Hone your skills while holidaying in idyllic settings
Build a boat on a remote Scottish island, learn Japanese glaze firing in Croatia between dips in the ocean, and brush up on your ‘camel looping’ basketry techniques beside the sea in Spain. Here are our picks of the most alluring craft holidays in Europe and beyond.
Designers On Holiday
Location: Gotland, Sweden
Craft: Woodwork and architecture
Prices: Contact for details
This permanent campsite in the Swedish countryside offers designers of various disciplines the opportunity to come together and share their skills and ideas. Over the six years it has been running, guests have built the site’s amenities so if you visit now you’ll be living it up in beautifully designed tents and cabins, as well as a hot tub, plunge pool, saunas, wood-fired oven, cinema, distillery, sailing boat, as well as a ceramics and hand-carved spoons. Now it’s up to you to leave your mark.
Archipelago Folk School
Craft: Boat building, blacksmithing and more
Location: All over Scotland, mostly on the west coast.
Between £1,000 and £1,500 for a week, include tuition, accommodation, food and materials
The Archipelago Folk School emerged out of a Glasgow charity, and now operates on the Isles of Mull and Iona. Its expanded programme for 2019 offers courses in everything from spoon-carving to kayak-building, and includes women-only sessions. Accommodation ranges from an eco-farm and homestays to campsites, bothies and luxury yurts.
Weaving by the Sea
Location: Catalonia, Spain
Price: €275 for three days, excluding accommodation
Now in its seventh year, this series of basket-weaving workshops take place in Vilanova i la Geltr, a coastal town near Barcelona. Traditional Catalan methods, such as the ‘Nansa’ fishtrap and knotting techniques, are taught, as are those from the wider Mediterranean and Africa – ‘camel looping' from the Saharan region and unusual knotted basket structures from Turkey. Contemporary, experimental classes with a range of materials are also offered, with courses taught in English, Danish and Norwegian.
Scottish Sculpture Workshop
Craft: Blacksmithing, iron casting, bronze casting, ceramics and raku
Price: From £225 for a weekend
These open access rural workshops are celebrating their 40th year. Bronze casting classes use ancient methods and natural materials such as beeswax, clay, sand and horse manure, while iron casting workshops cover how to operate a furnace and prepare materials as well as finishing, polishing and cutting.
The Raku Garden
Location: Brač, Croatia
Prices: €1150 per person for six days/seven nights
Learn the ancient Japanese glaze-firing technique between dips in the Adriatic sea. Practice using raku glazes, experiment with layering, masking, surface texture and different decorating techniques, as well as the impact of different methods of firing.
Woodland Skills Centre
Craft: Basket making, willow work, coppice craft
Location: Clwydian Range, Wales
£60 for one day course of making rush hats to £300 for five-days of timber-frame building, including free camping
Learn traditional crafts among 50 acres of woodland. Work with willow, make baskets out of hazel and ash splint, shape three-legged stools out of green wood or hone your survival skills with courses in traditional bushcraft.
The Loom Room
Location: Nérac, France
Prices: From €475 for a three-day workship to €975 for four days/five nights course and holiday
Weaving for beginners and intensive classes on the jacquard loom, as well as themed courses on honeycomb structures and creating texture are part of the offer at La Tuilerie in Gascony, south-west France. Packages leave room for you to enjoy the local food, wine and scenery.
The Bothy Project
Residencies for all disciplines
Location: Across Scotland
Contact for application details and prices
You can live and work off the grid in one of a network of architect-designed cabins inspired by traditional bothies. Artists can apply to stay there on a self-funded basis or institutions and organisations can support someone to do so, with the participants encouraged to share their experiences via a blogpost and through workshops, events or open studios aimed at the local community.
Art Workshops in Guatemala
Location: Antigua, Guatemala
Prices: Contact for details
One-on-one classes in centuries-old backstrap weaving take place in the homes of experienced Guatemalan instructors and are aimed at both experienced and novice weavers. The organisers also offer trips to the nearby Chichicastenango textile market, as well as to remote locations to meet the women involved in small weaving cooperatives. All tours include tuition, lodging, some food and ground transportation.
The Crochet Retreat
Craft: Crochet and others
Location: North Yorkshire
From £400 for a weekend
The historic Broughton Hall Estate near Skipton is the venue for weekend workshops hosted by knitwear brand Frank & Olive. Tutorials on offer include weaving, knitting, yarn dyeing, spinning, macramé, amigurumi, modern embroidery, tapestry and crochet.
Stilbaai Art Retreat
Craft: printmaking, jewellery making and painting
Location: Cape Province, South Africa
Prices: From R2500 (£140) for three days to R5000 (£280) for six days, excluding travel and accommodation
Soak in the beaches and nature of the seaside village of Stilbaai, while picking up screenprinting, monoprinting, painting and jewellery making skills. Materials and teaching are included.
Sandy Brown Arts
Craft: Ceramics and sculpture
Price: £550 for six days, excluding accommodation
Ceramist Sandy Brown runs a six-day course centred around the notion of play in which participants are encouraged to make instinctively, spontaneously and intuitively, though painting, claywork, conversation and occasional trips to the beach. Courses are non-residential, with the attendees normally staying at local B&Bs.
Folk School, Fairbanks
Craft: Woodwork, ceramics and more
From $200 for a weekend or $600 for a week
Spend a week in the woods or a weekend on the river, camping, exploring and making with the Alaska-based folk school, which says its mission is to 'perpetuate the joy of hands-on learning'. Lessons in playing the ukulele are also on offer.
Global Yell Textiles
Location: Shetland, Scotland
Price: £1,400 for a six-night tour
Run by Andy Ross, whose love of textiles came from his family and his upbringing in Zimbabwe, Global Yell was generous gifted its weaving equipment in 2006. Its year-round Stay and Make programme is open to anyone who wants to spend time weaving, and have access to equipment and its reference library, while its tours take you around the island to discover its textiles history and include workshops.
Knitting in Iceland
Prices: Contact for details
Operating since 2010, these tours are a collaboration between Icelandic designer Hélène Magnússon and tour operator Iceland Rovers. Hike across glacier, see the Northern Lights or hide away in a sheep farm – all with wool and needles in hand. Bookings for 2020 open in September 2019.