Whatever we’re doing, we look at it as art
— Margaret Colquhoun, 2015
 
 

The Craft Workshop is a centre for the teaching and practice of contemporary rural crafts and art. Using materials sourced from the land, such as wood for furniture making, carving and turning; clay for pottery; willow, hazel, birch and brambles for basketry; plants for natural dyes; and wild foods for cooking, we invite artists and craftspeople to develop their practices through the exploration of these source materials and the place from which they came. This learning is then shared through workshops, courses and public events which are open to all.

We are passionate about the potential for craft activities as a means of reconnecting with nature and our senses. By teaching skills and sharing this passion in the beautiful setting of Pishwanton Wood, at the very source of the materials at hand, we aim to provide immersive and restorative experiences for all involved.

 

 
 
I think of the way we lived before these new networking technologies, as having two poles: solitude and communion. The new chatter puts us somewhere in between, assuaging fears of being alone without risking real connection. It is a shallow between two deep zones, a safe spot between the dangers of contact with ourselves, with others.
— Rebecca Solnit
 
 
Alexander Hamilton's Cyanotypes

Alexander Hamilton's Cyanotypes

Through gathering around practical tasks and activities, we can often find access to both a sense of togetherness and to a deeper sense of one's own self.

Handwork requires the development of tacit knowledge - a type of knowing which is often difficult to transfer or codify, and which is only taught through the doing. As we develop this tacit knowledge of particular materials and processes, becoming more skilled at a task, we can find access to a highly focussed mental state which the Hungarian psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi terms as "Flow" - a joyful state of complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation. Whilst Csikszentmihalyi coined the term flow only in 1975, the state to which it refers has long since been a concern of many eastern philosophies: the Daoist philosopher Zhuang Zhou (370 - 287 BC), for example, referred to artisans such as butchers and cicada-catchers as 'blue collar sages', describing a butcher called Ting working "in perfect rhythm, as though he were performing the dance of the Mulberry Grove or keeping time to the Ching-shou music". He goes on to quote Ting the butcher himself:

 
 
What I care about is the Way, which goes beyond skill... now - now I go at it by spirit and don’t look with my eyes. Perception and understanding have come to a stop and spirit moves where it wants.
 
 

Ichi-go, Ichi-e - which literally translates to "One time, one meeting" - is a four character Japanese idiom which can be traced back to the sixteenth century when Sen no Rikyū, the Japanese tea-master, instructed that the hosting of a tea ceremony should be received "as though it were a meeting that could occur only once in the lifetime". 

In a state of "Flow" there is only one task, one material in front of the worker, one place and time in which they are engaged. At a time when communications are all pervasive, attentions pulled in many directions and distractions abound, such an experience of focus is a rare and special one. By engaging in the work of the hand we might assist our selves to find that place of quiet focus more readily, in the way a practitioner of other skills such as Tai-chi or meditation, gardening or painting might - to attain oneness.   

 
There is a Zen belief in a quality called Mu. It is a state of being attached neither to positive nor negative. It is a quality we most admire in pots and is that one condition of which we catch glimpses of in men and women when the spirit of life blows through an open window. The action follows easily and naturally and without stress. It’s not the outcome of individualism or intellect. It is the treasure of the humble craftsman and the haven of the greatest artist.
— Bernard Leach

At the Life Science Centre we try to ensure that this consideration of 'one time, one meeting' extends through our relations to each other and our guests, to the ways in which we consider each task at hand and each material the land yields for use. In this way, everything we do here is art. 

When you leave a course at Pishwanton, having made an object for use or for display, you will leave with an object completely of that place and time - and this function of things as vessels for place and meaning is one of our main areas of research at the Craft Workshop. 

 
 
Give me some mud off a city crossing, some ochre out of a gravel-pit, a little whitening, and some coal dust, and I will paint you a luminous picture, if you give me time to gradate my mud, and subdue my dust.
— John Ruskin (1819-1900)
 
 

There are many ways to engage with the Craft Workshop at Pishwanton. Our events, courses and workshops are open to all - please be aware some courses or events will require you to book a place in advance. If you are an artist, craftsperson or anyone who feels they would benefit from a period of residency or research as part of the Craft Workshop then please get in touch to tell us about your practice and find out ways you can take part. We also welcome proposals for courses to be held in our venues. Please get in touch with the craft workshop team to discuss your ideas. 

 

 
 
 

Future events at the Craft Workshop:

Click here to see all events past and present...