Celebrating Creative Ashford

ArtiGras @Centre for Creativity and EnterpriseBefore organising a festival, I never thought about the work that goes into it.  Last year’s Ashford Festival of Arts and Technology was an eye opener. For those who have never organised one, let me tell you that it is work that requires military precision and nerves of steel.  But we learnt a lot and I’m really glad we chose to do it.  The festival was a first, and despite not having done much promotion because of lack of enough organisers, funding and time, we managed to attract hundreds of visitors and have lots and lots of fun in the process.

So we decided to do more of them this year and the first one coming your way is ArtiGras which will take place on the 16th and 17th May in Ashford High Street.  Because we love Ashford and think it deserves the baddest festival ever, we’re throwing the biggest and best one ever yet.  But we can’t do this without you of course, residents of Ashford, community organisations, businesses and supporters.  There are already 20 or so stalls booked, amazing bands and performers on board, and lots of guys and gals making lots of amazing things to brighten the street. Continue reading

Crocheting happy

I learnt to crochet from my grandmother and, some nights when my mind is racing but I want to take time off thinking about work, I take my wool and make hats for my friends and relatives.  I find it most relaxing and productive.  So I say ‘less TV more crochet’, and it’s so much easier than you think.

I met Emma Jane some months ago and she ran a few workshops at the Centre for Creativity and Enterprise.  She is extremely passionate about what she does, is really creative, and is also a great teacher.  Today she tells you all about herself:

Hi I’m Emma Jane – I teach crochet workshops at Centre for Creativity and Enterprise and Emporia Fabric & Craft in Ashford. At the moment I have a couple of beginners’ crochet workshops running and will be scheduling more advanced and project-based sessions for later this year. I’ve been crocheting for around 10 years now; I spent ages trying to teach myself (unsuccessfully) from books, before meeting a lovely lady in her 80s who sat with me patiently – suddenly it all made sense!

There’s something really rewarding about being able to make useful and beautiful things with your hands – we become so reliant on technology that it’s easy to forget the importance and accessibility of handcrafts. It can be a daunting thing to learn a new skill in adulthood too – we tend to do a lot of convincing ourselves that we’re ‘good’ at some things and ‘bad’ at others; in my experience, this is nothing more than a mindset. I’ve had many students in the past inform me that they’re ‘really bad at things like this’ before we’ve even started – but by the end of the course they’re just as confident as the rest of the group. Anyone can crochet, it’s easier to learn than most people think – but before you’ve been shown the basics, it can seem intimidating. As a tutor, it’s really important to me that my workshops are accessible, that I have a good rapport with my students – and that everyone feels comfortable and able to learn at their own pace.

 Once you get your head around the basics, crochet can be a really relaxing experience too – I’ve spoken to many people who tell me their crochet time really is ‘down time’ – you’re using your hands, so you’re not on your smart phone, or doing chores. Taking time out for craft is taking time out for yourself – and if you happen to crochet a few cushion covers, blankets or accessories at the same time – all the better!

I think of crochet as the ultimate portable craft, I usually have a ball of yarn and a crochet hook in my handbag on train journeys – for me, it makes commuting bearable – and turns it into productive relaxation time.

Betsy at CCE has invited me to take part in a top-secret crochet project for ArtiGras (Ashford’s first art themed street-festival, 16th-17th May 2014). I can’t reveal too much yet, but we will be looking for crochet enthusiasts across Kent to help us create some colourful pieces for an installation soon. If you help out we’ll send you a few free patterns as inspiration – and after the festival all pieces will be donated to the Children’s ward at the William Harvey Hospital – so the crochet you send us will get to become art at the festival and help bring a little fun to local children too. Keep an eye on this blog for more news on the project and how to get involved!

My next CCE session is a two-day beginners’ workshop on 14th – 15th February. Perfect for total beginners (or those looking to refresh), you’ll learn how to cast on and off, make basic crochet stitches, change yarn colour, shaping and joining – then use all of these skills to create your own traditional crochet squares. These can then be joined to make a blanket, cushion cover, bunting, placemats and more…. There will of course be cake (made by me) and tea provided throughout the workshop as well! I hope to see you there.

 For more information and to book tickets, click here.

Fore more details about Emma Jane, visit her website on www.cakesandcatwalks.com.