Skip to content

Barbara’s Blog #4: Makers Giving Workshops

For long term craft addicts – count me in – the Crafts Council’s recent Market for Craft Report was a marvellous marker that the world is catching up. How uplifting to find that recently seven out of ten adults in the UK have bought 25m+ handcrafted objects, such as jewellery, ceramics, textiles, glass and furniture. And that the future is craft, because Millennials and Gen-Z are now the biggest craft consumers.

Furthermore, this age group doesn’t just collect – they love to have a go. Thus we learn that “65% of Gen-Z and 61% of Millennials have undertaken some form of craft activity in the last 12 months”. We’ve already seen a huge fan-base for TV programmes like the Great Pottery Throw Down and the Great British Sewing Bee. And that was before lockdown. Social media posts have shown a mass rush to craft nationwide in the past few months. John Lewis and Hobbycraft are just two suppliers who’ve had a surge in sales of materials, equipment and kits.

What a wonderful opportunity for Design Nation members, I thought. Could tutorials/workshops create income as sales possibly fall off from galleries, shops and markets? You have the skills. They have the appetite. It’s just a question of bringing the two together.

Well, not “just”. Teaching is a skill in itself. Making is often a solitary process, so engaging with a group could be daunting. And there’s a lot of preparation and organisation. So I emailed a few of our Design-Nation members who were already hosting workshops, asking for tips. They responded at length. Thank you!

I can’t share everything, but I’ve picked out points that particularly struck me. Perhaps the silver lining of lockdown is the way classes have evolved online.

Rachel Fitzpatrick, Northern Ireland, textile artist and lighting designer. Facebook & Instagram; Twitter: @rfitzdesign

Rachel creates lighting and installations using Velcro. Working with galleries or public bodies, she also does workshops for adults and children, starting ten years ago – “quite accidentally”. Now workshops are important for her life as an artist – and for her income. Sadly, Covid has cancelled nearly all workshops. But in July, working with an art gallery, she began a weekly digital craft hack for young children, using very basic materials. Called Mini Crafts for Little Hands, there’ll have been 40 episodes by March 2021!  Supporting craft packs are launching this autumn.

Linda Bloomfield, West London, ceramicist. Social media: @LindaThePotter

Linda shares her unique expertise in glazes at Forest Row School of Ceramics in East Sussex. Groups of 12 are now spread over two rooms. A scientist by training, Linda has created an online course with a chemistry talk and practical demo. “My three streams of income have been crucial for me during the pandemic – selling pots, writing books, and workshops online and (after lockdown) in person.”

Maria Sigma, Deptford, London, weaver and textile designer. Social media: @mariasigma_woventextiles

Maria is a weaver committed to “zero waste”. She started her workshops in 2017: intensive four-hour sessions of hand-weaving for four people at a time. However, she’s understandably on hold as “I don’t feel safe enough to interact with people indoors.”

Emily Jo Gibbs; South East London, embroiderer and portrait artist.  Social media: @emilyjogibbs   

Emily’s hand-stitched textiles have delicate details and a quiet beauty. She’s been doing workshops for groups of 10-12 people for over ten years, teaching her signature hand-stitched silk organza appliqué. But then came Covid and universal cancellations. Her regular income from teaching had dried up, but the Arts Council gave her emergency funding to develop online classes. These are made at her kitchen table filmed on two iPhones. “The main thing I needed was good daylight! The film quality wasn’t nearly so good on an overcast day.” Her husband did the editing. She also taught a class on Zoom for Selvedge, and provided fabric packs – “but that’s very labour intensive.”

“I love the personal interaction of teaching. As a maker you can be quite isolated. It is great to share techniques, and workshops often lead to commissions. If you already teach in person, give online teaching a go.”

Laura Thomas, Bridgend, South Wales, textile and installation designer. Instagram and Facebook @laurathomastextiles

Laura is a woven textile artist and designer and – significantly – an established educator. “Teaching is a fundamental part of my life as an artist. It is deeply rewarding, and provides welcome financial stability.” She began teaching in 2001. It wasn’t planned, but a research fellowship stipulated 12 days teaching a year: “I loved it!”

Her workshops in schools, communities and guilds range from multi-shaft weaving on handlooms for beginners through to masterclasses for the very experienced. She also teaches design skills and professional practice – “both vital to complement craft expertise.” Lockdown pushed Laura on-line. She offers, for example, one-to-one bespoke mentoring for weavers via Zoom. A new studio after Christmas will be big enough for workshops for four people – “I’m so excited”.

Fung and Bedford; West Sussex, paper art and architectural interventions. Social media: @fungandbedford

Angela and Ashley hand-fold paper into bespoke origami installations for clients both commercial and private. Their online paper-folding classes use standard A4 printer paper. “Making is creative, mindful and calming,” says Angela. After lockdown, the “Heatherwick chaps” helped develop an online course for their studio. Now other architectural practices are enrolling, including Foster and Grimshaw.

Trial and error honed their teaching methods – “like where to put the iPad to show and share.” They haven’t made much money yet as “the original aim was to connect with architects in these crazy times.” And, like so many others, “without Covid we wouldn’t have developed our workshop”.

Margo Selby, Whitstable, textile and interior product designer. Social media: @margoselby

In a large studio Margo teaches at all levels, from beginners right through to the advanced. Small table looms sport different yarns and weaving techniques so students can experiment – lots of them come back regularly. Groups have been reduced to five because of Covid. Margo has also taken her looms to West Dean, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Turner Contemporary and The Devon Weavers Guild over the past few years.

“Teaching is inspiring,” says Margo. “Sharing ideas and textile concepts helps me keep me up-to-date.” It’s a two-way thing. “I myself learn a lot.” She adds: “I’m not teaching online as I prefer the physical experience.”

Everyone I spoke to has been hugely helped by social media. “I can reach participants from all over the world,” says Linda. And the teachers themselves had a course: the Design-Nation/ Design Trust How to Teach your Creative Skills Onliine, praised by Linda and Rachel – “it was invaluable.” Laura said this online course “was worth its weight in gold.” Emily also dipped into The Design Trust course, and added Kerstin Martin’s SquarespaceClassroom Course.

* Also read about the mobile maker space Making Up Your Street on our Design-Nation blog, run by DN members Laura Mabbutt and Kathleen Smith

By Barbara Chandler, writer , photographer and Design-Nation brand ambassador.


Photos courtesy of the featured makers.

Posted on


Posted by

Liz Cooper


design-nation dn-logo-2021 facebook instagram search