With Britain’s passion for craft at an all-time high, thanks in part to the growing conversation around the benefits to wellbeing and mental health, many more people across the UK and around the world have found a new interest in developing their craft skills during lockdown. With restrictions easing, West Dean College of Arts and Conservation has just launched over 180 short courses, including 18 new courses, to help makers and artists develop and perfect their new skills. Running from October to December 2021, the courses include painting and drawing; gardening; metalsmithing; pottery & ceramics; creative writing; textiles; sculpture; jewellery; woodworking and basketry.

It’s not just getting to grips with a new technique either, lockdown also saw more of us connecting with nature and the outdoors, as well as experimenting with mending, repair and traditional crafts in a bid to escape the increasingly digital day-to-day. As our calendars start to re-fill, the College is on a mission to help creatives keep these new passions alive, with immersive courses spanning from one to five days, suitable for all abilities and ranging in price from £128 upwards.
 
As Rosemary Marley, Short Course Manager, West Dean College of Arts and Conservation, commented: “We're increasingly aware of the importance of freeing the mind with cognitive based activity, whether developing a new craft skill or mindful expression through painting and drawing. Our continued focus is to offer courses in these areas, that are open to students of all levels, interests, and backgrounds and as we enter the College’s 50th Anniversary year, this is more present than ever.”

 

Develop your new lockdown skills

Many of the Beginners' courses are in subjects that can easily be developed at home ranging from fiction or memoir writing to lino printmaking; macro and close-up photography through to a variety of painting and drawing courses such as watercolour painting; life drawing; abstract painting and sketchbooks as well as the opportunity to make a leather journal. Among the new courses is Calligraphy – italics, uncial and foundational with Gaynor Goffe (22–24 Oct – £270), which is aimed at those who have very little or no experience of this craft; while Calligraphy – create an illuminated letter with Cathy Stables (11 Dec – £156) will offer the opportunity to learn how to use simple gilding and painting techniques to copy or adapt a beautiful historical letter and Bookbinding – make a decorative stitched journal with Tracey Bush (15 Dec – £146) allows participants to learn the key aspects of bookbinding.

Creative. Naturally

Set in the heart of the South Downs National Park, in a stunning location, the College’s rural setting makes it particularly attractive as more of us take the opportunity to reconnect with and discover the restorative power of the natural environment during the autumn and winter months. A variety of courses combine nature and craft including new courses such as Fiona Hutchison’s Tapestry weaving – weaving water, exploring techniques (5–10 Dec – £650) will introduce participants to a range of traditional and experimental techniques which represent water in woven tapestry. Other courses include Millinery silk flower making autumn leaves and berries; Digital landscape photography – autumn colour; Wild textiles – foraging and natural dyeing; Land art using natural materials; Rush weaving and basketry; Painting autumn landscapes in oils and Painting and drawing the Sussex Downland.

 

Repair revolution

An antidote to consumption culture; repairing, reusing and recycling became more popular than ever while we made do from home. New courses including Altered and repaired, garments and objects with Jessie Chorley (3–5 Oct – £275); while other courses in October range from Jewellery remade – recycle silver and gold with Sarah Drew and Modern Kintsuigi gilding – gold leaf repair for ceramics with Richard Walker.

Traditional is trending

For those yearning to escape from the digital/modern world and create an item that cannot be mass-produced. New courses include How to make a Goldwork lobster with Hannah Mansfield (26–29 Nov – £411), which will introduce you to the hand embroidery technique of goldwork. Using specialist goldwork threads, you will be guided through the process of embroidering a golden lobster which encompasses several different goldwork techniques; while you can hand stitch Leather slips, sheaths and cases with Jeremy and Carla Bonner (2 Nov – £148). Other interesting courses include Marbling on paper, fabric and other materials; Introduction to letterpress; Introduction to stone carving; Make an English longbow; Stained glass for beginners – painting with light; Woodcarving – natural forms and Medieval armouring – a 13th century Italian helm. The College also has a reputation for championing the use of traditional skills and heritage crafts through its degree and diploma programme.
 
To ensure a safe and welcoming campus, the College has put in place measures operating on a principle of the same as, or better than, national guidelines. This includes social distancing, self-opening doors, less students in workshops, and extensive cleaning and sanitising protocols to protect students and staff. For more details on Social Distancing and COVID-19 measures, click here