If you didn't already know from my hyper-tweeting last week, I went to Folksy Summer School all weekend!
I had a brilliant time, surrounded by people who are just like me! The event was very relaxed and bohemian, with lots of events all happening at the same time so you could wander around and take things slowly, or schedule in events to get the most of your time there.
I took a mixed approach, ambling in and out of the classroom tent to listen to the speakers I felt would be relevant, and taking in the craft demonstrations as well, with a one-to-one with Patricia van den Akker of The Design Trust (the woman is brilliant, seriously brilliant) and an inspiring, product photography class with Lyndsey James too.
The location was Ecclesall Woods in Sheffield; another big motivation behind my buying tickets, as us Northerners often feel such events are lost to London. I was impressed that Folksy decided to hold this event in their hometown. As Folksy owner James Boardwell casually put it, "well we often walk our dog here, so you know... it just made sense." I felt the woodland environment really contributed to the relaxed holiday feel. A conference centre in the middle of a city would have felt much more 'corporate training weekend'.
Despite the venue feeling quite intimate, the weekend was jam-packed with quality events. The speakers were lined up at a heady pace over the two days - around twenty-four in total - and including Emma Jones of Enterprise Nation, Tilly Walnes of Tilly and the Buttons and The Great British Sewing Bee fame, Claire Bates of Landbaby, Polly Dugdale of Handmade Horizons and Chloe Haywood of Hatastic.
I filled an entire notebook with their advice and ideas and food for thought, and have some pretty testing business homework to do this week!
There were craft demonstrations in screenprinting (Sue Westergaard, below, was a marvel), bookbinding, letterpress, sewing and crochet. The Amazings were demonstrating knitting, wet felting and mosaics. The photography classes were happening in a wonky wooden hut called Hector's House, and in amongst it all was yummy coffee, tea and fruit in constant supply, delicious sandwiches for sale (I'm sick of sandwiches so I don't say that lightly. Best sarnie ever, folks), and a tuck shop run by local shop Cocoa.
Highlights of my weekend included:
- Having lots of 'yes, that's me!' moments in the classroom and scribbling tonnes of notes - that full notebook alone is worth the cost of attending this weekend. Quality advice covering every aspect of my business is bargainous training indeed.
- Eating lunch in the sunshine, looking up, seeing the editor of Mollie Makes, the owner of Folksy, The Amazings and Doug Richard of Dragons' Den and School for Startups chatting away to attendees around me and thinking, 'heh! Mad world!' I loved that the speakers mixed in with everyone, no one made a big deal of it, one-to-ones were conducted perched on tree stumps, and all the speakers attended one another's talks so they too could learn.
- A serene feeling of utter belonging to and passion for the world of handmade and craft. The sure knowledge, when surrounded by so much enthusiasm for this world, that I too have found my rightful place, and all the hard work is so worth it.
- Photography 'aha' moments. Winter photography for this blog is an issue for half my year!
- Meeting new friends, and knowing immediately we'll get on because of our love of craft and community. Sharing a taxi from the train station with someone I met on Twitter.
- Coming away from the weekend with an action plan, enthusiasm and inspiration. I wish I could bottle the stuff.
As well as the major achievements of choosing such a suitable venue, pulling in big name speakers and combining them with lesser-known speakers with lots to say and inspiring stories to tell, and making sure the flow of the event worked, I noted lots of details throughout the weekend which all added up to make Folksy Summer School special. Things like the constant supply of refreshments with a trusting 'help yourself' attitude, volunteers who genuinely never stopped smiling and handing out sweets (yes yes, food impresses me!), emails before the event with every detail about what to expect during the weekend and how to get the most out of it, a relaxed, non-supervisory attitude on the part of the organisers so we felt at home, and free ice lollies in the intervals!
As well as the images I snapped as I took in the experience, you'll find a tonne of pictures will emerge over the next few days via Folksy's Tumblr page, as well as #FolksySS and #folksyschool.
I'm back off to the day job this morning, but you can be sure I'll be typing up my notes in my lunchbreak.