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Craft It Yourself

Craft It Yourself started (25th July at 8pm on Channel 4), we caught up with the presenters Ant Anstead, nd Robin Johnson and Clemency Green to discuss crafting

Craft It Yourself started (25th July at 8pm on Channel 4), we caught up with the presenters Ant Anstead, nd Robin Johnson and Clemency Green to discuss crafting

Tell us a bit about yourself and why you love the do-it-yourself concept?
Ant: Like a typical boy, I grew up making stuff and rolling up my sleeves and experimenting with materials and styles. I had a knack for building things with my hands and turned my passion for making into a career as a car builder. I build bespoke one off cars for clients all over the world, and have a great passion for building the unique with each car that I've built had a part of me in it, forever. There's no greater feeling than standing back and saying 'I made that'.

Robin: Making things has always been part of my life, right from the start. We had a workshop in the basement of our house, which was full of tools and materials. It was the most perfect place for a kid like me, I used to make swords, airplanes and go-karts from a young age.
My father is a ceramicist and used to work as a tradesman, and he had a do-it-yourself and make-do-and-mend mentality, which was passed down from his father. Spending time at work with my dad gave me an appreciation of all kinds of skills and crafts, I wanted to learn how to do everything and use all the tools. I found it far more satisfying making stuff than playing with toys.
Roll on a few years, and my passion for making steered me into teaching, where I taught Design and Technology at secondary school and college, ending up as Head of Design at a school in Sussex. Setting up my company, Johnson Bespoke, I have the chance to work with all different materials from wood and metal, to composites and paper. I find designing and making so satisfying and fulfilling. I absolutely love learning new things all the time and the feeling of achievement when I've made something new from start-to-finish. It's great to stand back at the end of a project and think 'I made that'.

Clem: I would describe myself as a craft enthusiast! I love learning new crafts and I'll give anything a go. I bake a lot of cakes, weddings, birthdays, and I think if you're a hands-on creative person then there are a lot of transferrable skills.
I find the process of making something from scratch so rewarding, there's something really satisfying about creating something unique or mastering a new skill. And you have the bonus of knowing that what you have made is one-of-a-kind.


What makes this programme different from previous TV shows, and is there room for another crafting programme?
Ant: There's always room for shows about making! Because there's a real hunger for it! It's a sector that inspires people. This is a real show, we don't always succeed, and we start a make in real time and see what happens. The three of us have great chemistry, humour and clearly enjoy what we do. Often the failures are better than the success!

Robin: I think our show takes a new look at craft, mixing traditional and modern in a way that tells the real story of what we're making. If some things we makes are difficult and time consuming, we're honest about it - we don't just say "it's easy" or "anyone can do it" as that would de-value the craft itself. Some crafts are easy, many are not, and even the easy ones are hard to master. I'd like to think that we're exposing people to things they might not have seen before, and encouraging people to have a go; either at home or seeking out a craftsperson to learn from. Craft-based programmes on TV can be such a beautiful thing to watch and totally inspirational and aspirational too!

Clem: There's absolutely room for another crafting show! There are so many things to try, and inspiration is everywhere. I love this show because we get to try so many different crafts from quilting to woodwork, glassblowing to felting. No crafting stone has been left unturned! I think there's something for everyone, no matter if you are the most experienced maker or a complete novice. One of the things that I really like is that where things have gone a bit wrong, or not completely to plan, we have left those bits in - because that's what happens in real life when you're learning to make things - it doesn't always come completely naturally or end up being perfect the first time around, but for me, so much of the joy is in the learning. I also really like the fact that everything that we learn to make follows a theme and goes towards making over a room - it's brilliant to see all the things we have worked on come together.

Do you think traditional crafts have a place in today's modern society?
Ant: Absolutely! I would much rather my children made me a birthday card or gift than shop bought one! There's a charm and love to homemade items that will never go.

Robin: People spend all their time rushing around, and our lives are more and more technologically driven, and things that require total undivided attention for long periods of time are few and far between. Craft cannot only teach people how to make great things, it's lovely to feel absorbed - it's almost meditative. It can be a great self-confidence booster, and also a way of earning money too, now made easier now with online crafts marketplaces like Etsy and Folksy. With social media now, it means that people all over the world can share what they've made.
There is also a huge resurgence in crafts at the moment, from high end companies like William and Son selling top-end luxury goods all of which are exquisite craft made items to the many craft fairs and new pop-up events all over the place. I think it's a great time to be a craftsperson, and there's inspiration and opportunity everywhere.

Clem: Absolutely, in a world where everything is going at a million miles an hour and so many things are mass produced it's wonderful to see something that someone has poured time, energy and love in to. Plus you get huge brownie points from your pals if you turn up with a homemade cake or present, it does somehow seem to mean more.

Is it important to learn to make things yourself?
Ant: I believe so yes. I believe the skills required to make things stretch far beyond the task. It takes patience, creativity and vision, and it's a great way to bring people together.

Robin: of course, if you ask a former DT teacher that question, the answer is going to be YES of course! It's so important, not just for the skills to put up a shelf or hang a picture, but the joy of making things yourself is unparalleled. The skills that you learn include problem solving, critical thinking, spatial awareness, and are totally transferable to everyday life. And of course, giving yourself the opportunity to feel the sense of accomplishment too.

Clem: I think it's really important, mainly because it's fun! But also because, in an increasingly digital world, there's a certain romanticism about creating something with your own two hands - if you make it yourself it immediately becomes less disposable. It also enables you to share ideas and skills with other people, who love making things as much as you do. The craft world and its community is overwhelming positive, and there's a warm, generous heart beating under all that crochet and felting!

What trends have you seen for the home this year?
Ant: According to Clem, I'm the worst person to talk about trends. I lack any sense of fashion or current vibes. At my home, I'm currently building, and the one task I set the builder was to retain as many original features as possible. I have a Victorian home and recently featured an exposed brick wall and old cast iron fireplace in my bedroom. Original quirky features will always remain on trend.

Robin: I'm not really too hot on trends either! Luckily, we have Clem for that. A lot of my customers have been asking for plain and understated furniture recently, lots of birch plywood for example as well as fusion pieces, mixing live edge timber with glass and polished metal. I really like a subtle nod to industrial design in the home, without going all-out and making it seem cold or harsh.

Clem: I love the trend for having lots of plants, succulents and cacti about the house, it immediately brings a room to life. But you can also get the look using botanical or tropical prints on the walls or fabrics, and if, like me, you aren't the most green-fingered, you can get some amazing faux flowers and plants.
In the first episode of Craft it Yourself I made some lovely pressed leaves in glass frames, so simple but they look really pretty. In terms of other trends that you can craft yourself - concrete is a good one, it looks really current but it's surprisingly easy to make some of the smaller projects at home from planters, tea light holders, book ends. Oh and I'm a little bit obsessed with anything marble at the moment - particularly when paired with copper or bronze.

What craft did you enjoy learning about the most on the show and why?
Ant: Hands down I loved glass blowing! It was a hoot! It's one of those items that can be taken for granted, as we own so much glass. It's tricky but an achievable skill, and so rewarding to have something to use at the end! I can't recommend it enough!

Robin: I enjoyed all the crafts that I had a chance to try, but my stand-out favourite was jewellery making. I'd done a little bit in the past but had always wanted to make a ring so when I got the chance to do this I was over the moon. My mentor, Tom McEwan, is an absolute master as well as a really lovely guy, and I was really happy with the outcome, even if it wasn't perfect but I guess that's part of the joy of it all.

Clem: That's a properly tricky one! So many of the crafts that I learnt I totally fell in love with such as forging a knife was special because they were something completely new and it was all fire and hammers! Watercolour painting on cakes was really delicate and intricate. I've made and decorated a lot of cakes so adding another technique to my repertoire was great. And then there was giant knitting, which was amazing because of the scale of the thing! Plus it looked super impressive and really was not very tricky at all once you have the hang of it it's really relaxing and it's like knitting therapy!

Tune into Channel for on 25th July at 8pm to view Craft It Yourself or to find out more visit www.channel4.com/programmes/craft-it-yourself

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