By Francesca Smith
Over 13 million people in the UK work with their family. No doubt some of you feel horrified by this very notion (and who could blame you) but many in our craft community have not only chosen family based working as a lifestyle option, but turned it into an art form.
To recognise and celebrate 'intergenerational week' Fran and Kate from CraftCourses discuss the concept of craft that runs well and truly in the blood. We also talk to two of our most celebrated Makers; Clarke Knives, who run incredibly popular bladesmithing courses in Wiltshire and Elka, a Hampshire based textile designer/tutor. Both work alongside their nearest and dearest.
Introducing the family behind Clarke Knives
"Great big belly laughs" with Graham (centre), son David and grandson Decklan
Blacksmithing and bladesmithing courses are among some of our most popular workshops and those with Clarke Knives have gained well over one hundred 5* reviews from our students! Bladesmith Graham Clarke and this fabulous family host inspiring and educational courses at their Forge in Wiltshire. Graham is famous in CraftCourses HQ for providing us with a regular supply of great big belly laughs, so if you like the idea of forging in fire whilst enjoying some quality banter (and let's face it who doesn't), Graham is your man.
Hand forge a quality carbon steel knife at Clarke Knives
Graham, at 71 years young, and the self confessed 'old fart' of the family is exceptionally talented. With over 50 years experience as a metallurgist, Graham specializes in metals such as steel, aluminum, iron, and copper. He is beyond qualified in blade-making and also heat-treating metal.
His son David (38) is the middle of his three children. Ex British Army, David now works as a manager in a waste disposal company. Whilst this is his full-time job, David plays an essential role at the forge, making a lot of the specialised machinery that they use with his exceptional welding skills.
Graham, wife Linda and son David at the Country Show
Following the family tradition…
The youngest, (but now tallest), member of the crew is grandson Decklan. At just 15 years of age, Decklan is making his Dad and Grandad very proud playing rugby for the Swindon Spitfires. Decklan is following in his Grandfather's footsteps, as he attends UTC college in Swindon where he is learning practical metalwork and hopes to attend Blacksmithing college in 18 months' time. His skills and contribution at the forge are invaluable.
Behind every great man...
Graham's wife Linda (above) is of course also in on the action. Here the team are representing the forge and promoting the workshops at their local country show, sparking interest in the visitors. The whole team work as tutors in the forge at their weekend workshops.
Can you handle the heat? Find out with Clarke Knives
Graham thoroughly enjoys delivering inspirational weekend workshops for budding bladesmith enthusiasts, whilst also working full time in the forge during the week. Graham runs a heat treatment service for other knifemakers and makes knives and Damascus steel to sell.
Graham wants to know if you can handle the heat? If so, join him and his fantastic family to have your very own bladesmithing experience.
Introducing the family behind Elka
Ellie Fisher of Elka centre, with Mum Claudia and daughter Frankie
We are lucky to have the fantastically talented textile designer, weaver and tutor Ellie Fisher offering her beautiful textile workshops, kits and finished gifts with us at CraftCourses. It has been a real pleasure discovering more about Ellie's life & work and our many enjoyable chats lead us to discover how involved her family are with her success at Elka...
An example of Ellie's stunning woven designs
Elka is a textile studio based in Hampshire, where Ellie Fisher designs and produces bespoke hand-woven textiles for fashion and furnishings. Most of Ellie’s work is commission-based but she also designs and makes a range of accessories and soft furnishings.
The stunning workshop at Elka
Ellie shared with us that she had always been passionate about sustainability and initially struggled to source truly sustainable yarns to weave with. It was at this point in 2018, that Ellie’s Mum Claudia got involved and began to produce naturally dyed yarns for the business - genius! Ellie told us that she feels extremely lucky to work with her Mum, who not only supports with the dyeing process but assists on Elka's enjoyable textiles workshops.
Mother & daughter duo: 'we feel lucky to be working together'.
The family connection at Elka expanded still further, when Claudia’s sister & Ellie’s aunt Eliza joined the crew to actually grow the plants they used for dyeing from her beautiful walled garden at Hasfield Court in Gloucestershire - even better!
A family affair: gorgeous examples of Elka's naturally dyed yarns
Big shoes to fill…
Ellie’s daughter, the very cute Frankie (aged 4) also appears to be following in Mummy’s footsteps as she attends the studio on a regular basis and just loves mucking in. She has her own corner with her selection of yarns and looms and is quite happy playing with them for hours.
Ellie encourages Frankie to feel the freedom of uninhibited creativity, so she tries not to interfere too much in her artistic endeavours. Ellie delights in watching her work things out in her own way.
Frankie's gorgeous pudgy hands learning new exciting skills
Ellie, like so many of our tutors and makers, is excited to re-start her in-person workshops, in line with government guidelines, and is soon to be adding dates for her table-loom weaving and natural dyeing courses, so keep an eye on the Elka listings on the site.
Finally, our family, the craftspeople behind CraftCourses...
Kate and her 'bowl' haircut helping promote her Dad's book 'Making Rocking Horses'
In 1980, the year Kate was born, her Mum & Dad started The Rocking Horse Shop (still a successful craft business today), so for as long as she can remember, Kate's family have been involved in craftsmanship. Her father, Anthony Dew, was a merchant seaman, who went on to study art, then wood carving until he found his niche making and renovating wooden rocking horses.
It was only after I left home that I came to realise that making a living from craft is pretty rare - and I missed the tangible pleasure of making things with my hands. The real success of The Rocking Horse Shop depended on helping other people make rocking horses too, providing the plans, tools and accessories to 'Do it Yourself' - and teaching carving courses.
Pat Dew, the 'Mother' of CraftCourses
With Anthony as the designer-maker, Kate's mum Pat ran the business side of things for over 20 years, keeping everything turning and delivering exceptional customer service.
Even as young kids, all 3 of us worked in the family business; helping Mum & Dad out in the wood, leather or metal workshops, talking to customers and putting together orders for rocking horse saddles and bridles, nail packs etc. We all enjoyed the satisfaction and pride people took in making their own rocking horses, which invariably became family heirlooms.
Both parents inspired Kate's desire to start her own business, but it was Kate's mum Pat who came up with the idea for CraftCourses. Pat knew that helping people experience practical arts alongside real craftspeople would be popular. An essential part of our company's foundations, Pat has encouraged and helped us throughout the past 10 years.
Sadly, Pat died suddenly very recently, leaving a huge hole in our lives. You can read more about Pat's life and her influence as the Mother of CraftCourses here.
We all feel like family here..!
Heart of the family
As a relative rewcomer to the team, I was so touched to learn of the story of CraftCourses. Since joining the company last October I have been welcomed into a family business with a real heart at its core. As a small team of close colleagues, we each continue to support one another whilst we develop and grow the business with the aim of introducing more people to the wonderful world of craft.
Kate runs the business alongside her husband Harm, a craftsman to his core working with stone, metal and wood with equal enthusiam, skill and colourful language. We love it when their 3 children pop over to visit us and wonder how craft will feature in their future lives.
It makes me ponder. How many of you work with your family? What are the pros and cons? Does it make life beautiful or are the challenges of working and living together too much sometimes? How do you split up the roles? Does one of you do the making and one the business-y bit? We are nosy buggers and want to know!