“Research has shown that crafting, regardless of the medium you use, can bolster mood, improve self-confidence, and reduce stress overall.  In addition, crafting has also been shown to improve mental agility, improves both gross and fine motor movements, and decrease cognitive decline.”

  • Spectrum Health & Human Services
  • (https://shswny.org/the-unexpected-benefits-of-crafting)

Crafting “Protects against neurological decline often associated with age. Crafting activates several different areas of the brain, which ultimately strengthens memory, processing, and problem-solving abilities.”

  • Maplewood Senior Living
  • (https://www.maplewoodseniorliving.com/blog/get-creative-why-arts-and-crafts-are-good-for-you-as-you-age/)

A year of crafts.

That is the goal I set myself for 2023.

I didn’t set out to do 12 courses in a year, yet somehow, I did.

Nor did I set out to do twelve crafts – I wanted to explore and see what “stuck”.

Now that I have completed my final course of the year, I am sharing my reflections of a year of experiences and learning.

If you just want to know what I did and avoid reading the details…

  • Jan – linocut prints, pottery basics
  • Feb – March willow pig, pottery intermediate
  • May – willow bee, ceramic glazing
  • June – letter carving in stone, Raku firing ceramics
  • Sept – green man stone carving, leather-bound books
  • Nov – welding
  • Dec – copper ornaments

Now read on!


My first craft of the year was in Richmond Station (North Yorkshire), now an arts centre and only 20 minutes from home. The course was run by Holly Magdalene Scott. It was only on the morning of the course that I realised I owned one of her prints. I had a lovely afternoon exploring printmaking with linocut images, enough to buy some supplies to try at home. I stayed in touch with Holly – who lives near me in N. Yorks.

Also in January, I took a wheel throwing basics course with Joe Ludkin at Croft Pottery, near Ripon/Thirsk, about 20 minutes away. Although I did a beginners and intermediate course in 2020, I had not thrown a pot since and decided to start again. I’m glad I did, Joe is an excellent teacher and very patient. My first pots were not things of beauty, yet that didn’t matter. I made them.


Off to Sherburn-in-Elmet, a village between Leeds and Selby, south of Tadcaster, for a willow weaving course to make a willow pig, in a lovely church hall. The course was run by Leilah Vyner of Dragon Willow. It was a lovely day, and I came home with a willow pig for the garden – and he is still there now (he’s had a bit of linseed oil for protection). I was really pleased with this pig; it was a manual labour of love.

When I booked the wheel-throwing basics course I knew I had done it before, so I booked the intermediate course at the same time, and it landed in February. As it turned out, Joe had a very different teaching style than my former teacher, a style that I found really engaging and helped my development a lot, so much so that by the end of this intermediate course I was hooked. Now I have a studio at home, with a good wheel and plenty of space. Sadly, I don’t have a kiln yet (they are expensive!). I joined the Wednesday evening clay club at Croft Pottery – a mix of creativity, socialising, and learning (Joe on hand, with 5 kilns, all the materials you could ever wish for, and a mountain of knowledge and experience.

More on pottery very soon!


No courses this month as I started building my studio. I put a huge amount of work into taking a poorly built stock shed and creating a warm, dry, creative space, with power and Wi-Fi. This month was mostly a wrangle with the shed company who supplied one panel a long way out of true, and then the replacement with a missing batten. Mercia Garden Products do not pay attention to detail or provide good service. Thankfully the supplied does and they gave me a 33% refund – and I ended up with a complete shed and some spare wood!


No workshops, a lot of work.

Fully insulating a stock shed and then lining out in hardboard takes a lot of time!


Phew – a break from building!

Off to Arley Hall in Cheshire, with an overnight stay at Manchester Airport – cheap and cheerful – and mid-way between my son’s place in South Manchester and the course – we did it together which was extra nice.

This time we were making a willow bee with Juliet Hamilton, who was perfectly pleasant but inattentive as a teacher. This was a harder structure to make and yet the teacher left us to work it out for long periods. I was happy enough with my bee, and I enjoyed doing more with willow.

Then my only craft course of the year, Ceramic Glazing Theory and Practice. This was through a Polish company – which I thought was called Ceramika but that is Ceramics in Polish, so maybe not. It was in English! It was really useful, if a bit mind-blowing. There are so many variables in getting a good glaze, and when making your own, some of the quantities are very small indeed. Recently I needed to measure EXACTLY 1.87g of copper carbonate. Not a job for the kitchen scales.


My favourite month of the year for courses and workshops – two courses that cemented a strong interest in new things.

Locally to us, in Masham (pronounced Massum – just in case you don’t know), is a not-for-profit called Artison. It is a rather brilliant organisation run by two wonderful people – Sue and Gaynor.

Gaynor is a stone carver, and I did two courses with Gaynor back-to-back.

The first was a taster of Stone Carving letters – a half day where I learned the basics and carved one letter. The next day I started a two-day course and carved a complete work (Slainte) as a welcome stone for our front door. I loved it, learned a lot, bought my own tools, and booked another course (see September).

Also, in June I did a six-week course with Joe at Croft Pottery on Raku firing ceramics. This was mind-blowing. Creating pieces and then firing them in 40 minutes, seeing the impact burning material and lack of oxygen has on glazes and washes, and playing with fire.

Here was elemental pottery and I loved it. So much so that I built two raku kilns (and sold one) and I’m now building a bigger one from an oil drum.

June set me alight, thankfully not literally!


July and August are both hot and school holidays. Not much going on in terms of courses. I did enjoy developing my pottery skills at home and at clay club and sourcing all the pieces for the raku kilns.


See July.


Off to Halifax for the weekend, to the West Riding Stone Carving Association in an old wool mill on the banks of the Hebble Brook. Another fabulous teacher, Helen Jenks, led us through a weekend of carving a green man in Maltese Limestone (soft!).

I came home with a fabulous and clean carving which was painted with a diluted yoghurt wash to encourage “growth” and is now a green coloured, green man, watching over the garden outside my studio – I loved this, another elemental hobby, and Helen gave me some stone to bring home and carve. I built my own banker (a carving workbench) to go with my tools. I won’t do this often, but I will do it again.

Later in the month back to Artison in Masham for leather-wrapped books with Kate Bowles – learning to create a leather cover, cut our pages (folios) and stitch them into place. This was very rewarding, although tricky the first time around, so I’ve bought a kit to do some more bookbinding. Probably not a long-term hobby, just something to try, learn, and make something nice.


I’m not sure where it went, but that was a month without courses. By now I was potting regularly – every week at clay club and several days a week at home, I am starting to build up a stock of pots!


To make the oil-drum raku kiln, I decided to weld rather than bolt, a frame, wheels, stand and so on to an oil drum. Now, I could just learn the hard way and blow holes in my oil drum with my MIG welder. Instead, I decided to do a course, and I’m very glad I did. Julian Wadsworth is a craftsman working in steel – he is a master blacksmith and an experienced welder. I booked a one-day, one-on-one, course on welding with Julian, in his workshop (think Fred Dibnah and a Victorian mill), in Huddersfield (Golcar).

A fabulous day with Julian where he tailored the course to what I wanted to do afterwards and was generous with his time and his experience. He even gave me a lift to the station when it was time to go home.


I write this 12 days before Christmas, I have finished exploring and making on courses, yet I still keep making pottery at home and at clay club, exploring different ways of creating decorative pieces.

My final course of the year (last week) was making Copper Ornaments for the Christmas tree, again, back at Artison, and what a great day this was.

Our teacher, Charlotte Tollyfield, is a metalsmith based in Sheffield, and patiently guided us through the process of cutting with a piercing saw, stamping patterns into the shape, and then polishing and hanging on a tree.

My confidence made me push the boundaries, shaping my first piece (a heart) by bending over the edges and making the whole thing concave, which worked very well. Then I abandoned the ready-made shapes we’d been given and designed my own piece. It could have been a bit neater, yet it was mine, I made it and had two lovely ornaments to take home.


So, there you go, a year in crafts.

I’ve already booked six courses at ArtIsOn for 2024.

Tell me about your crafts – I would love to hear from you!


Richmond Arts Centres – https://www.thestation.co.uk/

Holly Magdalane Scott – https://hollymagdalenescottprintmaker.bigcartel.com/

Croft Pottery (Joe Ludkin) – https://www.croftpottery.com/

Dragon Willow (Leilah Vyner) – https://dragonwillow.co.uk/

Juliet Hamilton – https://www.juliettehamiltondesign.com/

Arley Hall – https://www.arleyhallandgardens.com/

ArtIsOn – https://artison.co.uk/

Gaynor Pearson – http://www.gaynorpearson.co.uk/

West Riding Stonecarving Association – https://stonecarvingassociation.org/

Kate Bowles – https://studiovault.co.uk/kate-bowles/

Julian Wadsworth – https://julianwadsworth.co.uk/

Charlotte Tollyfield – https://www.charlottetollyfield.co.uk/






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