Bored? It may be time to take up something new. Here are six imaginative solutions to help you fill that creative void
1. UPHOLSTER A CHAIR
After a career in fashion PR, Sarah Louise Dix decided she wanted to do something a little more practical. She spotted an upholstery course and signed up. That was nine years ago and now Sarah runs a successful bespoke furniture business in Godalming.
SARAH LOUISE SAYS: I took up teaching a year ago. After nine years I felt I wanted to pass on my skills to people. The courses are very relaxed – there is a lot of laughter – and they take place at Dapdune Wharf in Guildford (and in Godalming) which is a beautiful setting and perfect for this kind of work. Students bring their own project, often a chair, and I provide all the tools and I have a range of affordable material, which they can choose from. People can go at their own pace. This is an old, slow skill which shouldn’t be rushed. It gives people the chance to take time out and switch off from daily life.
The courses generally run for 10 weeks. But some larger items may take longer. I ask people to take a picture of the item before they start and then one again at the end. I love their responses, they are always so amazed and so proud of what they have achieved. As a teacher I find that really exciting.
A 10-week course costs £300. sarahlouisedix.co.uk
2. BECOME A BLACKSMITH
Lucy Quinnell runs the Fire and Iron Gallery in Leatherhead. She is part of an ironworking dynasty that has been practising this elemental craft for more than 500 years. Her father Richard Quinnell runs courses in iron working at the School of Blacksmithing at Rowhurst Forge which is next door to the gallery.
LUCY SAYS: Blacksmithing is all about earth, air, fire and water. The work we produce can be modern, but the fundamental processes haven’t changed in thousands of years.
My father, Richard, was awarded the MBE in 1989 for services to black-smithing. After he retired he started running beginner courses, in which members of the public can become blacksmiths for a weekend. The courses are taught by teachers who are highly-regarded as experts in their field. Students go home tired but triumphant; proudly clutching their iron creations.
The courses last for two days and are suitable for absolute beginners from 15 years of age. There are two options available. On Course O students create a loop and tendril poker, a hanging basket and a ram’s head toasting fork – a very impressive achievement in the time. While Course P is more design led and exploratory but we encourage students to be realistic – they won’t be making a set of entrance gates!
- Courses cost £290 for the weekend – which includes all the materials plus refreshments. The next term begins in September although advance booking is highly recommend. Call: 01372 375148 or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
3. FANCY FELT?
Gillian Harris is the owner of the Gilliangladrag Fluff-a-Torium in West Street, Dorking. She is passionate about textiles and runs courses in knitting and felting from her studio above the shop.
GILLIAN SAYS: After my second daughter was born, I gave up my job as a graphic designer and decided to indulge my love of textile crafts again. It was at that point I discovered felting and I became hooked! That was about 15 years ago and I’ve never looked back! In 2006, I wrote my first book, Complete Feltmaking and I now have a range of felting kits, which are stocked in John Lewis and in shops all over the world.
I’ve been running courses for about 14 years now. Pretty much all of the workshops are suitable for beginners, and everyone will have something finished to take away with them at the end of the day.
Working with wool is incredibly forgiving – so no one should be put off if they don’t think they are particularly artistic. Often people like to come and make a bag or a tea cosy to start with, and then they might come back and learn to make felt slippers or felt jewellery.
I try and offer lots of encouragement and impart plenty of knowledge – but also allow people to develop their own style and learn as they go along.
Prices start from £62 for a full-day course. Go to: gilliangladrag.co.uk
or call: 01306 898144
4. CARVE A NICHE
Stone carving is not something you would normally expect to have a go at on a one-day course. But under the tutelage of expert stonemason Simon Keeley, you can certainly get a taste for this ancient craft. Simon has been working with stone for more than 18 years, and his work can be seen in Westminster Abbey and all over the country. Classes are held in his Windlesham studio.
SIMON SAYS: In 2005, a group of visitors to one of my exhibitions asked if I gave lessons, to which I replied that I didn’t teach. But after some encouragement, I decided to give it a go. That was back in 2006 and I’ve been running courses ever since!
I have classes for all abilities but the one-day class is great for beginners. It’s a very full day and even if they can’t hold a chisel when they come in they will leave with a piece of art – a basic relief carving. Students are encouraged to talk about what they want to create both with myself and the other students.
There is a feeling of camaraderie. Everyone is in at the deep-end. I have people who come back year after year and do longer courses and now they are exhibiting and selling their own work. Seeing just what everyone can do if they just have a go, that’s the best thing about teaching.
Simon’s one-day introduction courses cost £80 (plus £10 for stone in the initial class). For more information call 07939 337441 or for more information visit; simonkeeley.co.uk
5. REDISCOVER EMBROIDERY
The Royal School of Needlework (RSN) is based in the apartments of Hampton Court Palace. It has been teaching people the art of embroidery since 1860. Its centre as a place of embroidery excellence was further enhanced when the Duchess of Cambridge (then Kate Middleton) used the skills of the RSN to help create her wedding dress. Kate Farrer is one of the embroidery tutors.
KATE SAYS: Students come to us for the unique relaxed setting that we offer at Hampton Court Palace and we all enjoy passing on our skills and enthusiasm for embroidery. I especially like teaching Introduction to Embroidery classes as there is often a huge uptake of knowledge from students and a real buzz about the class.
I love seeing the light-bulb moment that students get when they’ve learnt how create a stitch. It’s great seeing students creating something beautiful by hand.
The RSN teaches a wide range of embroidery courses from day schools right through to degree level. Day classes cover some 20 hand embroidery techniques and are held throughout the year, mostly at weekends, so students can work these around work and family commitments.
Introduction to Embroidery classes are perfect for beginners and are really popular. Classes are small and friendly with just 12 students and the experienced tutors are always on hand to help and encourage students develop their skills.
Prices start from £71 for a one-day course. The new prospectus can be downloaded from: royal-needlework.org.uk
6. RECONNECT WITH YOUR SEWING MACHINE
Alice and Ginny are lifetime friends who run a variety of sewing and dressmaking courses at West End Centre in Aldershot, Farnham Maltings and at West Dean College in West Sussex. They have published numerous popular books on sewing both for adults and children.
GINNY SAYS: Most people who come onto our beginner’s course are those who have never sewn before, or who are a bit rusty or have lost confidence. We go right back to basics, and we do cover a bit of theory as well because ultimately we want people to be independent as possible when they leave.
Our one-day course is a perfect introduction for beginners (we make a strip cushion) but beginners are also welcome on our longer eight-week courses; as there are two of us, we can comfortably cater for complete beginners and improvers.
On our longer course (and improvers’ course) students get to know their sewing machines well, and know how to work with fabric. We teach them how to do seams and seam finishes, covered zips and button holes.
We also cover applique. Students can come with their own projects once they have completed the foundation stage – as long as it’s not too ambitious! Students are encouraged to bring their own machines (some come with the plastic wrapping still on!) or we can provide one.
- The one-day course costs £50 (all materials included). The longer eight-week Sewing Is Back In Fashion course costs £125: Go to: aliceandginny.co.uk