It started as a therapeutic activity for the women, a way for them to put their artistic sensibilities to use. It’s become a source of pride and even a little income.

Clients at OPCC’s transitional Daybreak facility, who have mental illnesses and have experienced homelessness, make crafts through the nonprofit social service agency’s Daybreak Designs program.

Their work will be on display and for sale during an event Aug. 28-29 at the OPCC Cloverfield Services Center, 1751 Cloverfield Ave., between Olympic Boulevard and 26th Street in Santa Monica.

The group holds about five of these sales each year, usually around holidays like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. The women also have a permanent store that is open to the public from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and by appointment.

The member-run art business, “empowers women recovering from homelessness to rebuild their lives through creative, personal and financial growth,” OPCC officials said.

Some of the Daybreak Designs members have art backgrounds. Many do not. But nonprofit officials tout the program as key to helping women who have schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and other mental illnesses. Through their participation in the collective, they boost self-esteem, develop life skills and interact with others.

“The program is set up so that women who have been participants can mentor new women,” OPCC executive director John Maceri said. “That’s built into the design. … Women themselves are teachers and instructors and they’ll teach the new women skills. They really create a community. It’s a very purposeful part of how the program is structured. It’s meant to be peer-run and peer-supported.”

Program alumni occasionally return to mentor new members. Several have had their artwork on consignment or in retail stores, and at least one former Daybreak Designs artist has her own website and sells her work privately.

Daybreak Designs was born in 1999 as an informal gathering of artists, but it morphed into something more as staff encouraged them to sell their crafts.

The women design and make paintings, portraits, jewelry, greeting cards, crochet and pottery items, even candles and soaps.

The clients also operate the business with the guidance of OPCC staff. They have a president, a secretary and a treasurer. They decide sale dates, wrap gifts and collect patrons’ money.

Seventy percent of the proceeds go back to the artists and 30 percent covers the costs of supplies, administration and promotion. OPCC officials note that the income is supplementary but that it provides the artists with concrete achievements.

During sales and community events, the artists set up their own tables and display their crafts. They enjoy interacting with the public, sharing their stories and revealing the inspirations behind their work.

Ultimately, the collective fits into the Daybreak program’s goal of transitioning women into permanent housing as quickly as possible.

“It’s really a bridge,” Maceri said.


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