Tom on – Peer networking day at Toynbee Hall, London.

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Another really brilliant day meeting up with all the other participants. Now i know it would be emerging maker, Crafts Council suicide to say otherwise, but truly, i had such a good time..

A really hectic and yet enjoyable day. I went with the clear intention of properly meeting and introducing myself personally to all the other participants on the program. This turned out to be a little bit like speed dating, or “Speed Hothouse Maker Meeting” as I think I will call it.(Perhaps they should introduce this into next years program). However I still didn’t get round everyone, must finish it off next time.

The only slightly negative part of the day for me was that usually when I am in a beautiful historic building similar to that of Toynbee Hall for any particular event or reason, I can always seem to find the time to drift off and study the architecture and interior woodwork to consider its history, the techniques involved in its construction, inappropriate restorations and alterations etc.(What an exciting life I lead). But today there simply wasn’t time and rightly so. I’ll just have to go back one day.

In the morning session, Sarah Hewett, community programs manager from Etsy, gave us a great talk on topics including, selling our work online, images, pr and press. This was all really useful even for those among us who had never considered selling our work through an on-line platform.
I will have to read through the notes on this as unfortunately I had to leave for my slot of PHOTO-TAS-TIC TIME, with photographer Tas Kyprianou, “What a Dude”. He was such a hilarious and genuinely nice man, put me totally at ease.
Having never had a professional photo-shoot of myself with my work before I was expecting feelings of awkwardness and embarrassment and for the whole thing to ooze cheesiness with forced smiles and cringe-worthy Marks & Spencers poses. It was in fact the total opposite, so much so that by the end of the session I had even started directing him as to the weird shots I wanted taking. (They won’t use those ones). I even managed to convince him to photo-shop out the dodgy logo on the shirt I had borrowed that morning. (Didn’t really do shirts before Hothouse. Getting into them now, but not with dodgy logos)
So thanks Tas, It was incredible to be in such proficient hands.

In the afternoon session Anna Collette Hunt, participant on Hothouse 3, talked about her experience on the Mentoring and Buddying schemes. I personally found this extremely useful in terms of my own work and how I want the schemes to assist me with the intended direction I am currently concentrating on for my future practice.

Then it was !!!!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRGH !!!!!   ” Talking About The Work ”

We all had to stand up and talk about the work brought along by a fellow participant. I have found these exercises excruciatingly uncomfortable, but now through the pain and nervous embarrassment I have come to the realization that its all cool and fine, and that non of it really matters. I know that I am not a good public speaker, but why would I be, I have never done it before, and thus I am not practiced. The first time I ever made a piece of furniture I am sure it was pretty crap really, and this is no different.  So I have decided to be as open and honest in my professional practice as I am in my actual making. And just do it. Don’t over-think it and don’t worry about it. Then surely I will slowly improve through practice.

However it was truly great to see all the work everyone had brought in and to hear all the presentations. So well done everyone. And also, on top of everything we learned from the exercise, we also had the added benefit of COLLECTIVELY CAUSING LAUGHTER INDUCED FACILITATOR FACE ACHE!
(This, for those not there, is a good thing)

Then it was quickly outside for more “Photo-Tas-tic time”, for the Hothouse 5 official group photo. I cant wait to see the results when they come through…
So thanks to everyone involved in providing such a valuable experience, I had such a laugh, but also learned loads too.

Oh.. and I also forgot to mention lunch. (A seemingly popular part for discussion on the Hothouse experience so far).  Well to be honest I cant remember.  I was too busy shoving salad leaves into my mouth (attractive) as I walked around trying to do “Speed Hothouse Maker Meeting”. But I’m sure it was probably lovely….

Tom Philipson, on breathing, thinking and telling lies…

Another great session on the Hothouse program. Today’s session was held at the Craft and Design Centre in Manchester’s northern quarter. A Victorian fish market lovingly converted into studios with a great cafe, and an exhibition space which will be showcasing all the North cohorts work in September.

The morning session was spent with Mark Sinker, freelance sub-editor, Crafts magazine. Mark spoke to us about writing Artists statements, and kindly went through all our statements with us personally . This was incredibly useful, especially for the literacy challenged like myself!

The afternoon was a bit more scary…  but only to start with…
Dan Goode, talent spotter and actor, had us, standing up, sitting down, talking about ourselves, talking about our peers, taking our shoes off, lying down, breathing, thinking, telling lies and by the end laughing our heads off.
A great session about conquering and understanding the fears of public speaking.

So thanks again Crafts Council.
It’s off to London next to meet up with all the other cohorts on the program and have our photos taken.

Tom Philipson

More from Tom… ‘Designing your future’

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Days 2 and 3 were held at Marketplace Studios, part of Manchester School of Art in Stockport’s old town, a surprisingly beautiful little enclave nestled within the urban sprawl.

Day one was all about ‘Designing your future, Putting ideas into action’, and ‘The business of you’. We were treated to some excellent talks from established makers, Claire Norcross (lighting), and Amy Hughes (Ceramics). This was so useful, it was great to hear about their journeys that got them to where they are now.
I took away many useful tools and ideas that I will hopefully incorporate into my own practice, but mainly I learnt the value of looking further than the end of my nose.. “or further than the end of my chisels.” Which I tend not to do.

Day Two was Business Modelling, (a day jam packed full of information.) We kicked off with each of us giving a short presentation about an established maker and why their craft business inspired us. I talked about the engraver and silversmith Malcolm Appleby. Again I was totally out of my comfort zone with the public speaking, but learnt some very useful tools for dealing with the nerves and all that, and I physically shook allot less than last time, so I think I could be improving!

We then had sessions with Katy Drake on financial tools and responsibilities and Pete Mosley on business modelling. Thinking about tax, finance and things like business models is something that I have spent the majority of my life avoiding like the plague. I have always imagined that they were things that actually got in the way of experimentation and the ability to create things freely without constraint for a maker. Things that would force me out of my workshop and take up too much of my time.  But just through these sessions I have started to realize that all those scary words I have been avoiding and ignoring are in reality just other words for ” Getting What I Want”. and that through a better understanding of these issues I will have more time and resources to be able to be even more experimental and practiced in my work.
But i think I might still have to employ the services of an accountant though, ” Any bracket fungus loving accountants into swapsies out there.”

So once again, Thanks to The Crafts Council for a enlightening and productive couple of days.

Next stop  ” Presenting Yourself ” at Manchester Craft and Design Center.
(Might even buy a new shirt – from a charity shop of course – No point getting ahead of myself yet.)