Paul Bennett

Kemi teaches people in Barking and Dagenham to create mementos from clothing Picture: Paul Bennett


Creative director of the Sew London Project Kemi Oloyede, 50, tells Sebastian Murphy-Bates how she helps preserve important memories by upcycling families’ sentimental objects in outreach classes

Post Person, creative designer Kemi Oloyede, who upcycles sentimental objects into something new in outreach projects Picture: Paul BennettPost Person, creative designer Kemi Oloyede, who upcycles sentimental objects into something new in outreach projects Picture: Paul Bennett

“I set up my design studio at The Malthouse in Abbey Road, Barking, in 2014 after eight years of teaching at the Sydney Russell School in Parsloes Avenue, Dagenham.

“I realised there was no creative after-school clubs in the borough and I was really concerned because art and sewing are my passions.

“I wanted so set up something children could come to and learn those skills and pass it on to their children.

“It was just something I knew I was passionate about and after speaking to parents I knew they were really interested in.

“So I set up a group called ReCyclothes, which channels my passion for transforming garments into something else. I show people how to turn something really precious – like their child’s first school shirt – into something like a cushion so they have a momento.

“I’ve always had a passion for fashion and as a young kid would tell my parents that I either wanted to be an artist of a desinger.

“When I was eight, my family took me to live in Nigeria for 17 years and I was so excited by African fashion.

“But African parents don’t tend to encourage their children to go down that path – they’re more interested in having academics.

“I came back to England in 1991 because I had a passion for it after growing up in Brighton.

“After studying art education at the University of Greenwich but it was too expensive to get a studio so I got into teaching art and I still supply teach at Sydney Russell to this day.

“After teaching in this borough I can’t walk down the street without seeing a familiar face.

“It was one of the best schools I’ve ever worked in – it was so rewarding.

“Some of the kids come down to my studio now and one girl is studying to be a fashion designer.

“It’s wonderful to know that I’ve impacted them as a whole and it’s been an amazing career.

“I don’t want to work anywhere other than Barking and Dagenham because I want to give back.

“I’ve lived here since 2000 and I’ve had the opportunity to leave but this is my home. I love it here.”

Kemi is hosting free upcycling classes at Rivergate Church in Minter Road, Barking, from 12pm to 2pm on Monday (Feb 27) and again at the same time on Monday next week (March 6).

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