It's therapeutic to get your hands dirty!

Crafting is my release, it’s my ‘me’ time, where I focus totally on the task in hand, taking me away from the demands of daily life. We are currently renovating our home and taking craft courses has been a godsend! Being able to focus totally one thing is almost meditative and very much needed in the chaos that home alterations bring. The time goes so quickly in class… and it’s therapeutic to get your hands dirty!

I enjoy a whole range of ‘crafty’ activities, but I’m most at home in a class environment being taught and led by an experienced teacher, who can advise and direct. I’ve been taking classes in Pottery for over 2 years and have just joined the Stained Glass group. I’ve also taken a whole variety of Printing courses, Floristry courses, Felting classes and thoroughly enjoyed a History of Art talk about Grayson Perry.

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Both pottery and stained glass allow a huge amount of freedom, I can make what I want.

I hugely enjoy the whole process from research (usually Pinterest), finding an idea that I’d like to have a go at, tweaking what I find, discussing with the teacher the best materials to use and then, just getting on with it.

If there is a challenge along the way, then I like establishing a way round. Ultimately producing the piece I’d imagined a few weeks prior. However that doesn’t always happen! Particularly in ceramics!


There is also a fantastic social side to crafting, I’ve made many new friends through taking classes, meeting people who I already have a lot in common with.

Sometimes class is full of discussion about the latest exhibition or new technique, sometimes all is quiet and the class is filled with the sound of concentration, and at other times we roar with laughter. Having similar minded people in class is also great for bouncing ideas and pushing personal boundaries.

I know that my life is richer because I participate in craft activities, and richer still because I’ve found a whole bunch of other people motivated by the same desire to learn that I have.

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Tea & Cake with our Friends

A couple of weeks ago, we were delighted to welcome our Friends for afternoon tea; we greeted them with a delicious selection of home-made scones and cakes made by the Cafe, and refreshed them with a very good cuppa.

The Friends are a group of craft-loving folk who support New Brewery Arts through an annual donation; many of them also give their time to volunteer at exhibitions and share an interest in the welfare and future of New Brewery Arts.

CEO Beth Alden welcomed the Friends and reviewed the past year’s highlights, including the Grayson Perry exhibition in June. Julie Cope’s Grand Tour – The Story of a Life attracted a very large audience (many of whom hadn’t previously known much about what we do here) who enjoyed the exhibition and contributed generously to our exhibition donation box. Now our challenge is to make all the rest of the exhibitions as popular!

Beth said, “Because we have no regular Arts Council England or Cotswold District Council funding, the subscriptions of Friends and donations given make a real difference, keeping our exhibitions at the lowest possible cost, and offering a wide range of workshops and courses”.

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Beth also gave the Friends an insight into the exhibitions for 2018 including the highlighted Lucienne Day: Living Design exhibition.

This will be our major exhibition, taking place between 17 March and 20 May; it offers an insight into the career of one of Britain’s best known and most influential post-war designers.

We’ll be organising workshops around this so keep an eye out!

Look out, too, for Methods of Making (contemporary furniture), Raw Talent (the work of our tutors and students), a display of Suffragette Banners to mark the 100th anniversary of women's right to vote, and John Barleycorn Must Die (the craft of corn dollies and folklore).

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A Passion for Paper

At New Brewery Arts, our studio spaces house our onsite makers where you can meet the craftspeople and see craft being created. Harriet, our intern, interviewed our onsite bookbinder, Emily Northen, to find out more about her passion for paper. 


An Intern's View

Hello! My name is Ayane. I have been working as an intern at New Brewery Arts for the last 4 weeks. Let me tell you about my experience at New Brewery Arts in today’s post.

Before I came here, I studied textile design specialising in weaving at Bath Spa University as an international student from Japan. There I researched how craft can benefit wellbeing, and developed my interest in craft’s power to bring joy and comfort to people’s everyday life.

Right after graduation, I found out about New Brewery Arts, which is a charity providing the community with encounters with crafts and the opportunity to interact with makers through various exhibitions, studios, a shop, and a great selection of courses and workshops. As I was sure that New Brewery Arts could be an example of organisations contributing to people and the community through craft, I was so excited that I literally jumped on a train to visit and say hi!

Luckily, I had an opportunity to work for New Brewery Arts under Bath Spa Graduate Internship Scheme. Since I started working here, every day has been filled with learning. While I was having conversations with visitors in the gallery, I could clearly see how local people enjoy and are inspired by the centre, popping in to see what’s on, or demonstrating their creativity on one of our courses (and of course having a piece of cake at our lovely Café!).

My role has included a lot of preparation for exhibitions. I have arranged work loans for forthcoming exhibitions with makers and other organisations, planned work transportations, and helped to consider exhibition layouts.

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As a charity, New Brewery Arts relies on donations and volunteers to keep its exhibitions free. Hence, it was also one of my important jobs to communicate with ‘Friends’, support members of the public, and to inform local colleges about events and potential volunteering opportunities.

On top of that, making the most of my background, I had a chance to suggest a possible future exhibition focusing on an interaction between Japanese craft and British design. It might happen in a couple of years – keep watching!

During my time at New Brewery Arts, I have learned a lot about the practical aspects of connecting makers, craft and the public. I would like to thank all the positive and enthusiastic members of the team who have made my experience so satisfying and enjoyable.

If you haven’t been to New Brewery Arts yet, I would like to recommend you come and find out about this centre of creativity in the beautiful town of Cirencester.

If you’ve already been, come again to see our changing exhibitions. You will find something to enrich your life here!  

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You can't pour from an empty cup, by Beth Alden


There are times at work I am so overwhelmed with the things I need to do that, instead of achieving something, I simply dither and struggle to be either constructive or thoughtful. It’s not a wonderful place to be. I’ve been feeling like this recently; work is always busy and with summer holidays with staff off and family pressures it built up. So, by the end of the summer I was struggling to get anything done.

The Prosper scheme meant I had a few extra things to do; I had a meeting with my mentor and I’d signed up to a half-day session in Oxford. I had tonnes of work to get through, and I wondered whether two days away from the office was the best thing for me or the organisation; would it be the straw that broke the camel’s back? I wondered if signing up to Prosper was just another commitment on top of my workload and that I shouldn’t have taken it on.

Then I looked at it a different way. There is a phrase that I’m fond of, ‘You can’t pour from an empty cup’. I love working in the arts, but it can be hard to deliver the programme quality you want to achieve on the small budget you have, and my tendency has been to bridge this gap myself, by putting in longer hours. The result is always this feeling of being overwhelmed. So, I realised that what I needed to do was not work all hours and push myself to the point of exhaustion. What I really needed to do was to slow down, treat myself, learn something new and think about things clearly. I saw the two days out of the office as a vital chance to hit the pause button and to go and fill up my cup.

My mentor, Jan Miller, and I live on opposite sides of Bath - it’s a lovely city and I love spending time there. The Holburne Museum is always a joy to visit. It’s a museum I remember fondly as my father used to take me there as a child to visit the Crafts Study Centre which was once based there. Even better there was an exhibition of Tapestry on at the Holburne which I’d been meaning to get to. So, rather than rushing a meeting with my mentor, we decided to meet half-way at the Holburne in Bath and to spend time together followed by a visit to the exhibition. The mentoring session not only involved some great coffee and cake in a beautiful setting, it helped me to look at a focused area of strategic work that in my busy summer I hadn’t dwelt on. My mentor comes from a different sector, and so where my thinking had become stale and I was unable to move forwards, her take on my problem was fresh and perceptive. We talked about ideas, and ways forwards, about new people to try and partner, about new ways to reach out – I felt refreshed by this thinking. At the end of our session we went to visit the exhibition (Tapestry Here and Now, a touring exhibition from the NCCD); seeing exhibitions is one of my favourite things to do and it was a surprising show, especially in the light of the conversation I’d been having with my mentor. It wasn’t just the work that sparked by interest, but it was the way the museum had gone about the exhibition and had managed the production that I looked at; there were ideas from the exhibition I could take away with me. My cup wasn’t empty any more; I had taken some time and effort to top myself up and, although I knew the pile of work was still waiting for me at work, I had more energy to take it on and a more objective state of mind with which to tackle it.


The next working day was my other Prosper session. Two days away from the office felt a bit of a self-indulgent luxury, but I still felt I could do with putting more in to my own self to give anything meaningful to my work. The drive cross-country to Oxford blew away the cobwebs of the weekend and I arrived at Modern Art Oxford ready to give all my attention to thinking about the vision, mission and values of New Brewery Arts and how we can articulate these clearly.

Sometimes when you are over-busy it’s even more important to go back to the start, back to the foundations, to the ‘why do we do this’. The vision, mission and values of the organisation not only help you decide what to do, but also what not to do, what is a diversion – and when you are overwhelmed this is exactly what needed, to remember to hit your own reset button. The small group in the session made conversations easy, and the session leader Mairead O'Rourke (Mairead rhymes with parade) was knowledgeable and clear about the subject. As with all such sessions, the most rewarding bit came at the end when we all gave a short ‘elevator pitch’ about our organisation or business. I used the opportunity to rehearse a talk I’ve given in the past, but this time I could ask for feedback from the group, it was a chance to get objective comments and to understand how what we do, and the way I articulate this, is received. As with my Prosper mentor two day before, this time for self-reflection, feedback and new understanding helped to refill my cup, leaving me able to go back to my organisation with clarity and focus, a better leader of the team, and with renewed enthusiasm for our purpose.

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Next time I feel overwhelmed by it all, I need to remember everything I have learnt from these two days with Prosper; to take a step away from the minutia of the day-to-day jobs around me; to find perspective through taking advice and understanding other points of view or ways forwards and to let myself be inspired by the work of other organisations, and the creativity of artists and makers. After all, ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup.’

Beth Alden is CEO at New Brewery Arts.