In recent years my mum and I have created what can now confidently be described as a family tradition. Annually, we pick a one day course in something crafty, cookery or clever in nature in order to improve ourselves in one way or another.
We have tried book binding, Thai cooking, silver jewellery making, knife skills, fish gutting, carpentry and how to have better conversations (yes, an actual course in talking, which I blogged about here)
I like crafts so much that there is a room in our house which some might say would be fit for a small child, but instead I’ve made it My Craft Room. It’s got the sewing machine in there, set up, ready for me to make my first move. It’s got craft books my mother-in-law (Mega Crafty, she is) has given me in the hope that I’ll actually become as crafty as I like to think I am, but am not. It’s got a load of fabric in there, that a friend gave me when she worked at a fabric factory. It wants to become bunting but I do not know how to use the sewing machine, so bunting it isn’t.
The truth of My Craft Room is that it’s the one room where I can arrange things the way I want them without the ‘Creative Director’ (self-titled) of the decorative decisions of the house coming along and telling me that he has The Vision, and that red kettle doesn’t go with that blue fridge. In My Craft Room, it’s just how I want it, which is to say, full of mismatched clutter. Now when I buy new things for the house, the Creative Director gingerly suggests they’ll look best in My Craft Room, which is his way of saying they don’t fit in with his vision for the rest of the house.
I like courses so much I do one one-day course every three hundred and sixty five days. One day courses are the best because they offer minimal investment, maximum fun. My sister and brother have joined in various escapades too, but now they’ve both buggered off to live in hotter countries than ours, it’s just me and Mother left. (She actually lives in Denmark. My family members could not scatter further away from me. Except for my dad, who lives in my dining room. But that’s a story for another time.) In the interest of making distant relatives homesick, here’s the low down on the latest how-to, which Ma and I did back in December.
How-To make glass stars, at West Dean College…
Mum signed us up for this one and I said yes without question. I figured I’d be glass blowing, which I presume is safe and easy to teach a novice in a day. I arrived to find out what we were actually making involved cutting and soldering glass, which is WAY more fun and achievable. I did not know I loved soldering before, but I do. I’m not sure if it was the fumes wafting into my lungs while I made pretty things, but something about it was addictive.
And just take a look at our surroundings! A magical place, old West Dean, West Sussex. The man who built it wanted a huge eccentric building where folk could come and do crafty courses and classes. This empire was built for folk like me, with short attention spans and a desire to spend their lunch break in the gift shop.
Our tutor guided us through the process of how to cut glass in a way that doesn’t involve blood and swearing, because if you do it wrong you get tiny bits of glass in your fingers and tiny bits of blood seeping out. Did you know that you can cut glass with a diamond? I didn’t. I vaguely knew that diamonds were tough cookies but I did not know they served a purpose beyond decorating rich women’s fingers. But here, at the tip of this pen-shaped thing, is a tiny diamond that slices through the glass like a knife through butter.
Once we’d cut our pointy bits of star, we wrapped a copper ribbon around them and then came the addictive part – soldering. A stick of silver solder, a bloody hot rod and away you go, melting oozy solder stuff onto the copper. Somehow, the whole kit and caboodle sticks together and in just a day, you go from novice idiot to creator of stars. Look at the stars! Look how they shine for you!
In the lunch break Mum and I sauntered over to the gift shop, as is our wont. There, Mum bought me a beautiful necklace.
And I bought her a dishcloth.
I could feel the judgement of our classmates when we got back after lunch and showed off our new gems. Yes, I got a necklace and yes, Mum got a dishcloth, but you don’t understand, Mum really loves cleaning, alright? A dishcloth to her is as exciting as a new necklace is to me. Probably.
Experiences, not things. That’s what my husband tries to whisper in my deaf ears while dragging me away from Topshop. But on this day out, I got an experience AND three things, in the shape of the three stars I made. Experiences and things. That’s what I’ll say to my ruddy husband next time he prises my hands off a thing I don’t need but really really want. Experiences and things! I need experiences AND THINGS. For My Craft Room.