Thursday, April 9, 2015

Craftstitute - a new school of the handcrafts


The following is a guest post by Robin Tilling, one of the minds behind the new school of the handicrafts, the Craftstitute. Robin is a maker, a doer, and a creative spirit passionate about sharing, teaching and appreciating the hand made. I'm incredibly excited about her new school. You read another post of Robin's here.


It began as a conversation on a Friday afternoon in January. Knitting Etc, where I had worked for the last nine months, had announced it was closing and Lisa wanted to discuss the state of the yarn retail market.

From the beginning it was clear that what both of us had loved about the store was the sense of community, of commonality that was shared by all who entered the store. That was the magic. I saw the store closing as a cosmic kick in the rear. It was time for me to pursue the vision that was always lingering in the back of my mind, a school of the handcrafts, where artisans and community members share their skills, where people learn not just a new craft, but of the work and time behind a body of knowledge that creates lovely items.

Lisa immediately got the vision. She spent some time ruminating. A few days later I texted her that I was going to see a space, did she want to tag along? 

And just like that, Craftstitute was born.
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There is a lot of hard work and agonizing that happens when starting a new business, particularly one with no clear set of rules and not many examples to follow. We had our guiding principles, that we were acting as partners with the creative community. That the classes had to be both affordable, yet priced to pay instructors fairly for their time - both actual teaching time and the preparatory work that goes into a good class or workshop. That we wanted a space that was welcoming and soothing - uncluttered to free up creative juices - and we wanted classes and workshops that were both traditional and novel. We also wanted to offer all this up to an underserved market - adults and teenagers.  

The name too was almost a cosmic offering.  
"I keep thinking Craft Institute," I texted a friend.
"What about Craftstitute?" She wrote back. "Or does that sound too much like prostitute?"

Initially, I was dubious, but in that strange way that things work out, the dot com was available, as were all the social media handles, which I've been told is a big deal. We jumped in and had Lisa St. John of the St. John Design Group create our logo and website. Working with a professional, especially one so talented, was a fantastic experience and money well spent. Once the website went live, we sighed. Chapter one was complete. We had built our school.
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The first classes have proven us correct in surmising that people are hankering for a place where they can connect, create, and learn. From knitting and Zentangle to bookbinding and making natural home cleaning products, we are seeing that people are excited to learn new skills with others. At the Pysanky Egg Dyeing class, a father shared with his son (and the table at large) that he had done just this kind of egg decoration with his grandparents and those were special memories for him.


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Parents often forget that they need to carve time out for themselves. The Zentangle class was a wonderful illustration of what happens when we give ourselves the gift of a couple of hours of creative time. No one who attended Julia Gray's class considered drawing part of their skill set, yet we all went home after and sat down with our children to draw and talk and create. There is magic in that.

By far, my favorite part of this has been the unexpected moments of laughter that pop up whenever you get people together doing something that pushes them outside of their comfort zone. Being creative is like that - there is experimentation and mistakes and happy moments of things going really well. Life is like that too. Sometimes we just need a reminder.
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Craftstitute has a bunch of classes scheduled for the spring - metalsmithing (make earrings!), knitting, sewing, bookbinding, up cycling t-shirts into yarn, block printing on both paper and fabric, natural dyeing, painted Floorcloths. You can find out more at Craftstitute.com. You can also find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as Craftstitute.


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