Our monthly maker series is making a comeback, and what better way to get it going than with Alison Ashton; community educator and workshop leader. If you’ve been to one of our recent classes at Make, you may recognise Ali as she often hosts our Saturday classes. Ali also runs our magnificent mosaic workshops at Make. So we asked Ali to tell us about her mosaics journey and give us some tips about starting out in a new craft.
Hi Ali, can you start by telling us a bit about your mosaics and workshops?
I have been running community education sessions for over 20 years in FE and freelance, primarily working with young adults who are socially isolated. I always found crafting and gardening are wonderful ways to focus outside of our heads for a while. Mosaics is a great way to combine both, as it can be used as a project within a garden space.
When a class begins, often people will be chatting, but naturally, it becomes quieter and more mindful as people become immersed in their crafting. There are many different techniques for mosaics, but I stick with a simple direct method for the Beginners Class. I’m not prescriptive with designs, some people like to design their mosaics, others prefer to copy a motif or pattern (I have plenty to share); either way you will produce something with a unique charm. I provide some inspiration and a range of tesserae for attendees to try out. Similar to other crafts, mosaics can be expensive to acquire the tools and equipment, so the classes are an opportunity to try it out.
How did you start with your classes at Make?
Make approached me to project manage the Making In Liscard project. A post-lockdown, Wirral Council funded project offering craft workshops to local people, to attract others into the area. I ran two beginners mosaics workshops as part of the 10-week scheme, and they went down incredibly well.
Following on from the Making In Liscard, we tried out some beginner classes at Make North Docks, and they have been a roaring success so far. Each class sold out, so they are also being offered at Make Hamilton from April, and hopefully, more advanced and experimental ones in the future.
What are the most unique materials you have ever used for mosaics?
I love using old pottery, which breathes life back into something of beauty which may no longer be loved or used. There is no end to reclaimed and found materials you can use. Such as stones, shells, buttons, broken jewellery, even safety pins or padlocks have been used; the list is endless. But there are also beautifully crafted tiles such as millefiore (thousand flowers) or smalti (traditional hand-cut glass tiles). However, these can come at quite a cost.
What sparked your passion for mosaics?
When I was facilitating the courses in the community, I wanted a craft that we could take outside into nature to produce something collectively that would have beauty, functional value, and semi-permanence. However, I have become fascinated by this ancient method of decorating. The art form has an incredible history to explore for those that find this aspect of interest.
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Each piece is unique. No matter how skilled or unskilled you find yourself, you can produce something beautiful which is easy to work on individually or collectively. Mosaics can be very simple or complex. It can be a copied design or an original. As an art form it can be used in a variety of situations with most people.
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What would your advice be for anyone who wants to learn more crafts?
Some people are put off attending craft classes as they don’t feel they are good at it, but I would implore people not to let this be a barrier. Whether you are delighted with what you produce or disappointed (rarely), you will enjoy the experience and connect with your creative side. Having attended most of the classes here, I have found some that I would love to do more of and others that aren’t for me, but I have never failed to enjoy the experience.
My first experience of Make was attending classes, and now I have a studio at Make Hamilton. I deliver monthly classes, and occasionally project management for this amazing organisation, so who knows where life leads.
What’s it been like having a workspace at Make?
I started with a studio at Make Baltic earlier this year, but have recently moved to Make Hamilton and I love it there. I share a space with a fantastic artist, and there are lots of creatives. It’s a wonderful community and we’re lucky to be able to step outside into a sunny garden space with its beehives. We also have the wonderful café with its (far too nice) homemade cakes on hand.
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What are you planning next?
I’m continuing to run the community class in the garden at Make Hamilton with Wirral Mencap and hopefully that will include some mosaics. The monthly Beginners Classes continue into the year; at Make North Docks and Make Hamilton, and I am looking at delivering more advanced classes as well. I’m hoping to offer them in other parts of the country this year, so I’m working hard to get my Instagram skills up to scratch to promote these.
Where can people find your classes?
Follow Make Mosaic Workshop on Instagram @makemosaicworkshops, or email me at email@example.com I would love to hear from anyone who is interested in future classes and if you are a group, how I can tailor them to suit you.
My next Beginners Mosaic classes are on 9th April at Make North Docks and 23rd April at Make Hamilton, book through Eventbrite.
INTERESTED IN JOINING ALI IN THE MAKE COMMUNITY?
We’d love to have you! Find out more about our studios HERE or drop us a line at HELLO@MAKECIC.ORG.
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