When I was contacted by New Brewery Arts in Cirencester to see if I’d like to try out one of their workshops it was one of those emails that you reply to about three seconds after receiving, but then wait half an hour or so to reply so you don’t look too keen. But I was. Keen I mean. A proper keen bean.
I went to school near Cirencester and the town will always have a special place in my heart. I don’t have an artistic bone in my body but I do love a good workshop and being a busy mum of three I find really switching off and relaxing at home impossible; so a workshop is a great way to turn my mind to something new, just for me.
The basket weaving stood out to me mainly as it was held on my birthday. With no plans it seemed like a better option than a day at home tapping away at this bloody computer. Baskets are also a) really really useful when you have loads of random things to find homes for and b) very trendy.
The course started at 10am which is perfect for the school run and I grabbed a coffee on route before settling in to the airy and paint splattered studio. You could tell that some real craft masterpieces must have been made in that room.
The tutor Susie introduced herself to the group and explained what would be happening that day and then came a very special and completely unexpected birthday surprise; in walked my Mum! She’d booked on secretly and come all the way up from Somerset to spend the day with me. I had a momentary sob – composed myself – and together we got stuck into the job at hand. Willow basket weaving.
Susie explained the lengthy process she undertook at home to prepare the willow we were using. We selected our branches (of varying thicknesses) and she showed us each step as a group and then individually. I’ve been to a lot of craft workshops and without being really disrespectful you get the impression that some crafts people are diversifying to teaching workshops to create income when they don’t actually possess a natural teaching skill. Susie was the opposite. She was warm and friendly, endlessly patient and thorough. A great teacher.
The class was very relaxed with hot drinks and rich tea biscuits available on tap. In the morning we made our basket bases ( a complex affair involving base sticks and butts and tips and bodkins) and at lunchtime we enjoyed a really delicious lunch (no exaggeration – I had a halloumi salad and it was incredible and great value) – a £5 voucher contribution to which was included in the workshop price.
The afternoon consisted of weaving the sides of our baskets. As beginners the process took a long time – a few of us naively expected to be making umbrella baskets but likely we would have been weaving past midnight – I have a new found respect for the prices of handmade baskets in the shops! I decided that less was more and came away with a beautiful bread basket that will sit pride of place on my kitchen table if I ever find the time to have some of you over for a rustic kitchen supper (don’t laugh. Ok do. Nigella I am not.) More likely the basket will be used to collect the aforementioned random items of life rubbish that it doesn’t feel safe to bin but have no obvious purpose in your life or the lives of anyone living under your roof. Either way I bloody love it.
It was also the perfect way to enjoy some quality time with my Mum. There’s something about just mindlessly chatting while you weave away. No distractions of screeching toddlers or beeps that say the washing cycle has finished and you’ve got to hang it out. Again.
So in all it was a really memorable birthday. Another bonus was that the cafe does a serious selection of cakes so I was able to take some home to enjoy with just one candle (the heat alarm wouldn’t cope with 36) with the children.
If you fancy popping over to New Brewery Arts for some time to yourself, with friends, or someone close to you who you just never get to properly talk to, then take a look at their Autumn courses. Highlights for me would be another session with Susie (Willow Christmas Decorations Course – 4th December) or the Family Portraits in Clay session in half term where your ticket includes space for one adult and one child over 7 – great for a day one to one with your older child. Do take a look at the site and course menu to see what else is on offer including lots of other workshops for children. They even do weekly child craft classes and children’s parties.
I can very genuinely say that though I visited the centre to review the workshop as an endorsed article I can wholeheartedly recommend that you visit. All opinions are very much my own.
Happy crafting Mamans – it’s good for the soul and you’ll be a better mother if you take some time for you.