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From time to time we will post articles about our courses and events and links to things that we think will interest you.


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By Janet, Feb 2 2017 05:33PM

We’re expanding the range of our creative workshops in 2017. One new subject we are including is knitting, and we're delighted to be working with knit designer Nicki Merrall of Being Knitterly.

We’re running two workshops with Nicki in Spring 2017. 'Flora' on the 1st April will focus on how to achieve a professional fully-fashioned knit finish and embellishment techniques, through creating a floral themed sampler with knitted flowers and leaves. The first workshop, 'Colour' on the 25 February will look at how designers create colour palettes and help you develop your confidence and skill in using colour for your own projects.

Nicki and I had a chat about this first workshop and her approach to her own work.

What is unique about the workshop and how it will help people work more confidently in the future?

People will learn to choose yarn using basic colour theory, then knit swatches using different stitches. The stitches will all be simple (no intarsia or Fair Isle) so everyone can concentrate on how their colour combinations work and how changing the number or order of colours affects the look of swatches. Taking time to experiment with professional guidance and support will enable people to gain confidence in choosing colour for their own projects.

What techniques will you cover?

We’ll look at the colour wheel; primary, secondary and tertiary colours; monochromatic, analogous and complementary colours, and use design techniques such as yarn wraps and paper weaves.

What, and how many of anything, can people can anticipate making at the workshop

People will be knitting several swatches. Whilst I'll encourage everyone to try a variety of stitch patterns, people can knit fewer but in more colour combinations if they prefer.

What will folk leave being able to do that they couldn't do before, and what can they do next with those skills.

People will understand basic colour theory and how to use it to make better-informed colour choices for their projects. They’ll know how to work a variety of stitch patterns which are easily adapted to create bags, blankets, cushions, scarves and throws (in other words things based on squares and rectangles).

What inspires you in relation to colour?

I love knitting with colour!  I'm drawn to the work of artists such as Paul Klee, Claude Monet and Sonia Delaunay who use colour to create different moods, explore the effects of different light or examine colour relationships. I'm also inspired by the use of colour by the knitwear designers: Missoni, Kaffe Fasset and Alice Starmore.

How would you describe your teaching approach and what you make yourself?

I love the meditative process of knitting, creating something new and experimenting with ideas. I play around with colour and stitch combinations to create unusual forms - and I love to bring this joy to other people.

I like to be flexible with creative workshops and start each one knowing that everyone will learn something, but that it may not be what they or I expected! I encourage people to experiment with the skills I teach them, to loose the fear about trying different colours, to choose a stitch pattern and make something simple, to gain the confidence to make simple alterations to patterns, to stop thinking that a technique will be too difficult.

Turning to what I make - mainly garments and accessories usually using British wools. I self-publish some patterns and others are commissioned by magazines. My main inspirations are art, traditional textiles, botany and architecture.

The Colour workshop is for 8 people, includes all materials & a great lunch - find out more & book direct here

By Janet, Mar 26 2015 05:37PM

Earlier in March we ran a pilot for the second in our new series of artist-led workshops. The artists all produce work that has a connection to gardens, horticulture or just the great outdoors. This is an extension of the ethos of the Secret Craft Fairs that I hold each year as part of our NGS Open Garden day - bringing art and gardens together.

Four of us met with Helen Rhodes to test drive and refine Plants and Pattern, a workshop with Helen Rhodes. We're a mixed bunch in terms of our artistic ability. Pete and I have Fine Art degrees, Anne's an IT specialist with a keen eye for detail, and Emma's a self confessed painting novice.

We drank tea and listened as Helen told us about her work, how she developed her creative business, and what we were going to do.

The first activity - preparing our paper for the day - was very hands on and simple - a good way to get started. The techniques Helen then revealed to us were engaging and uncomplicated; it's the way she puts them together that make them sparkle. There were lots of 'ooh's' as we completed our initial mono-prints, the base of our designs.

It was wonderful having Helen's inspiring support and guidance over the session. She was very intuitive about which of us needed a bit more help and when, letting us 'go' on our own once we'd got over various hurdles. For example, I'm not that confident about colour but had a clear idea of the composition I was after, so was very happy to take advice about that. Emma wanted to focus on her painting technique - so opted to select one of Helen's images to use as a starting point.

Helen kept us all on track, no one felt as if they were lagging behind or racing ahead. The materials and equipment are inexpensive and easy to get hold of, the processes simple enough to do at your own kitchen table.

We worked quickly and easily - achieving a lot in just a few hours. After just a couple of hours we all had paintings we are pleased with and felt inspired to do more, whatever our level of previous experience.

We chatted over lunch - a tasty homemade tomato soup - then did a quick review of the morning's session. Thinking about how much more could be achieved in a day and additional activities to enable folk to hone their observation skills in relation to plants and pattern.

The resulting workshop is a packed but relaxed day discovering the secrets behind Helen's different techniques, exploring local gardens with Helen to look at seasonal plants and pattern, and creating your own rich and colourful mixed media artworks with Helen's support. Plus a two course lunch and home baked cake.

Quote of the day was from Emma. "I could do this all day and go home happy!"

Find out more about Helen and the workshops here.

By Janet, Jun 4 2014 08:54PM

We're opening our garden on Herrick Road in Loughborough, Leicestershire on the 7th and 8th June for the National Gardens Scheme. Another garden is opening with us on the 8th. There’s loads to see and do, and lots of nice surprises.

The Secret Craft Fairs involve giving the ground floor of our home over as public space for the duration. The living room’s been a market place, a site for installations; the kitchen wall becomes a gallery. The area near the washing machine becomes a sales area, the greenhouse becomes a showcase, and the garden walls a gallery.

By the conclusion of our forthcoming event in June we will have shown work by 19 different artists in our home and garden.

Artist Helen Rhodes will be joining us with drawings, prints, ceramics and her new range of notebooks. Artist and illustrator Olivier Marc Thomas Leger will be bringing his meticulously hand drawn menagerie. Ceramic artist Bridget McVey will be with us and throwing pots in the shed on Sunday – come and have a go! Mat Tacey of The Green Woodpecker will be bringing his beautiful bird boxes made from reclaimed materials. Jane Bevan will be bringing her lovely crafts made from items she’s collected in the woods.

We’ve got acoustic music and real live faeries at the bottom of the garden by anon.creatives, and the teeniest tiniest cinema in the world (well, maybe!).

Admission is £2/3 on both days, free for children, with proceeds going to The National Gardens Scheme charities.

More details about the artists and event here

It'll be great to see you!

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