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Introducing Our International Craft Awards 2018 Guest Judge… Sonia Bownes

 

Before we get talking about the very exciting International Craft Awards, let’s get to know you first! Tell us a little bit about your crafty background and a few random facts…
I’m a Jack of all Crafts! I studied Glass with Wood Metals and Plastics at art college, but ended up making lots of big paper sculptures for my degree. I started sewing at ten and got the bug for real when we had a seamstress lodger for a while who taught me loads of hacks. I’ll try any craft, be it beading or welding, and I like to take things apart and work them out. My granny was a glass engraver who taught me drawing and painting when I was little. I actually don’t like working with glass very much, there just seem to be so many ways to injure yourself in both hot and cold glass work! It used to be sewing, but these days I do a lot more work with yarn and papercrafts.

There’s no denying the success of the London Craft Club, but how did the idea come about?
After I had my son, I joined some other mums in a group called ‘Crafty Mums. We loved craft but we never did it unless one of us actually organised an activity in advance of the meeting – that was back in 2013. I realised that it’s not just parents who are time poor, most of London is! So I started the workshops as a way to get all the logistical and boring bits done for people, so they could just turn up and do the creative part, whilst getting the benefit of creating and making in their lives.

What kind of response do you get from people who attend?
My favourite people to teach are the ones who think they will be rubbish and end up being so pleased with what they complete. People often say how they haven’t noticed the time passing, how rewarding it is, and how good it was to do something so different.

We’re hearing so much about the link between crafts and wellbeing, but in your experience, how have you seen craft used as a brilliant tool for improving mental health and wellbeing?
Every week, I hear a new tale of how craft has helped people with anxiety and other mental health. For me, I started the club because I felt directionless after having to leave my job, and it gave me a sense of purpose and achievement to do something with an end result. Many people who come to our socials talk about how they use craft as part of their self-care routines and we are working with a lovely psychologist to explore this further. I could go on and on about it!

The list is probably very long, but can you tell our readers a little more about the workshops and events you hold?
Workshops are held in our studio in the West End of London. We have a core collection like beginners crochet, knitting, arm knitting, pyrography, glass etching and neon-style artworks that we are nearly always running, but then we also have a guest teacher in to do things like feminist embroidery, casting with jesmonite, enamel jewellery and printing on a seasonal basis. Plus, we host hen parties, baby showers and lovely social events! We have a monthly meetup called Craft Life, where you can come and hang out, bring your own craft or try our taster crafts, and then we have regular craft parties, with Prosecco and a range of drop-in crafts to try. It’s a very active community we have!

Personally, what has been your highlight of the London Craft Club? Was there a moment where you stopped and thought ‘Wow, this is incredible’?
Oh my gosh, there’s so many! From the first workshop I sold, to moving into our new studio and our first job with a corporate client, it has been incredible. But those are the dramatic moments. Mostly, its when a workshop is in full swing and I look around to see the fabulous teachers I work with giving a joyful session to all those who are so keen to soak up the creativity. I get a bit emotional on a regular basis about that!

Do you have any exciting plans coming up in 2019 that you’d like to tell us more about?
All the good stuff we’re not allowed to talk about! It’s been a rollercoaster few years, so this year we just want to concentrate on creating some truly stunning workshops. For us, it’ll be a creative behind the scenes year.

Thanks so much for being a guest judge in the International Craft Awards! Why is it so important for you and the London Craft Club to use high-quality craft products in your workshops?
The right tool for the job not only makes it easier, but more enjoyable too. When I first started, I used to be totally budget on everything, but now I realise that it’s not about cheap, it’s about value for money. For example, an embroidery class that costs £20 is fun, but if it’s for a beginner and instead for £49 includes all the kit you need to take home, templates, instructions, and you get a great teaching experience, they’ll be more likely to really embrace the craft and go for it. For some, the price is the issue, which is why we do our socials where people share skills informally, but for the most part, I find it’s the value that counts. London prices are high, but my friends who run workshops outside of London successfully still follow the same principal.

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