The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible. (Clarke's second law.)
Practising a craft or developing a practical skill can be isolating although, for many crafts people, that is part of its appeal, working quietly on their own. Having said that, it can be useful to be part of a group of like minded people. There are many different types of groups you can join ranging from national organisations to county based or local within a town. Joining a group can give access to tuition, advice, friendship; a platform for selling your work; a forum for sharing ideas and experiences; a way of making friends with like minded people. Many of these groups, organisations, guilds, etc are run by volunteers. Below are a number I have been part of over the years.
Society of Designer Craftsmen
When I completed my training at the London College of Furniture I was invited to join the Society of Designer Craftsmen as a Licentiate. The London College of Furniture was an independent college at the time I attended but is now part of the London Metropolitan University. Accepting a place at the Society of Designer Craftsmen allowed me to use the initials LSDC after my name although I never remember doing so. I was a member for many years but as I moved away from furniture and into teaching I could not progress to full membership. There seemed little point in continuing my membership and I made the decision to resign from the society. While I was a member it did give me the opportunity to keep in touch with what was going on with contemporary crafts across the country in the 1970s and 80s.
Inland Waterways Association
Have discovered canals when taking family holidays I joined the Inland Waterways Association in 1974. For a few years I joined the Committee of the Chelmsford Branch and gave talks to outside organisations on their behalf. The IWA was founded in 1946 to help protect, restore and encourage the use of the UK’s canals and rivers. It is made up largely of volunteers. The Waterways Recovery Group is the active arm of the IWA developed to play a practical role in restoring waterways. They hold many restoration work camps around the country where you can learn new skills from brick laying to dumper truck driving.
Waterways Craft Guild
In 2004 I was invited to join the Waterways Craft Guild, a national organisation with different levels of membership from hobbyist to professional. It included people from a whole range of waterway crafts from fender making to iron work; crochet and canal art. It was set up to help support and preserve crafts found on the inland waterways as well as encouraging the maintenance of high standards. Work had to be resubmitted every four years to check you were meeting the standard that you were accepted with. Unfortunately the Guild was dissolved early in 2018 through lack of volunteers willing to work on the Committee. This was partly due to the membership being spread out across the country and the difficulty of willing people to come together in one place. It was a sad loss as it helped bring a unique group of crafters, with a waterways connection at their heart, together.
Essex Craft Guild
Over twenty years ago I applied for and was accepted into the Guild of Essex Craftsmen, now the Essex Craft Guild. This is a voluntary non-profit making organisation which promotes and supports genuine hand-made local Arts and Crafts produced by people living in Essex. The Guild was formed in 1984, with the main aim of promoting, encouraging and supporting its members in their chosen craft. The Guild publishes a Directory each year with members craft details and whether they are willing to demonstrate, give talks, take commissions or attend shows. etc. The Directory is distributed throughout the County and other areas where possible. The Guild also arranges a number of Craft Shows throughout the year for its members. The Guild is a good way of getting to known other crafts people in the County and is open to anyone living in the County who can fulfil the entry criteria and culminates with a selection evening.
Guild Shows for 2020 are as follows:
Thames Chase Visitor Centre, Upminster. Sunday & Monday, 12th & 13th April
Copped Hall, Epping. Sunday, 31st May
Buckhatch Garden Centre, Rettendon Common, Chelmsford. Saturday & Sunday, 27th & 28th June
Tendring Show, Lawford Nr Manningtree. Saturday 11th July
Stow Maries Aerodrome, Sunday, 13th September
Hylands House, Sunday, 22nd November
Buckhatch Garden Centre, Rettendon Common, Chelmsford. & Sunday, 5th & 6th December
St Mary Magdalen, Billericay. Saturday, 12th December
South Woodham Ferrers Camera Club
Many areas have their own camera club and my one is South Woodham Ferrers Camera Club which meets every week from September to May. During the year meetings include a varied mix of photo appraisals, speakers and practical sessions. The group also meets for a Christmas and Summer meal with the occasional informal photographic days out. It’s a very friendly club that provides a good way of developing your photographic skills and a source of knowledge that can answer most questions you may have.