Good things come to those who craft

Craft communities thrive on their sense of togetherness and the sharing of skills and ideas. If you’ve ever observed participants in a creative workshop you might have noticed the warmth in exchanges between them, insecurities reassured by supportive comments and genuine appreciation shown for each other’s work – it’s powerful stuff!

These are the subtle things that give sessions a depth of meaning for some that goes far beyond a simple gathering to create something together. Group creativity is providing a vital support for some people in our community, a place to be on a particular night of the week, an escape from the pressures of their daily lives and often an opportunity to meet people.

Members of one local community group explain the value of these meetings to them.

‘I love learning from others and sharing new craft experiences together has been brilliant. We’ve had a tough year emotionally and the group offered us an opportunity to distract from reality and just be.’

‘I’ve enjoyed arriving in the group at the time of making the quilt squares, Monday nights have given me space, time for reflections and exercising my mind.’

So what has become of these groups, now that all physical meetings have stopped?

Well as you might expect from a bunch of creatives, Beeston networks are using all of the resources available to them to keep communities connected. Both WIs are meeting online and some craft groups are keeping projects going over WhatsApp. Via Facebook, Creative Beeston and Made in Beeston are still supporting local makers and Julie, who runs the Crafts in Beeston group has been sharing other groups to join and inspiration for new creative occupations. That’s where I discovered Beeston Canalside Heritage Centre’s project to encourage local people to submit a piece based on what community means to them.

‘Despite social distancing and the restrictions brought on by the pandemic, it’s heartening to see the kindness, care and community feeling that has strengthened during this crisis both in the ‘virtual’ and the real world. While we may be apart more than ever, physically, we are more united as a community than we have been in a long time.’

And of course, with access to the internet, there are a variety of ways that groups can connect. At the first Monday Zoom meet-up, the regulars talked about how enforced downtime had been affecting their creative pursuits. Although they had not yet tapped into the many online courses and workshops that had been popping up all over social media, they had found that they were now ‘having time to do things they don’t usually have time for,’ they ‘had a lot more energy’ and were ‘seeing more projects through’ instead of the usually amassed pile of *WIPs, UFOs and PHDs.

If you scan your social media newsfeeds you will hear of people learning new songs on their guitars, resurrecting their love for painting and there is a great deal of decorating going on! Is this spring fever or isolation fever? Although this surge of creativity may well die down when the dust settles on this strange situation and we become more at peace, one thing is clear, creativity is helping! You only have to take a walk around the block to see the handcrafted rainbows in windows and your spirits are instantly lifted. The rainbows are a message of hope, they are our way of connecting with each other visually through the medium of chalk and paint.

For dedicated crafters with kids, the extra burden of home-educating can eat into their valuable crafting time, so waiting until ‘the boys are on their screen time’ has been a good solution. Also creating together has been on the agenda in many households, strengthening family bonds. As a bonus, some members of the Monday night group who have previously only been able to support from afar are now able to join Zoom sessions all the way from the North and South of France. This Beeston born group has gone international!

A shared concerned is ‘how long’ we are going to be physically isolated from one another. Although it is relatively easy to order craft supplies over the internet these days and many local businesses are happy to post out or deliver, we spare a thought for those who don’t have access to the internet or are finding it difficult to connect. We like to create a scenario where they have been hoarding yarn for several months and are blissfully knitting by the radio, cat on lap, but we know that some individuals will be finding their forced circumstances hard.

Isolation can be incredibly difficult for many, especially those who struggle with their mental health, and within groups steps have been taken to keep in contact with individuals that may be suffering in silence. It is wonderful to see the local support groups online that have been set up to seek out some of these people too.

Routine can be terribly important to our well being, which is why most groups have stuck to their original time to meet online. You can join the Bee Creative Community Workshops at 7:00 pm on Monday evenings via the closed group on Facebook.

To quote Two Little Magpies, ‘good things come to those who craft.’

*works in progress, unfinished objects and projects half done.

DU

Easy as ABC

The ABC Art Trail is back for 2020 with even more added to its already fantastic line-up. All will be revealed about the new artists and venues featuring this year in the next issue. In the meantime let’s hear it for the younger artists in our locality who are being offered the chance to get a piece of their artwork on display.

Keen to get even more of the community involved, the organisers are running a competition, open to primary school children in the Attenborough, Beeston and Chilwell area, and have been visiting schools to share this exciting opportunity with them. With a theme of ‘Where I Live’ the budding Rita Mitchells or Matt Plowrights can let their imagination run wild and create something that will hopefully earn them a prestigious place on the trail.

Their mission statement is:‘ABCAT features work from a group of diverse individual artists who are committed to producing original, creative, handmade, high-quality professional pieces. They are all based in the Attenborough, Beeston, Chilwell and neighbouring areas.

The ABC Art Trail delivers well-organised events that bring excellent innovative and diverse local art together. These events are designed to engage, entertain, excite and enthuse the local community.’

We have no doubt that the calibre of entries will be high – we seem to have a knack of producing a creative talent in our area. The ABCAT artist and makers are going to be judging the entries themselves and are just as excited as the children about showcasing their emerging talent.

The closing date for entries was 28th February and only two overall winners will be chosen, one from the infants (KS1) and one from the juniors (KS2). The winning artwork will be professionally mounted and displayed all along the weekend-long trail. There will also be prizes for one KS2 and KS3 child in each school and the offer of a free workshop for a class or group of pupils from the winning school.

It’s such a wonderful idea, one that will perhaps encourage future artists and makers to emerge. We can’t wait to see the entries!

This year’s ABC Art Trail will take place on the weekend of 6th and 7th of June and will feature 29 artists in 16 venues. There are several new artists and venues to enjoy this year, which we will be meeting and interviewing nearer the time.

The team are working hard on finalising detail, along with the help of local sponsors, and publicity will emerge very soon.

You can find more information at www.abcarttrail.uk and on the Facebook page ABC Art Trail.

DU

Top C.A.T

Word on the street is that Beeston is itching to get its very own cinema, and judging by the activity around the site of the old fire station, it’s on its way! According to Broxtowe Borough Council’s announcement, made around this time last year, we will be welcoming The Arc cinema to Beeston ‘late 2020!’ Sounds impressive, right? But did you know that Beeston already has a cinema? Well technically it’s in Chilwell, but if you drive just five minutes down Queens Road you will find the C.A.T.

Chilwell Arts Theatre might only have one screen, but it is warm and welcoming, has plenty of comfortable seating and ice cream lollies for a quid! Having visited a number of times myself I have always felt that it was much more than an affordable local opportunity to watch a good film. There really is something special about it. Situated at the back of Chilwell School, for those of you that don’t know, there is a rather impressive theatre with seating for 170 potential film buffs.

After cycling down there a few summers ago, the personal greeting from Michael and the relaxed, friendly atmosphere tempted me back. The experience is a quality bit of nostalgia for those people old enough to remember the old-style ‘picture house’ or prefer a night at the Savoy over the Showcase. It’s a place where people meet up to share in an event and make connections with other film lovers. Pick up a quiz sheet as you enter and you might even be lucky enough to win a chocolate bar of your choice.

I met up with Michael this weekend, in between the Saturday matinee and evening performance, to talk about why he started the community theatre, and was fascinated to find that it had been running for over a decade. Originally from Ashby de la Zouch, Michael found himself relocating down and up the country. He originally came to Nottingham with his wife, who was pursuing a career change at the time but already knew it was a city he would enjoy living in. He based this opinion on a night out with a mate who was at Trent University at the time he was living in London – a era when he owned a car he really didn’t use, which met its end rusting in front of his house, right opposite the stately home of Tony and Cherie Blair.

After securing a job at Chilwell School as the Arts Development Officer, Michael saw the theatre and was suitably impressed. He teamed up with local lady Ros, who had coincidentally also approached the school about starting a cinema, and Chilwell Arts Theatre was created. The theatre had hosted a few shows but was otherwise underutilised as a space. The cinema is supported by the current head David Phillips and Head of Finance Linda Riddell who value its importance as an asset to the community. The finance for the much larger screen came from the parent partnership, a group of parents who raised funds for Chilwell School, and the cinema takings.

Over the years the cinema has attracted its regulars, who see it as there ‘go to place’ and come along every Friday night to enjoy the show. Michael, who is also an actor and filmmaker, takes care to choose a quality drama that he knows his Friday night audience will like and on Saturday afternoons, it’s a classic. He creates a more edgy feel on Saturday nights, with a film that will challenge the audience in some way, favouring indie over commercial – the most successful of these being I, Daniel Blake. He talks about watching a film as an ‘emotional journey’ and loves that he can provide that for his audience. I am amazed that he keeps the cinema running, despite now living in Cheshire, driving down for the Friday night performance and then staying over with Ros and her family. After leading Young Filmakers on Saturday mornings, it’s back to the theatre for the double bill.

One of the regulars Louise, tells me the community theatre has been such a lifeline for her since she lost her husband two years ago. She feels comfortable to come on her own, as do many other single or widowed locals, something they wouldn’t find so easy at one of the large commercial cinemas. It’s her escape at the end of the week. She describes how it ‘stirs all kinds of emotion’ and makes her ‘stop.’ Louise also mentions how much it has broadened her horizons regarding the type of films she chooses to watch and loves that Michael allows his audience to have a say in the films he shows. A non-profit organisation, C.A.T. doesn’t really have a budget for marketing so Louise puts up posters in the local supermarkets to spread the word. She is particularly keen to tell me about the ‘singalong’ to one of the musical greats that is planned for later in the year – accompanied by Beeston’s Tuneless Choir.

A multiplex cinema might well be a great thing for our town, attracting people from far and wide, but for those Beestonians who prefer a less homogenised more intimate cinema experience, you might want to consider Beeston’s own Broadway, Top C.A.T! In my opinion it really is wonderfully unique, you might even say it’s ‘the leader of the gang.’

You can find out what’s on at Chilwell Arts Theatre on Facebook, the website www. chilwellartstheatre. co.uk or by emailing Michael at michael@ chilwellartstheatre. co.uk and adding your name to the mailing list.

DU

Box of delights

The theme for this issue is one dear to our hearts at Creative Beeston. If we can make it or buy it handmade then we are all the happier for it – our Christmas presents this year were no exception.

Making a present for someone can be so much fun, and you don’t have to be an expert to pull it off. There are many kits you can buy and workshops you can attend that will help you produce something of a high standard – check out our feature on Two Little Magpies courses for 2020!

As we become more and more environmentally conscious, we are leaning towards alternatives to ‘fast fashion’ and making your own clothes is just one of them. Sewing patterns are so much simpler these days and a LOT more affordable since the Vogue days. Try Tilly and the Buttons for their comprehensive range – they even have a blog to help you on your quest for a handmade wardrobe.

If you do fancy having a go at putting something together yourself, you will find plenty of inspiration at The Sewing Box in Beeston. Tucked away down Willoughby Street, just off the High Road, you will find a petite shop front that is the entrance to a treasure chest of pretty and functional things to make everything from a ribbon necklace, or knitted sweater, to a full outfit to wear.

You might have met the owner, Mike Barnes, at one of the Beeston Markets in the square over the years, his tables of brightly coloured ribbon trails may have attracted your gaze as you walked past the stall, reels of satin, lace and braids jostling for attention. He was always very helpful when choosing something to embellish one of my handmade makes, and was known for having something beautifully unique to tempt me to part with my cash.

Mike has a long history with market trading and manufacturing, having his interest roused at the age of eleven by a visit to Sneinton Market with his mother. He recalls how thriving it was, bustling with shoppers and traders, wrapping their goods in newspaper and keeping the atmosphere alive with their busy banter. Fifteen years later, by now a trained accountant working in the textile trade, Mike earned himself his own pitch selling baby grows he had designed and manufactured himself.

Despite many years of success as a trader, the popularity of street markets dwindled due to the rise in supermarkets and car parking restrictions and Mike stopped manufacturing over a decade ago. Whilst he was making underwear, he took a trip to India to source some of his trimmings and this sparked his interest in supplying the public with his exceptional finds. In 2014 he opened The Sewing Box in the centre of Beeston and here you can benefit from his expertise and his eye for collecting beautiful things.

When you have finally made it past the doorway of The Sewing Box, with its endless rows of threads and trims to pore over, you will find a well-stocked back-room full of delightful fabrics including individually sourced Africa wax fabric which is tricky to get hold of outside of London. Alison Barlow sources some of the fabrics for Mike whilst she scours the globe for exotic trims for her local online business, Mokshatrim. She also runs the Facebook page Made in Beeston, which came out of the desire to promote local crafters who make items from materials they buy at The Sewing Box.

A long-time customer and self-confessed promoter, Alison tells me that what is great about the Sewing Box is that Mike sources his stock using his connections with the trade, rather than the same typical wholesalers, and this makes his collection of trims and laces quite unique. In her words, ‘he has THE BEST range of lace and trims in Nottingham!’ Pair that with his knowledge of manufacturing and you have a shop manager that really knows his stuff! Alison has worked with Mike for six years now, supporting him with the website and social media presence but also with ideas for the shop.

And his prices are more accessible for the novice dressmaker. We have a number of good sewing places in Beeston that complement each other well, but he sits at the more affordable end of the spectrum. As well as the fabrics and threads, Mike stocks a small selection of kits, knitting patterns and wool. He’s a big supporter of Boomerang Bags and is always happy to promote local crafters and events.

You will find The Sewing Box on Willoughby Street, Beeston, Nottingham, NG9 2LT.

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/sewingboxbeeston

Email – info@mikebarnes-trimmings.co.uk

DU

New Year, New Skills!

At the top end of the High Road you will find another delight. Two Little Magpies Gift Shop and Studio. They have an extensive range of courses for you to learn a craft and here are our top picks for sustainability.

Beginners Embroidery

A two-hour workshop, which encourages you to create your own unique project using basic embroidery stitches but the more experienced can learn new stitches too. A fabulous way to breathe new life into a tired-looking garment, embroidery is a great tool for brightening up knitwear and denim too. It can also be used to repair garments – but that’s for another class!

They have a large stash of threads and embellishments to dip into, including ribbons, sequins, beads, buttons and gems. Slow stitching projects like this can be so therapeutic.

What’s more, tea and biscuits, plus all materials are provided!

Paper Quilling

Supported by a large selection of templates, paper quilling is not quite as complicated as it looks, so it’s suitable for an absolute beginner. Coiling and shaping colourful strips of paper into beautiful works of art is so relaxing and produces great effects.

The finished projects are ‘light, delicate and look very intricate,’ they are bound to impress anyone who receives one as a gift! Made completely from paper they get the seal of approval from us, and like all Magpies courses, you will benefit from beverages and light snacks to keep you going.

You will also leave the workshop with a quilling tool and a fine glue applicator to continue your new craft at home.

Make a lampshade with Sarah Sewell

If you fancy making something for the home, Sarah Sewell of Wildgoose Designs will teach you how to make a fabric-covered 30cm drum lampshade – suitable for a table lamp or as a ceiling shade.

A fabulous idea to use up ends of fabric rolls and create something unique, so another thumbs up for both recycling and sustainability. This is also a course where no previous crafting experience is necessary. Oh and more tea and biscuits!

So what are you waiting for, it’s a new year and a time to learn new skills!

‘Good things come to those who craft.’ TLM

www.twolittlemagpies.co.uk

DU

Dark Nights, Bright Lights

It’s autumn! Time to get out the woolly sweaters, hand-knitted socks and indulge in some cosy indoor activities. On bright, brisk days it feels good to get the heart pumping with a walk round the nature reserve or Highfields Park but as daylight dwindles and the heating kicks in, it’s wonderful to get back inside.

In contrast to the long summer days, where blue skies hang around until way past tea time and evenings extend outdoors, autumn nights are for creating a cosy atmosphere and snuggling under a homemade quilt, watching a film or reading a book. Part of creating the perfect environment for a cosy evening in has to be the lighting. We are very much a household that only turns on ‘the big light’ in cases of emergency, you know like a lost remote, so it’s important to have the right kind of lighting where it’s needed.

There are many different styles of lamp on the market these days to suit all tastes and budgets, we are literally spoiled for choice! However, something simple that will do the job suits me, and that’s why Mark Lowe’s contemporary pieces caught my eye a while back. Apart from being made from sustainable wood, which supports an environmental ethos, there is also the opportunity to personalise a lamp with a choice of wood, coloured flex and shade so you feel like you are part of the creative process.

Fellow Beestonian Mark, was born here and has stayed local to the area, apart from his university years in at Loughborough University where he gained a degree in furniture design. He lives and works out of a home workshop in Beeston, having spent his early years working for a lighting company that did not at all reflect his current tastes. Mark has always considered the role of lighting in the home as an important one. After leaving the industry for a while and pursuing a career in teaching design and technology, Mark’s been drawn towards the ‘honest design’ of the late 19th century Arts and Crafts movement and Bauhaus.

Although Mark has enjoyed a decade of teaching and inspiring his students to experiment with their own ideas and designs, he has continued to work on his own – feeding the need to have a creative outlet. He designed his first lamp around four years ago, an adjustable lamp for use at home which is just perfect for a reading corner. Tall and elegant, the original design has undergone many modifications, but the principle design has remained the same. The frank use of visible construction adds interest to the simple lines, and the coloured cord provides a colour pop that transforms simple into eye-catching in one vivid streak.

Mark tells me that as production has increased and designs have evolved, his wife Marianne has brought her own creative flair to the range. She sourced the coloured flex and shades that complement the designs so well and he continues to collaborate with her as new products are conceptualised on the pages of his sketch pad. The range now boasts a fixed standard lamp, table lamp, coat stand and coat racks in ash and oak with vibrant discs – a nod to the colour variations that can be added to the lamps. Subtle or statement? You decide, but with their beautiful simplicity, each piece would slot well into any tastefully finished room.

Since launching the business in 2017, Mark has been keen to get his products out into the wider world, and in June of this year they had their first stand at the Handmade in Oxford Show. He also tells me about a successful alliance with Long Eaton upholsterers John Sankey Furniture, which resulted in a selection of Mark’s lamps being installed to complement their sumptuous sofas in the Tunbridge Wells showroom, along with some quality publicity photos.

As I type up this article, his Facebook newsfeed tells me that Mark is being filmed at the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair, Manchester, a handpicked selection of over 160 designer makers. We hope they appreciated your beautiful designs as much as we do at The Beestonian Mark!

You can see the full Mark Lowe range on the website www.marklowe.co.uk and follow him on Facebook www.facebook.com/marklowe.co.uk/ and Instagram @marklowelighting

DU

Devlish Delights

You might not be feeling much like an ice cream at this time of year, but then I did see a young man walking back home from the shop on Priory Island the other night, unwrapping a Magnum with the gleeful enthusiasm of an eight-year old that’s just paid a visit to the ice cream van.

Seeing as it is the time of year where cavorting with the devil might be actively encouraged if you do fancy a 99 or a something frozen on a stick, you might want to consider picking one up from El Diablo’s Ice Creams. Spawned from the imagination of a Beeston artists mind, driving towards you surrounded by the flames of Hell’s own fire, who would not succumb to the temptation of an Apocalippo, its headlined iced treat?

We love Matt Plowright’s often surreal and sometimes haunting artwork. When I questioned him about the inspiration for this particular creative masterpiece, he told me, “I envisaged Satan as an ice cream seller, with his own van. This juxtaposition of the heat of hell and a cool ice cream on a hot summer’s day, seemed ridiculous and laughably unlikely. I was inspired by the continental sounding names I had seen on ice cream vans, perhaps ‘Signor Whippy’ a Peter Kay creation. Also, I fondly recall Mr Benn for the aesthetic and the Mighty Boosh for the humour.”

I can’t help but be curious as to the music that would chime from deep inside its bloody guts, would it be the theme tune from the film Halloween or something even more sinister? Would some other evil being need to stand in for Satan when he had other important satanic business to attend to, and who might that be? One thing is for sure, I don’t think I would be asking for the red and green syrup…

You will find more of Matt’s artwork on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ PLOWZart/ and www.facebook.com/rodgertheprawn/ on Instagram at Matt Plowright and at his Beeston home studio. Please contact Matt via email at mattplowz@yahoo.co.uk to commission a piece of work or if you can provide a space to exhibit his vast collection of work. Matt will also be taking part in this year’s Art Trail.

DU