Home is where the heART is.
Ever since I was a young child, I've been surrounded by women making things: be that hats, clothes, curtains or cups of tea!
My nana Carnduff - Gertie to her family and friends - always had some creation or another on the go. There was a walk-in cupboard in the living room of my grandparents' flat that she had transformed into a sewing and hat making space. I was enthralled with the wooden head structure that sat atop her sewing desk showcasing half-finished hats; and with her beautiful old Singer sewing machine, that always had some work-in-progress awaiting completion. These were the days before mass-production made clothing, hats and household furnishings more affordable to all, and post the Second World War when pretty much everything was scarce; except time to make (and repair) your own it seemed.
My mum clearly picked up valuable sewing skills from her mother, and much of what both she and I wore - and that decorated our family house - was home-made. As a child this had its pluses and minuses: as cheaper fashion clothing arrived on the scene, wearing home-made fashion wasn't really the cool thing to do. On the other hand, as a teenager it meant that my flared loons fitted me like a glove, and hung at the perfect length over my platform shoes…disguising the fact that I was still under 5' 2" no matter how high my heels!
When I announced I was getting married the first question my mum asked me was, "Can I make your wedding dress?". I didn't hesitate in saying "yes" since I knew this meant I would get a perfectly-fitting, one-off dress - every 'off the peg' option for someone my height would have needed a lot of alteration! Plus, I've never been someone who truly enjoys trying on lots of clothes in shops.
At this time I was living in London, and the wedding dress project served another purpose: it brought mum and me together. I returned to Edinburgh to choose the pattern and for fittings; mum joined me in London for a fabric hunting day; and we drove together to the home of lace-making, Nottingham Lace Market, to source the perfect piece of lace for the back of the dress - which was its main design feature. As it happened, the dress fabric I chose was on sale for half price, and the lace was the end piece of a bale so they gave us the whole lot, so my mum ended up making both the bridesmaids dresses too!
I guess it's no surprise that when I had my own children our family home also became a place for making things together. I haven't inherited my mother and grandmother's level of sewing skills - though I hope in retirement I may have more time to develop them - but have been found stitching school play costumes, unlined curtains, table coverings, and the odd kimono (following a workshop we ran here). Having missed out on going to art college for a number of reasons - and the lack of value given to girls who love making things in my school (other than food!) - my main creative focus was on encouraging Jodie and Jack, and their friends, to draw, paint and decorate pretty much anything and everything! And this always happened around our kitchen table.
If you've visited The Arienas Collective, you'll know that those very same kitchen tables are now used for hosting our creative workshops, courses and events. The teas and coffees are served up in the china and Piquot ware I've inherited from my family. And this is all part of creating the welcoming and supportive environment that I hope makes joining in a creative activity more accessible to those who may feel a little threatened by more formal or traditional creative learning environments.
Many people attending our workshops say they're not creative at all, and tell us they haven't done any 'art' since they were at school. I hope that means that what we are offering has encouraged them to take the first steps towards unleashing that creative that has been lurking within just waiting for the right environment to be released.
Our beginner workshops mainly focus on teaching you skills you can easily do at home, using affordable equipment and easy-to-source or recycled materials, to encourage you to continue being creative at home…and perhaps passing on your new skills to family and friends. You can find out more about all our workshops here.
If you'd like to hear more about why I chose my home to host workshops - and the magic of making silver jewellery with metal clay - watch the That's TV interview below with me and Anna Campbell of Jewellery School Scotland.