According to the latest piece of research by J Walter Thompson on us mid lifers, many of us are graduating towards the creative world, either as a second career or just to return to learning. The research also highlights findings from the Wellbeing In Later Life Index, organised by Age UK and Southhampton University, which indicates that taking part in creative activities has the biggest impact on wellbeing in later life.
And since it’s currently easier to find a craft workshop offering us lessons than an outfit on the high street that has been designed with a 50 plus woman in mind, it’s not hard to see why we’re all flocking to sign up. Our regular correspondent Julia Little took herself off to a couple of good ones she’d heard about…
“I didn’t particularly enjoy learning at school. It was the early 80s and I was too busy thinking about the weekend and whether I could afford the cherry rollerball lipgloss AND the Rimmel aqua blue mascara, not to mention the sloe gin and tonic down the local (I was way ahead on the drinks trend). So it rather surprises me that I now love learning, in particular arts lectures, printmaking, embroidery and anything food related. In fact, I can’t get enough of it, particularly in a classroom situation. When I say a classroom, I mean a workshop classroom, with a really good teacher, because the teacher is the key. The right teacher can make you feel nurtured and enlightened. Knowledge is power!
Armi Maddison (above) is one of those teachers. A year ago, she set up No5 Workshops in the garden studio of her beautiful home near Hampton Court. Armi is an arts educator, with over 25 years experience, and she has a calm and friendly approach that allows one to discover how they enjoy working.
Highly creative and organised, Armi welcomed a group of four of us to a lino print workshop. After an encouraging chat we got straight down to simple sketches and experimenting with the tools set out for us (no previous knowledge or drawing skills required).
Very quickly, we were producing some really pleasing patterns and shapes. Armi taught us cutting skills, how to use the printing press, advised on technique and knew exactly when to step in and encourage or when to let the flow of the creativity take over.
We had plenty of space in the light filled studio and there were generous supplies of paper and art supplies (including lots of handy hints on what to use, such as the pound shop make-up brushes and the hand held Baren Press, enabling printing without the need of a huge cast iron press). With so many responsibilities in life, it is rare that we can take a step back and feel looked after while being taught a new skill and this creative environment felt totally nurturing.
I haven’t even mentioned the beautiful workshop setting, or the home made orange polenta cake and fresh coffee we were served mid morning, but I will leave that for you to experience, which you have to, by booking one of the No5 Workshops, or get a small group together for a private session.
Armi explained how after years of teaching at Kingston Uni and also a stint at the Urban Craft Centre in LA, she is really enjoying teaching from home allowing her to be flexible and keep prices low, making it accessible to all. Our session at £38 each, with all that Armi offers, was great value for money (it’s worth going just to see Armi’s beautiful workshop and garden….A).
Another talented teacher is textile artist Janine Pope, whose workshop demonstrating how she designs and creates figures with Danish influences, using beautiful fabrics and free motion embroidery (that’s using your sewing machine to ‘draw’ stitches) was equally rewarding.
Janine collaborated with West London restaurateur, Rebecca Mascarenhas, to use the private room above Sonny’s Kitchen in Barnes. As well as owning and running several successful restaurants, Rebecca has a huge passion for crafts, often making things from gorgeous fabrics she sources from India. Wanting to learn new skills and in particular free motion embroidery, Rebecca invited Janine to run a workshop around the huge dining table.
Using simple outlines and with Janine’s calm teaching skills, we were able to quickly create some really effective shapes, which translated into the body and limbs of a person (or dog!) using scraps of patterned fabrics and stitching onto any linen, cotton or calico. We could all see how these skills could easily be translated into our own designs or quilting patterns.
After a productive morning learning free motion techniques (the Karen Kay Buckley fine-toothed scissors were a revelation and the stitch & tear webbing allowed designs to be placed easily onto the fabric) we broke for a delicious lunch downstairs in Sonny’s Café (you’re getting a theme here, nourishment for the stomach as well as the mind!)
By the afternoon, our group was flying, enjoying the newly gained creative knowledge from Janine and the camaraderie of learning together. It was like being back at school, but better! Rebecca is planning more workshops, so sign up to the Sonny’s Kitchen newsletter to keep you posted. (I loved Janine’s beautiful scrap books, I Was Just Thinking, below, which she’s promised to consider doing as a workshop soon…A).