Creative workshops see boost in numbers as people pick up new hobbies in lockdown

A Teddington-based creative workshop business has seen an increase in attendance at its online workshops, as many people take up new hobbies during the third national lockdown.

Handmade Workshops hosts a range of activities run by artists and craft experts in the South West London area, for people of all ages and abilities. 

Co-founders Catherine Dolan and Ann Brown originally hosted classes in cafés, pubs, community centres, and church halls in the local area, but they were forced to move online last spring due to the pandemic.

CO-FOUNDERS: Ann Brown (left) and Catherine Dolan (right) at a craft fair in Ham. Credit: Catherine Dolan

Dolan said: “In a lot of our online classes we now have people who are beyond our normal reach.

“We’ve had a few mothers with very young babies who perhaps wouldn’t be ready to go out for an evening yet, but would like to do something different.” 

The virtual workshops have attracted new interest from as far afield as America and New Zealand, with attendees participating in calligraphy and embroidery sessions.

CALLIGRAPHY CLASS: Online workshops have brought visitors from near and far to Handmade Workshops. Credit: Catherine Dolan

Dolan and Brown initially met whilst taking an adult Spanish course at Kingston College and soon bonded over their shared passion for crafts.

Handmade Workshops was eventually born over a coffee in February 2018, as the pair set out to organise arts events in the nearby area and provide a platform for local arts and crafts experts to teach their skills.

They now host a wide range of classes, which include crochet, sewing, mandala drawing, spoon carving, and creative writing amongst others.

WILLOW WEAVING: Handmade Workshops will host their first willow weaving session in March 2021. Credit: Catherine Dolan

However, they are continually on the lookout for instructors to expand the selection of workshops on offer.

Not exclusive to individuals, Handmade Workshops has also delivered workshops to companies and charities including the London Marathon, United Response, the Women’s Institute and Voices of Hope. 

Dolan commented that moving workshops online created more opportunities for the company than they first imagined.

They launched a new range of craft kits last year which have been successfully selling through Etsy, and last week they had an order for 60 craft kits in one day alone.

Wellbeing is at the forefront of national consciousness, as Britain continues to spend months indoors due to the pandemic.

The pair added there has been no better time to try one of their workshops as they provide both a sense of community and the opportunity to develop skills.  

SEWING SOS: One of the most popular sessions hosted by Handmade Workshops. Credit: Catherine Dolan

Tutor and creative writing teacher Janette Simpson, who recently ran a creative writing workshop for adults, plans to lead another session for children.

She said: “Handmade Workshops offers a variety of crafts which are accessible to beginners as much as those who are experienced.

“What I like about it is that everyone can have a go.”

Thinking beyond the lockdown, Dolan and Brown hope to keep an online presence but also intend to find venues to facilitate their sessions whilst keeping costs down. 

“We do want to be community minded so not too expensive,” Dolan said. 

“It’s a huge community thing,” Brown added. 

“That’s always been part of our intension.” 

For more information about Handmade Workshops, visit their website.

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