Learning new stuff

You’re never too old to learn something new.  And don’t I know it!

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In the past few years I’ve been lucky enough to be able to go to some really inspiring workshops and classes.  And like many things in life, one thing seems to lead to another.

The first was the stained glass workshop our great friend Deborah Godshaw taught.  I arranged to do it with oldest son, daughter-out-law, and another talented friend who is a silversmith.  We had a wonderful day together, and although I’ve not done any more work with glass, what I learnt was that I love playing with colour, I can learn new techniques and skills, and I enjoy taking time to learn new stuff.

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Then I became frustrated with how my once-good French was gradually rusting and getting lost.  So a friend and I did a year of evening conversation classes with the Alliance Francaise in Bath.  Our teacher was an older French woman with wide-ranging experience  and interests, who was also an excellent teacher.  As a class we read a few books together and discussed them, which helped me regain my confidence in both reading and speaking French, and I now feel perfectly comfortable reading French novels, have learnt about some contemporary writers to complement my rather out-of-date A and S level reading, and can converse comfortably about most things.  The funny thing was that one of the things that prompted me to start the course was the realisation that my vocabulary hadn’t kept up with computers, the internet, and mobile phones, whereas in fact much of the vocabulary I lacked was nicked from American (‘le texto’).

The craft workshop that really kicked things off for me was the quilting workshop I did with Jane Brocket.  That day helped me see my fabric stash in a whole different light, and renewed my sewing confidence and enthusiasm.  And one day (one day!) I actually WILL finish the quilt I started that day, and other things too.  Especially now that I have a plan to raise £500 for Bath City Farm this year – I can see all sorts of things I can make and sell in their little shop.

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Still a work in progress, but I love how it’s coming together. And now I can see a possible home for it too (when I eventually finish it)

Last September we met in Oxford for our regular cousins gathering, and by chance I saw that on the previous day the Pitt Rivers Museum was offering a half day workshop on Visible Mending, led by Tom of Holland – an inspiration if ever I came across one!  At only £10 per place it was an absolute bargain, so I quickly booked and was thrilled to get a place.  Quite a few of the other people there worked in the museum in their conservation team, so they were an interesting bunch themselves, and the head curator gave us a guided tour of an exhibition of visibly mended artefacts from their collection.

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His work, definitely NOT mine!

This was a practical workshop where we were able to try our hand at Tom’s beautiful darning techniques, with Tom on hand to correct us when we went wrong, and explain and show us what to do.  Despite my long-time commitment to the ‘reuse’ bit of ‘reduce reuse recycle’, that afternoon really opened my eyes to just how beautiful in its own right mending can be.

So, when the time came for me to suggest to family what I would like for my 60th birthday, it was obvious that learning something new should be in the mix.  And I’m delighted that they clubbed together and, among other things, bought me a place on a mosaic workshop at the beginning of February, taught by Emma Leith, who I first came across running the wonderful zany crochet drop-in in Bath.  I have great hopes for this helping me use the ever-growing collection of bits of blue and white china and clay pipe pieces found on the allotment, plus other treasured but broken china pieces and old keys.  I’d love to be able to use these to make something beautiful and decorative for the allotment.

Next weekend I’ve managed to secure places on a series of (free!) workshop sessions on fermented foods at a nearly art gallery.  My sourdough celebrated its 3rd birthday a couple of weeks ago, and over the past year I’ve read quite a lot about other types of fermented foods but not yet tried making them.  I’m interested to see if Saturday will kick-start me on that one. (I’m also interested to find out how fermented food can be an art project.  I have no idea).

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For Christmas youngest son and daughter-in-law gave me a voucher for a foraging walk, so I’ve booked onto a fungus walk next autumn, something I’ve wanted to do for ages.

This week I finally figured out (by chance as it happens) how to change the font on my blog.  A small victory, but I’m pleased with it (after months of trying to figure it out).

You may not have time or energy or the necessary money to learn new stuff (although there are lots and lots of ways to learn that cost no money – as I write this, I realise just how much I have been inspired by and learnt from the blogs I read).

But don’t tell me you’re too old to learn something new.  As long as you’re still breathing, you never will be.  And don’t I know it!

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About deborah @ the magic jug

Now I've passed 60 I'm still doing all sorts of things I haven't done before, as well as carrying on with the things I already love. I live a happy life with my long term love Malcolm. In my blog I explore local and low tech ideas, food, growing, making, reading, thinking, walking, and lots of other words ending in 'ing'.
This entry was posted in Craft, Food, Inspirations, Reflections on life (and death), Seeing differently and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Learning new stuff

  1. Marian says:

    I just love this post, Deborah! It’s such a great way to live, I think, to take an interest in such a wide variety of pursuits, to endeavour to get better at the ones you’re already familiar with as well as to embark on new ones. The term Renaissance Woman comes to mind 🙂 .

    Some specific questions/comments: How many granny squares are left to make before you are at the joining-together stage? What is the mended object? (It looks, to me, like a book that’s been covered?). (And I have to say that I love that there is such a thing as a Visible Mending workshop close to where you live!). How often do you bake bread with your sourdough? (I bake bread, but have never used a starter and am in awe that you’ve kept yours going for three years!). And have you had any success selling any of your knitted items at the Bath City Farm shop?

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    • Wow, thanks Marion. I’ll take ‘Renaissance Woman’ anytime over ‘Butterfly Mind’!
      In reply to your questions:
      1: not many left to make now! just one and half sets, which I expect to be able to finish over the weekend. Then I have to steel myself and make time to sit and learn (and practice) the joining technique, which I hope to do in the next couple of weeks.
      2: the mended object in fact isn’t a mended object, its a gorgeous needle case he made from scratch and decorated using his mending techniques
      3: I bake bread on average once a week, sometime less, occasionally more. I keep the starter in the fridge and just get it out an hour or two before I want to use it (if I remember!). Its survived more than two weeks without use while we’ve been away on holiday, it just needs a bit of extra feeding to revive it when we get back.
      4: only sold the one hat so far, but that’s at least in part because I haven’t yet put anything in the shop! I need to press them all and make labels, hopefully by the start of next month.
      5: (I know, you didn’t have a number 5) – we are really lucky to have plenty of museums, galleries, and local artisan food producers near where we live, offering all sorts of opportunities to learn. Many of the food producers are passionate about what they do, and have a sideline / additional income stream from passing on their knowledge and skills. However, often these are prohibitively expensive (especially the baking ones), and one of the things I’m interested to see if we can develop at the City Farm is something similar but more widely accessible by people who could never possibly afford those kinds of prices. We’ll see.

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  2. Lucille says:

    A bit of a wake up call here for this nearly 62 year old.

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  3. Sam says:

    My main inspiration since I started blogging last year has been reading other blogs like yours! Not that I’ve achieved a great deal but I have lots of good intentions and ideas 🙂 It sounds as though you have plenty of interesting times ahead and I look forward to hearing about them.

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  4. simoneharch says:

    Hi Deborah. I’m really interested in your fermented food workshop – not for the art (?) but for the eating. Would be really interested to hear more once you’ve attended. Simone

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    • Hi Simone, don’t know if you’ve come across Annie’s blog (KitchenCounterCulture), but if not, do check it out, she is a fermenting guru and tries out all sorts of stuff. What I’m hoping to get out of the workshops more than anything else is the chance to taste things, because without that I have no confidence that I could tell whether something has worked or not. I came across a great book on the subject in a local Oxfam shop, which has also sparked my interest in learning more about it (Wild Fermentation, by Sandor Katz- he has a blog of the same name, but for some reason I can’t make a link to it). I plan to write about it in due course.

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  5. I look forward to hearing about the mosaic – I’ve got a pile of broken crockery and pots that I’m keeping to ‘make something with’ but never quite get round to – all ideas welcome!

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    • Yes, exactly! My pile of stuff has accumulated over a period of about 20 years, so it’s pretty big now. ‘One day’ has stretched and stretched. I’m fortunate now in having a lot more time on my hands than ever before, so if I can’t get round to it now, I never will.

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