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International Women's Day 2022 - inspirational women at CraftCourses

This International Women's Day, we introduce you to a fantastic selection of our inspirational, creative women that have grown their successful businesses and are set out to inspire others with their stories.


Skills that inspire us
 
The 8th of March marks International Women’s Day 2022. This celebratory day has been recognised, in one form or another, since 1911 and has prioritised the promotion of gender equality, to drive improvements and progress in the world. 
 
This year the theme is ‘gender equality today, for a sustainable tomorrow’ with a particular focus on climate action for women, by women. 
 
At CraftCourses, we are fortunate to work with incredibly inspiring and forward-thinking women in craft. From talented blacksmiths to sensational mosaicists, stunning potters to passionate resin artists, all doing their bit for wellness and sustainability within their creative fields. We would like to introduce you to a selection of our fearless female creatives:


Annie and Felix at WTF* workshops. 

(*Women Teaching Fabrication.) 

 
Annie and Felix in their studio


Q1. Can you please tell us about how your team came to work together?

 
Before we set up Women Teaching Fabrication, we both worked in TV and events, which we loved but it didn't fit easily around having young families. Although we didn't know each other well, we reached out to offer our support to each other, as metal-working mothers of small children. We wanted to combine our love of metalwork with a workflow that suited our new family roles, with a definite aim to work with more women. When we teamed up, we didn’t realise that, five years on, our business would have become what it is now, not just giving us an amazing workshop and the freedom we need, but also giving hundreds of others a fun and empowering experience.

Empowering others with their workshops
 

Q2. How do you feel your workshops inspire other women?

 
The most important thing we do is make our craft accessible. Although welding and metalwork is complex and technical, we demystify the process, take away the jargon, and make it as straightforward as it can be. We want all our women to pick up a welding torch and feel in control. 
 
Although we are both very confident with what we do, we often check in and chat about different approaches and techniques to use. When people see that there’s rarely a right or wrong way, that we’re open to trying new ideas, it gives people permission to explore without worrying about fixed practices and outcomes. 
 
Also, perhaps, just seeing two capable, 'spark-plug,' women doing practical work while chatting about their kids and what their husbands are cooking for dinner is probably very pleasing for a lot of our participants. Normalising the exception, I think is the key thing we do so well! 

Are you a confident welder?

Q3. What workshops do you have available?

 
The most popular workshop we offer is the one-day creative scrap metalwork and welding workshop. With a maximum of six participants to two tutors, it is suitable for beginners and people with experience. The course is open-ended, participants decide what they want to make, and we coach them through the process, from design to finishing touches.

The format has stayed the same for five years, as people tell us that we give the right amount of guidance and freedom. We have collected a huge range of exciting pieces of scrap metal to play with and are still amazed by the creations that people bring into existence from our scrap pile. 


 
Letting creative sparks fly


Q4. What is the biggest success you’ve had as female entrepreneurs? 


In giving ourselves the time to develop our business, we’ve built a foundation for ourselves to move on in our artistic careers, in directions that wouldn't have been available to us if we were still “working for the man." The reputation and networks we’ve built, not to mention the tools and machinery we’ve lovingly collected, mean that we’re independent, we can choose when we work and what jobs we want to take on. This, combined with the heart-warming feedback from the people who come on our courses, feels quite a lot like success. 

 
Annie in her element in the workshop

Q5. What’s next for your creative business?


This year we’re planning two new avenues for our business. We want to take our courses to people and places that aren't otherwise able to access them, in two ways.

Firstly, we are partnering with several women’s charities in and around Bristol that represent women surviving domestic violence, sexual violence, and female refugees and asylum seekers. With funding to run specific courses for these groups, we aim to empower and inspire women by teaching traditionally male dominated skills in a safe, caring, non-judgmental, women-only workspace.

Our second plan is to make a mobile workshop that we can use to extend the reach of our community work. We can also take mobile unit to shows and events, demonstrating, teaching walk-in sessions, and selling our own artwork, using it as a platform to expose our work to exclusive audiences. 
 
Annie
Thank you Annie and Felix! If you would like to book on to their Bristol workshop please click here.>



Abigail and Melody at Inion Arts


Q1. Can you please tell us about how your team came to work together?


We are a family team, mother (Melody) and daughter (Abigail/ Abby) and we get lots of help from the rest of the family. We've been working with resin dip for several years, giving voluntary, free sessions to people with disabilities. When Abigail’s son became seriously ill Abigail had to drop out of her PhD studies to become his full-time carer, and so needed a job she could do from home – which could be worked around his needs and fit in with the needs of his two brothers. So, Inion Arts came into being.

A gorgeous spring flower - daffodil in resin

Q2. Please tell us about the products you offer.


Initially, we delivered face-to-face workshops, and attended small local craft shows but Covid put an end to all that, and we quickly had to reinvent ourselves. In 2020, we started selling resin dip craft kits online – everything anyone could possibly need to make flowers, which Abby designed. Our kits truly are unique, as the designs we sell are exclusive to Inion Arts. Each kit comes with access to downloadable, illustrated worksheets, and a YouTube video giving step-by-step instructions.

We offer kits for 19 flowers, and each month a new flower goes on sale. We also offer kits for hair ornaments, wreaths, Boho decorative hoops and garden decorations – and dragonflies and butterflies!  Our kits are simple, easy and very quick. There is no need for UV lights, extra heat, or waiting. Anybody, from total novice to seasoned expert, can make a beautiful basic 5-petalled flower with stamens in under 30 minutes. In theory, if you open your kit after breakfast, you can have a reasonable sized bouquet by teatime.


Stunning wisteria made with resin

Q3. How do you feel your craft kits inspire other women?


During lockdown many people felt isolated and marginalised. We have been told many times how finding our kits “saved my sanity” by providing something enjoyable, affordable and above all “doable”. We have created a small, invitation-only, group on Facebook which started with 7 and has now grown to 180+ members, some from overseas. The group are highly supportive of each other, and it is a good place to share tips and ideas. What is best of all, is that many of our customers are now selling their flowers at craft fairs and such like, and so their confidence and wellbeing have increased significantly. Many of our customers, who we now feel are our friends, have made complete wedding flowers for their family and friends – everything from the flowers on the cakes to the flowers in the buttonholes and covering bouquets and hoops along the way. They have all said how wonderful it is to have such a permanent reminder of a wonderful day.
A perfect Christmas decoration

Q4. What is the biggest success you’ve had as female entrepreneurs?


Perhaps the most poignant review was made by one customer who bought several kits to be sent to her sisters, her nieces, and her mother, all living in different households. She told us one of her sisters had a highly aggressive cancer and was devastated that during lockdown she was unable to be with her family. So, via Zoom, they all made daffodils together and now have a permanent and happy memory of when the family was all together.

Also, one of our customers was featured on Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas in 2020 making our resin dip flowers, the episode was repeated in 2021 and this encouraged more people to experiment with resin dip.

A splendid resin dip Lily


Q5. What’s next for your creative business?


We were approached by Craft4Crafters via Instagram and asked if we would like a stand at one of their 3-day events and that has given us both the confidence and the appetite for larger craft shows. Amongst other venues, this year, we are going to Birmingham NEC, which is exciting for us and is the biggest we have done so far. Just to let you know - Abigail’s son is still far from well, but we are all learning to cope with his mental health issues and we can leave him now with the extended family for a 3-day event, for example, and know that he is safe and well – and after about a million texts, messages, and FaceTime, he can tell us too. 



Delicate resin dip blossom
Thank you Abigail and Melody, your products are GORGEOUS! If you would like to purchase one of the Inion Arts resin kits click here.>



Natalie Bradwell at the Bradwell Blacksmiths - The Iron Lady


 

Q1. Can you please tell us about how you started as a blacksmith? 


I started as a blacksmith at Warwickshire Agricultural College, doing a BTEC Certificate in Artist Blacksmithing. I have always been a determined, motivated individual and when faced with sexism in the college I did everything to overcome it. An important lesson to learn is that is is not only men that can be sexist towards women, especially in my field. When I returned to the Southeast and was again faced with individuals who told me that women are not welcome, I called HMRC, registered as a sole trader, and I have never looked back. I feel lucky to live in a country that didn’t stop me doing what I wanted.

There are 2 other women I must mention who were instrumental in my life. My mother, of course, as a single parent bringing up 2 kids, in an unfamiliar country, gave everything she had to ensure we had the best education she could achieve. And finally, when I wanted to go into the Arts, despite her misgivings, she let me take the risk and was always in the shadows offering financial backup, should I ever need it. The second woman is my godmother. She let me have a space on her land to set up a forge. It was a falling down hay store, but it was all I needed to begin building up my client list. I thank them every day for being in my life.



Q2. How do you feel your workshops inspire other women and men? 


My passion for metal is infectious and I am living proof that metal work is not best suited to big burly individuals. When the arc melts the metal, or the gas torch slices metal like butter, people are instantly empowered. It’s really that simple. All I am providing is the proof of how simple and achievable it is. Many students have thanked me for providing an escape from something difficult in their lives. Again, all I have done is provide a natural human environment; the space to use our hands and occupy our brains. It is the perfect solution for insomnia.


Q3. Please tell us about the workshops you offer. 


So far, I offer an experience/project weekend, and a 1-day welding practice day. My research into other courses and businesses has proven to me that my setup and formula works. My approach is quality, not quantity. I run a 4-person course, possibly 6 in the future. The low number allows me to give better tuition and almost no risk to health and safety. I want my students to experience a modern workshop and to exercise their human gift to solve problems which result in improving their surroundings. I hope to follow the rebrand with more targeted courses for example a Valentines couples’ day, or a day for making Christmas presents.

Q4. What is the biggest success you’ve had as a female entrepreneur? 


My biggest success so far is to have finally been asked to make a permanent, public sculpture. The job is confirmed, and we are currently looking at my own ideas, as an artist in my own right. My childhood ambition was to be a famous sculptor, like Anthony Gormley! And it seems that now, that could be a possibility. I am beside myself with disbelief and can honestly agree with the cliché to try your best and you will achieve your dreams.

Q5. What’s next for your creative business? 

Running a business and being a Maker are two very different qualities, often not found in the same person. For me, running courses has been far more reliable than actual metal fabrications. I have a very varied repertoire of creations, industries and experiences and have achieved a level of recognition in my field of expertise. So much so, that I can start to be more selective about the jobs I take on. I aim to run many more courses and build on my reputation as an educator. The funding this creates should allow me the luxury of doing my own art again, and only taking on the interesting jobs. The time of the struggling artist is well behind us and I know I can self-fund, thanks to my wonderful courses in metal.


Thank you Natalie- what an inspiration! If you are inspired to attend Natalie's forge in West Sussex please find out how here.>

Can you handle the heat? Photo credit: j.mt_photography

Wow! What inspirational stories from three female, creative businesses. They have found ways to combine their love of creativity with their commitment to their family, friends and ambition for success. 



Would you like to earn an income from your creative passion? 

You too can promote your craft workshops, online classes, craft kits & finished items through CraftCourses. It is totally free to sign up and add listings, we will only take a payment once we have secured you a booking or order. It's easy to do, please sign up and if you have any questions that we can help with don't hesitate to contact us. 
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