Heart Space StudiosBy Bertyc
Exchanging emails with Janet Haigh, founder-owner of Heart Space Studios in Westbury Park, it's clear she has a lot of enthusiasm and energy for what she does, what she has created and who she works with. A few emails in and she explains how keen she is for me to meet some of her volunteers, who she mentions in every email she sends. This enthusiasm for the people she works with really caught my eye. I rate organisations that value their volunteers very highly.
When I get there, two volunteers are at the studio and it's clear Heart Space Studios is less about Janet delegating tasks to teenagers on work experience and more about talented artists and interested crafters contributing in a meaningful way to the organisation and picking up skills in exchange. In fact, I'd go as far as to say the volunteers, along with Janet, are the lifeblood of the organisation.
How it all got start
Janet used to work as a researcher and lecturer at UWE in textile techniques and then as a freelance designer. She thought about teaching as well as designing and she asked her husband if she could have some of the space he used for his kitchen design studio. He ended up offering her the whole studio (and rather a large one at that, with two floors and a split level on the ground floor). This, it seems, was rather a good omen because it meant Janet could really get things off the ground. Heart Space Studios was born.
At the time of starting out Janet was chair of Textile Forum South West and with the help of others on the board, started getting things moving with the project, all the while attracting people along the way who now regularly volunteer. On the launch evening, when inviting other local businesses to a launch party she met Sophie who offered to help on launch night. Sophie, a graduate from Cortaulds Institute of Art, has been volunteering ever since and by the sounds of things has been pivotal to driving things forward at Heart Space Studios.
Eighteen months later
Janet says other people have come along because they've done a workshop or two and they just get hooked and want to volunteer. The space is part exhibition space, part learning centre, part shop and Janet explains that they've decided to stay local for the time being.
But not for long, as Janet explains to me that she would like to bring in her former UWE colleagues to run masterclasses. And here's where I can see that Janet brings a real sense of the ambition of the place; if you want to take a workshop as a beginner that's available and if you want to take things to the next level, be ambitious and explore the realms of becoming an artist, designer-maker or creative, that's something the Studios can help with. It seems to me it can cater for all abilities and plans to do so. For me, this is very exciting!
At first glance it is quite an unassuming set up but after speaking to Janet and her volunteers, its clear there is a lot more to it than this. She says they will always run beginners classes but that she wants it to be about more than that, about providing people with the means to understand how you can make a living or a career from it. The volunteers speak about elements of the UWE Foundation course (where they studied) that were missing, that they feel they are gaining by being around Janet and other like minded people at Heart Space Studios. This is definitely something I can get behind.
It is beginning to sound much more like a place of informal learning, as well as somewhere you can bring your hen do to take part in a knicker making workshop. I think this is brilliant, it is my belief that being creative and exploring making for making's sake is so enjoyable and can give you a massive sense of wellbeing. There is a space for learning on every level when it comes to crafts and it seems that Janet and her team are providing this for the local community. The people behind Heart Space Studios expain it's an opportunity to be with like minded people to learn how to make something and, if you want to, there is the capacity to take it further, with design, professional development or to the highest level of creating art.
As Janet puts it, if she doesn't know someone who can teach a technique, somebody she knows will. It's this creation of a community network so that people can experience the wealth and depth of art and craft that is coming together to form the creative hub at Heart Space Studios. There is even talk of a professional mentoring service and research and development...
On top of these ambitions, the team at Heart Space Studios understands that the rise in tuition fees for formal learning means less people will be signing up for university degrees and foundation courses and that course centres, studios and creative hubs like theirs could be somewhere people that feel the hit of university fee hikes come for the experience and learning that they crave.
Amongst all this 'shop talk' I spoke to the volunteers about careers and aims and goals and aspirations and they were so interested in me and how I got into crafts and why I write the blog, it was quite touching really. I explained the reasons I had gotten into making, why it is so important to me and how I'd like to tie it in with my writing more and it was so nice to just meet some more crafty, artsy types who are contributing to something so lovely and meaningful. If you're looking for somewhere to learn more crafts and meet some great people, I highly recommend checking out Heart Space Studios.
Workshops include evening classes as well as half and full day workshops and range from felting, knitting, design, bookbinding, quilting, dying, patchwork and more. For more information visit the website
Heart Space Studios
4, Harcourt Road
Tuesday to Saturday 10 – 5pm
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