At the beginning of February I shared some good and bad news about 19, the much loved business of Victoria and Becky Saunders. You can read that blogpost here:
The bad news was their closure of Alexandra Road, but the good news was that 19 would exist, in a different format; a format which allowed Victoria and Becky more space for personal creativity, well-being and time with their growing families. ‘19 Gather and Create’ was born! The blogpost described the shape of the new business and all that it would be offering.
Their new venture sounded interesting, exciting, very creative but not without risk; being creative in one context does not ensure success in another. Don’t get me wrong, I sincerely hoped they would be successful! I am full of admiration for Victoria and Becky who are operating in what has to be the most challenging, uncertain of times.
The chance to find out how things were going came in the shape of an invitation to the first of their ‘Gather’ events ‘Creativity for Well-being’ which took place last Saturday 23rd March at the very beautiful, victorian, Sunhill House, a magnificent building with light-filled rooms and large windows looking out onto the surrounding public gardens. It was the perfect setting for a morning of ‘me – time’ a chance to relax, explore some crafts and socialise. There is nothing like craft to slow the pace of the world and divert your attention from anxiety, increase confidence, broaden social horizons and bring enjoyment and a sense of fulfilment to the day.
The event was exactly as they described:
‘Nineteen pride themselves in creating quality events that are friendly, accessible and above all, full of creativity. Nineteen promotes meaningful activity and craft with over-arching seasonal themes, leading all that we do. Beautiful styled surroundings and homemade refreshments contribute to the charm and experience for our gathered guests.’
On arrival, we registered and were given a cotton bag for the items we made in the workshops and for anything we chose to buy at the pop – up shop.
The small pop – up curated by Victoria included plants by Verbena styling, you can find out more about them here: Candles by Osmology, you may like to explore their website here: and materials and products by the Anon Design Company who were running a hand-lettering workshop. Check out their beautiful website here: Victoria also bought along a brand of organic beauty products called MOA Magicial Organic Apothecary. If you fancy a meander through their lovely website, it’s right here: Olivia Handley showcased her textiles which you can view here: The table was truly a reflection of 19.
After registering, we were offered a refreshing glass of water flavoured with lemons, limes, cucumber and mint. We also had access to some lovely home – made tea blends for wellbeing as well as the most delicious bakes, that would have earned a handshake from Paul Hollywood: lavender shortbread, lemon and poppy seed shortbread, cranberry and walnut cookies and gluten free chocolate biscuits.
There were three mini-workshops for us to attend:
The first one we attended was with the fibre artist Liv Handley who very quickly had us down to work, I say we because I met up with a friend that I didn’t know would be there so I had the added bonus of some quality time with said friend which was lovely.
Liv reminded me of Angel Strawbridge of ‘Escape to the Chateau’ fame and her teaching style, (spot on in my humble opinion) was the one Angel adopts with her children: enthusiastic, optimistic, patient, supportive but not to the degree that you don’t feel pride in what you make. We used weaving techniques to make key rings and I was really surprised how engrossed we became. Liv does weaving workshops for ‘19 Gather and Create’ and having been a part of this taster, I will definitley go on to enroll in one of her three hour workshops
There is a huge trend for woven textiles and adding texture to your interior, with natural materials. At the last workshop that 19 hosted, people wove a wall hanging within an embroidery hoop, learning weaving techniques along the way. There was the opportunity to play with colour and texture using different yarns and fibres to create a design. The finished product could be hung on the wall as a piece of textile art and is something I would love to do.
The next mini – workshop we went on to was with Stephanie Eastwood the florist from Verbena Styling and focused on bringing plants into your home in a sustainable way. We got quite dirty but massaging the compost and the moss to create our moss ball succulent felt very therapeutic and was great fun.
Stephanie is a regular at 19 and continues to be at ‘19 Gather and Create’ – where she has workshops in May. In March she taught people how to plant an open terrarium and learn about caring for succulents, cactus and air plants. The finished product was a beautiful recycled glass terrarium filled with sumptuous greenery – a great addition to your interior and following current trends for adding greenery to your displays.
In May, Stephanie is doing a workshop on hand – tie bouquet and a seasonal flower arranging workshop. She will show attendees how to condition the flowers and arrange them using the florists’ hand-tie technique or a free-style arrangement in a vessel. She will basically be giving you the tools to be able to make your own bouquets or arrangements in future by sourcing a few blooms and gathering foliage.
The final workshop we attended was an introduction to the daily practice of journaling which is something I only started doing in earnest six months ago. Like Victoria, journaling has helped me to be more organised and focused, it helps to make my goals clearer and makes me more committed to them. It has also made me become more reflective and analytical and has been a real cathartic release for the stresses of the day as well as being a vehicle for celebrating what has been good during the day.
Victoria gave us each a well-researched and thoughtful guide-handout with forty great ideas for journaling to take home and explore, we then personalized our journal with painted decorations. She provided us with a number of differentiated models for ideas and was the epitome of encouragement and kindness; people engaged quickly and were soon completely engrossed. But not me! I felt totally overwhelmed and experienced what I can only describe as a sort of creative anxiety. Victoria suggested that it is often the pressure we put on ourselves that can create these feelings but this creative practice was for us, as individuals an opportunity to encourage self expression and mindfulness, by painting a repeat pattern. In my case it was a flashback to the torturous school art lessons where week after week we were required to silently copy the Old Masters – an activity that I loathed with a passion and a far cry from what Victoria was proposing.
Has it put me off? Absolutely not! I could see that apart from myself, others at the table were loving the task and I can see myself doing it and doing it successfully so I will be looking out for a suitable workshop to explore this further.
At the same time as our mini workshops were taking place, 19 hosted a guest workshop with expert calligrapher, Lyndsey of ‘Wild Sea Calligraphy’ Check out their website here: The group leant how to hold the calligraphy pen and use ink, (no mean feat) create basic shapes and master the modern calligraphy alphabet. The idea was that by the end of the few hours the group would be confident enough to be able to write their own wellbeing- inspired quote. The group of calligraphers added to the calming atmosphere in the room as they practised shaping letters in a true state of meditative crafting.
In between the mini workshops, we had the opportunity to interact with a number of health and well-being professionals, notably, Helen Evans – a well-being coach, Chris Briggs – a self-employed masseur and Sue Saunders – a Bowen practitioner. Check out Sue’s website here:
I had a lovely hand massage from Chris who has been working as a therapist for more than thirty years and is trained in nine different types of bodywork. Chris has had a very interesting career working in businesses around the UK, including Formula 1, BMW and Virgin Media. He has also been on tour with lots of bands including The Spice Girls and Faithless. Read more about Chris’ business here:
In between attending the workshops, socialising, enjoying the lovely gardens and having my hand massage, I didn’t have time for anything else!
To sum up the morning was a huge success and I was so pleased for Victoria and Becky who organised it, for those who presented at it and the lovely team of helpers who ensured the day ran so smoothly.
I came away feeling refreshed and energised, having met lots of lovely people, having been introduced to some new crafts and having a huge reminder of how making time to be creative really is worthwhile. It isn’t easy when you have so many things clawing for your attention, especially if you are working full time and have a family but it really is worth making that time, the benefits are huge.
The next Gather event is taking place on 22nd June. This event is called Bloom & Flourish and is more focused on creativity for self expression and confidence. Details will be listed shortly here:
Here’s wishing Victoria and Becky the greatest success with their new venture which has taken off with resounding success!