With a wealth of information available at our fingertips via the internet, it is easy to think that you have everything you need to learn a craft and develop your skills right in your own home. There are YouTube videos covering every subject you could think of and plenty more besides. There are Facebook groups full of willing members to answer your questions, websites (like this one!) packed with information, On-line shops bursting with downloadable tutorials and digital magazines. Why venture out at all?
I have now completed a full year of teaching at workshops, so I feel I am well placed to answer that question.
With only a single glance an experienced teacher will be able to tell you what you are doing wrong. Often it is something as simple as the way the kumihimo disk is being held or stray fingers interfering with the weight. If a mistake occurs the teacher will be able to rectify it and put you back on track. How many UFOs (unfinished objects) are lurking in your craft area because you hit a problem and didn’t know how to proceed? Perhaps you have special requirements, such as making a design extra large, childsize or need a particular clasp. A teacher will be able to advise you in a way that a video never can!
Jewellery making can be a solitary business. For most of the time that is a good thing and I always come up with my best ideas when I am completely alone. However, finding yourself in a room full of like minded people is both stimulating and reassuring. During a workshop people may struggle or suceed with different aspects of the project. Some people will need more help than others and everyone will work at a different pace, but a good teacher will be able to make sure that everyone feels a sense of achievement by the end of the workshop. Some very good friendships have started in workshops, so don’t be shy to swap details with others at the end.
Workshop teachers will usually be very experienced in all aspects of their type of jewellery making and probably have a good grounding in many other types as well. A lot of thought and hard work goes into designing the workshop and a well written hand out will usually be provided. A biography will usually be supplied and the tutor may well be known from magazines, books or television. All of this means that you can be assured of the quality of the information you are being given. However, anyone at all can post a YouTube video or give advice in forums and groups and I am often surprised and disappointed by the bad advice I see on offer.
Workshops fall into two categories, those that supply the materials as part of the cost of the workshop and those that provide a list of materials. Most of those that fall into the second category take place in bead shops, where all the materials can be purchased. Either way, you will be learning the technique using the correct cords, beads and disk. Too many projects fail at home because incorrect materials are used. Once you have learnt the technque in a workshop you can experiment with alternative materials you may have to hand, knowing how they should perform.
This is a very important part of a workshop, especially as many bead shops have had to close down. Attending a workshop can be a rare opportunity to shop in person. There is no substitute for seeing a bead with your own eyes. Too often internet purchases turn out to be a disappointment because the shade or dimensions of a bead are not what was expected. I often find inspiration for a new design simply by looking at beads in a shop. My advice is to come prepared and to save up a bit of money. Make a list of all the beads and cords you know you need. Also think about the new beads you may have seen advertised. There are so many new products coming onto the market all the time, but unless you have seen them it is impossible to know what they are really like. Arrive when the shop opens, so that you have the chance to look around before the workshop starts. Use the lunch break for a bit more shopping and to compare purchases with others. At the end of the workshop there will be a last chance to pick up a few more things before closing time.
Perhaps this is the most important reason of all. A workshop really is lots of fun. It is a good all-round day out and worth travelling long distances for. Many of the best workshop locations are in beautiful parts of the country and can be combined with a weekend away.
My programme of workshops runs throughout the year in various locations. These are the next two.
My next workshop is on Thursday 17th March at Stitchncraft in Dorset. It is an introductory class where I aim to set people on the right track with both plain and beaded braids and particular attention will be paid to tension, which is the key to good kumihimo. Stitchncraft is a particularly beautiful shop, located in converted farm buildings and set in pretty countryside. The shop has a cool and calm atmosphere and the huge range is beautifully displayed and organised. The workshop is spacious and comfortable with good lighting provided. There is ample parking. I come by train from London and am picked up from the nearest station. I am happy to share the ride with anyone coming that way!
The following workshop is on Saturday 2nd April at Spoilt Rotten Beads in Haddenham, Cambridgeshire. Again this is an introductory class where both plain and beaded kumihimo will be taught. It is suitable for both complete beginners and those who done some kumihimo. This class is always great fun. Spoilt Rotten Beads is located in a beautiful English village and the shop is brimming with everything you need and so much more. The workshop is calm and spacious with excellent lighting. I also travel from London by train for this workshop, so a lift could be available from the station if required.
The owners and staff at both of these shops are very helpful, enthusiastic and knowledgeable and both shops have full programmes of all sorts of interesting jewellery making workshops. Just click on the names to find out more.
Spoilt Rotten Beads