Exploiting Your Skills Holding Workshops
I read Marianne’s blog Fast Fashion v Cottage Craft which was a very interesting blog. The environmental issues are something which concern me greatly. This is why I use organic fleece and organic dyes to avoid the use of chemicals.
Marianne also touched on learning to become a maker when suggesting different ways that we can help with these issues. Today I want to talk about another idea for promoting and expanding your business.
When I moved to the farm which is now Casalana HQ I came up with the idea of utilising the location and space to start a craft retreat. The farm sits in a beautiful setting just a stone’s throw from the moor. We have no neighbours and no traffic (except the odd tractor and the Postman Pat van). We are surrounded on all sides by stunning countryside views. There is a self-contained 2 bed annexe at the farm which is the perfect place to hold the retreats.
I offer a range of workshops where people can learn new skills whilst they stay here. If they prefer, they can bring their own craft along to the retreat. Painters, hikers and nature lovers would be in their element here too with the stunning countryside and the frequent visits from deer, rabbits, pheasants, beautiful garden birds and birds of prey.
One of the most popular workshops are the forage and dye classes. We go out and pick lots of materials then bring them back to make the dye baths to dye the fibre. There are many different parts of each material source that you can use to produce dyes and each part will produce a different colour. From trees you can use the leaves, blossom, berries and bark and from flowering plants you can use the spent flowers and the roots. Earlier this year we went out and picked lots of dandelion flowers which gave a very vibrant yellow and then we dug up the roots which gave this gorgeous shade of pink.
I have noticed a upturn in interest for hand crafted products and a resurgence in appreciation for the skill and time that goes into producing something by hand. I learnt to knit when I was very young and made lots of clothes for my children in the 1980s. By the late 1990s I noticed that the branded items were hitting the shops in a big way and handmade became something to be sneered at and thought of as a cheap alternative to buying the name brands. Now people seem to be having a change of attitude where they are re-discovering and wanting to buy something unique and hand crafted. I have also noticed a tremendous interest in wanting to learn the old skills such as spinning, dyeing, weaving, sewing and knitting/crochet.
If you don’t have the space to hold workshops at home then it is worth checking out the big craft fairs and shows in your area. The ones that are held over a couple of days often now offer workshops to people to attend and you can contact the show organisers who will be happy to give you a space to teach your craft.
Thankyou Karen. I am very tempted to come to one of your workshops now and enjoy the peaceful location! And I totally agree that there is a resurgence of cottage craft. The Guardian reported in 2015 that the Craft Council had recently compiled figures showing that there were 11,620 craft business in the UK with 43,000 employers. The overall value of craft skills to the British economy each year was £3.4 billion. So we’re talking serious stuff!
I look forward to hearing more.