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Reading around craft

Did you know that you can buy our books on, a marvellous innovation over the last couple of years, that is an effective alternative to buying on the more familiar online routes (you know who I mean).

After the marathon of writing and editing Intelligent Hands, I’ve created a reading list of books on that are mentioned in the book. That way, if you’re interested you can find the books and benefit local independent bookshops at the same time. If you click on the links below you’ll see how it works.

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Look inside our books

Quickthorn has been going for just over one year and come the launch of Intelligent Hands this week, we’ll have four independently produced books to share with you. If you click on the books below it allows you to have a look inside.
The launch for Intelligent Hands will be at Crafts Alive – The Maker’s Hands, appropriately, at Rodmarton Manor, Gloucestershire. I’ll be there with Paul Harper, Cleo Mussi and Chief Executive of Heritage Crafts, Daniel Carpenter. The even is on Sunday 17 Sept at 2.15, tickets are free for the event, but you do need to book and have a ticket to the fair.

If you’re planning ahead Intelligent Hands authors will also be at the Stroud Book Festival at the Trinity Rooms on 10 November in great company with many other diverse publications.

There are plans afoot for many more, so do follow us on Instagram and sign up to our newsletter for news of events, offers and prizes ;—)

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Intelligent Hands | Why making is a skill for life

Image: Cleo Mussi Mosaics, photo Carmel King

Making is good for us. Using our hands benefits our cognitive development, improves our mental agility and can have a positive impact on our mental health, too. We know this, intuitively and intellectually yet, recent years have seen a decline in craft and creative education in schools (60% fewer young people have taken art and design GCSE over the last 12 years) and a shift from practical to theoretical learning models in higher education. 

The impact on the craft sector is evident. Young people are leaving school with no idea that craft-based careers are even possible, and graduates of craft-based degree courses are entering the workplace with so few hand skills that their employers must train them from scratch. 

But the ripples of this decline are being felt in wider society too. Disruptive behaviour in school, for example, has reached unprecedented levels, with referral units for children who have been excluded from mainstream schools warning they have reached capacity. And as we hurtle into the fourth industrial revolution, we risk losing the craft skills which make humans unique. As Tristram Hunt, Director of the Victoria & Albert Museum wrote in a recent piece for the Observer, “the digital age demands more, not less creativity in schools and families. It is through play and imagination that we can rise above the robots.” (‘Move over, stuffed teddies. Museums today need more to stimulate young minds,’ 24th June 2023).

Intelligent Hands: Why making is a Skill for Life investigates the cognitive benefits of craft in life-long learning and brings together existing research and information in an accessible format to make the case for working with our hands. 
The authors are on a mission to enlighten the uninitiated  and persuade the nay-sayers who dismiss craft as no more than a nice hobby or believe that doing things with your hands is for those who can’t use their heads. And for the converted, they offer ammunition for funding applications, inspiration for those who plan school curricula and further reading for particular specialities. 

Divided into three sections and interwoven with the personal stories of ten makers, the book looks at how physical labouring became separated from academic study, how we became divorced from the materials that surround us and the important role that the crafts and creativity play in education, not just for the lower streams, but for everyone. 

Intelligent Hands | Contents
Foreword by Jay Blades MBE, co-chair of Heritage Crafts and presenter of The Repair Shop on BBC. 

Zoe Collis at Two Rivers Paper, photo: Alison Jane Hoare

Intelligent Hands | Part I – Mind + Body
The nature of work, mind vs body and what constitutes ‘good work.’ Why is the academic valued more than practical work? 
Plus stories from

  • George Siddons– PPE graduate turned apprentice carpenter 
  • Zoe Collis – Journeyman papermaker
  • Daniel Carpenter – CEO Heritage Crafts

Intelligent Hands Part II – Education + Learning
On apprenticeships, sloyd and experiential learning. A brief history of progressive educational theories

Plus Stories from:

  • Jay Patel – architect, alumnus of The Creative Dimension Trust
  • Christian Ovonlen – artist, member of learning disabilities arts organisation IntoArt  
  • Lasmin Salmon – textile artist, member of learning disabilities arts organisation Action Space
  • Horace Lindezey – artist, member of learning disabilities arts organisation Venture Arts 
  • Helen Brown – art teacher at a Pupil Referral Unit 
  • Dr Bryson Gore – ‘Inventor in Residence’ at a Nottingham Primary School
Christian Ovonlen at Intoart, the winner of the Brookfield Properties Craft Award 2022 photo: Alun Callender

Intelligent Hands | Part III – Wellbeing + Activism
Therapeutic craft, touch and flow. How making can help control impulsivity (and change the world).

Plus stories from

  • Sam & Jacob – members of Nailsworth Community Workshop 
  • Sue Brown – print artist. The focus is on her lockdown project Same Sea, Different Boat
  • Ags & Kam – members of London-based maker space Everyone’s Warehouse
  • Sarah Corbett, The Craftivist Collective
  • Betsan Corkhill, Stitchlinks
  • Betsy Greer, ‘Craftivism’

Intelligent Hands | Jay Blades MBE
Jay is dyslexic and, after leaving school at 15 with no qualifications, he found his true vocation in restoration and supporting young and vulnerable people to find their own access to work. 

Known across the UK as the host of BBC One’s extraordinarily successful The Repair Shop, it is perhaps no coincidence that his belief in the restoration of objects stems from a belief that humans too can be repaired, fixed and rejuvenated. His restoration company, Jay & Co, aims to ’save the world’ through craft. Working with recycled, reclaimed and reused materials, accessories, furniture, and fabric, they create pieces that are as good as new, and help develop a more holistic approach to interiors. Jay is currently co-chair of Heritage Crafts.

Intelligent Hands | Authors

Charlotte Abrahams is a writer and curator specialising in design and the applied arts. She trained at Central St Martin’s and since then has written regularly for the national and international press, including Guardian Weekend and the Financial Times. She is the author of several books about pattern and wallpaper and one on the Danish concept of Hygge. She is less good at making than the people she writes about, but she is teaching herself to darn. 

Katy Bevan is a writer and educator specialising in craft and mother of a disabled child. She is the editor of many books on craft and writes for textile and craft magazines such as Selvedge and a trustee of Heritage Crafts. Previously at the Crafts Council she founded the publishing company Quickthorn Ltd in 2022. She blogs at The Crafter , runs workshops in darning, crochet and knitting and is mostly to be found making something.

Intelligent Hands | Launch event Crafts Alive, Rodmarton Manor 13–17 Sept, panel discussion 2.15pm 17 Sept. 

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New book: Intelligent Hands

Quickthorn are pleased to announce a new book for this autumn, Intelligent Hands: Why making is a skill for life.

The intelligent hands of artist Cleo Mussi photo: Carmel King

Intelligent Hands is the work of authors Charlotte Abrahams and Katy Bevan, both of whom have a background in the world of craft and design. Recent years have seen a decline in craft and creative education in schools and a shift from practical to theoretical learning models in higher education. Young people are leaving school with no idea that craft-based careers are even possible, and graduates of craft-based degree courses are entering the workplace with so few hand skills that their employers must train them from scratch. 

Where did the idea come from that white-collar work should be rewarded more with money and status than that of a blue-collar worker? Intelligent Hands looks at this phenomenon, the historical precedents that led us here and why hand skills are crucial in education and for lifelong learning. 
The authors are on a mission to enlighten the uninitiated and persuade the nay-sayers who dismiss craft as no more than a nice hobby or believe that doing things with your hands is for those who can’t use their heads. And for the converted, we offer more grist to your mills, ammunition for funding applications, inspiration for those who plan school curricula and further reading for your speciality. 

Intelligent Hands brings existing research and information together in an accessible format for those for those who don’t have time to trawl through all the information that is already out there. With a brief look at the history of practical education, we have collated some of the research that has been done in disparate fields to show that combining physical ways of learning with the conceptual in education is the way forward. 
We include the personal stories of ten people who have discovered that working with their hands has improved their quality of life. Through the three sections of the book, we look at how physical labouring became separated from academic study, how we became divorced from the materials that surround us and the important role that the crafts and creativity play in education, not just for the lower streams, but for everyone. In short, how making is a skill for life. 

Intelligent Hands will be published in September 2023. To find out about our latest news and events please sign up for the newsletter below. We don’t get around to posting very often so you won’t be inundated with emails 😊

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On mending at Toast

Last week On Mending was at Toast for the launch of Toast Renewed in Notting Hill, with a discussion on mending with author Celia Pym, Jessica Smulders Cohen, Shoreditch Toast repairer, led by Yasmin Jones-Henry, strategist for @raeburn_design and founder of #TheLabE20

Solvable problems
Celia, Yasmin and Jessica talked about the empowering nature of mending and how handling the work develops our material intelligence. Celia said: ‘A hole is a solvable problem, it’s very grounding’. Jessica talked about the soothing, repetitive nature of stitching and how that kind of material intelligence, learning with her hands, has helped her over the years. Yasmin mentioned her work with LabE20 and how setting up repair workshops has increased young people’s capacity to learn through their senses.

Wellies mended with Sugru

The Toast repair sheme
Toast now have six on-site repair specialists around the country. Their new project features items that never made it to the shop floor due to imperfections, that have been repaired and are now better than new. Toast gifted attendees to the talk a copy of On Mending: Stories of damage and repair by Celia Pym. They also received some swatches of Toast fabrics to do their own repairs. 

It’s not all about textiles
At the event I met the writer Katie Treggiden and Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh (above left) who literally invented Sugru! So cool. If you haven’t tried mending things with Sugru, where have you been?

Events Coming up

Meet Make Mend is this Wednesday, 1 March at Trinity Rooms, Stroud. 7–9pm. Learn to darn and share your mending conundrums, no experience is necessary  Book here.
We’ll be at a pop-up Death Cafe at Stroud Brewery this Tuesday evening. At a Death Cafe people gather to discuss death. Their stated objective is ‘to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives’.
Join authors Jane Harris and Jimmy Edmonds at The Freud Museum in London for a talk on 15 March. They will be joined by author of Listen, Dr Kathryn Mannix. Book tickets on the Freud Museum website.
They will also be taking part in the Stroud Film Festival with an event on 19 March showing the film Pathways Through Loss directed by Danai Papadatou. After the film Danai will be taking questions from the audience directly from Athens. The q&a will be supported by The Good Grief Project and Compassionate Communities. Sunday 19 March, 3pm Trinity Rooms, Field Road, Stroud GL5 2HZ (across the road from Stroud Maternity ward).

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Book events coming up

We’ve had a busy few weeks with some great book events. It’s been so good to make contact with real people. For the many who couldn’t get tickets to hear Freddie Robins and Celia Pym at Loop, there is a film of the whole thing, so grab a cup of tea and settle in for a listen. If you have any more questions for Celia and Freddie, just drop me a line. There’s lots more planned so sign up to the newsletter and follow on Instagram to be the first to know.

1 December
The authors of When Words are Not Enough: Creative responses to grief, Jane Harris and Jimmy Edmonds, will be in conversation with Sophie Pierce, one of the contributors to the book. Sophie lost her son Felix and talks about how she has managed to carry through cold-water swimming and the letters she writes to him. Dartington Trust Bookshop, Totnes, Devon. 1 Dec, 6pm More information and booking here.

Sophie Pierce Photo: Dan Bolt

2 December
Celia Pym, author of On Mending: Stories of damage and repair, will be online hosted by the lovely Tatter Library in Brooklyn, New York. Discussing individual stories from the book, she will explore mending as small acts of care; mending and the body and why the softening of clothing to take on the shape of its owner can be moving. After the talk Celia and Jordana Martin from Tatter will be in conversation about care and repair in textiles and the body. More information and booking here.

Elizabeth’s Cardigan, mended by Celia Pym
Judith Kleinman at Ink84, North London

4 December
Finding Quiet Strength has been highlighted by Juno Magazine as one of their top picks for Christmas books to gift. It’s such a beautiful hardback object.
Author Judith Kleinman will be at Highbury bookshop Ink84 to give an introduction to Finding Quiet Strength, the philosophy that underpins her new book. Bring your yoga mat to get involved. Sunday 4 Dec, 11am. More information and booking here. Judith will also be hosting a longer residential retreat at Hawkwood College, Stroud, 20–22 January. Something to look forward to. More information and booking here.

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Flexible resilience

Some flexible resilience is something we could all do with right now. Being able to recognise our habits and make conscious choices from a place of quietness is a skill. Anxiety almost seems a default for so many of us, we need to find our inner smile, that place of quiet. The Alexander Technique is sometimes described as a martial art, a practical philosophy to help us to make good choices. Here’s Alexander practitioner and teacher Nick Chapman talking to Judith Kleinman about her book, Finding Quiet Strength and how she came up with the title. He has great praise for the tactile nature of the book and the beautiful design by Chris J Bailey.

Judith Kleinman is running a residential retreat at the lovely Hawkwood: Centre for Future Thinking 20–22 January. What a great gift for someone or a treat to look forward to in one of the darker months of the year. This course will explore how to develop a practice that creates flexible resilience, strength and ease in everyday life. It will help to find ways to let go of old habits that might have led to discomfort or pain and explore new intentions with a quiet, powerful, purpose and poise. There will be movement practices based on the ancient wisdoms of Yoga and Tai Chi as well as everyday movement and breath work.

Illustration from the book Finding Quiet Strength by Judith Kleinman

The course will develop the ideas from Judith’s new book, Finding Quiet Strength and will create a unique experience of learning that balances visual, aural and kinaesthetic learning and flexible resilience. This approach will integrate and emphasise the interconnection of the mind, body and emotions. We will work on how to connect to ourselves, and our choices through constructive integrated thinking.

Find out more at Hawkwood: Centre for Future Thinking

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Grief + Memory

The deeply personal stories in When Words are Not Enough are moving and restorative. They tell tales of grief and memory written by those that have survived. The upcoming mini online festival organised by the folk behind The Good Grief Fest is based around these ideas of grief + memory. Authors Jane Harris and Jimmy Edmonds will be featuring online 6.30 Friday 28 October when they will be in conversation with Dr Lesel Dawson, Associate Professor in Literature and Culture at the University of Bristol, specialising in grief, Renaissance literature and the history of the emotions. She’s leading a research project on Creative Grieving that explores how art and the imagination can enable the bereaved to express and process their loss.

Jane will also be joining Julia Samuel and Nadja Ensink-Teich on Sat Oct 29th at 11am to talk about continuing bonds, grief and memory.

“What we understand now is that although the person we love has died, the relationship with them very much continues, and so the love with that person never dies…and we love them in absence rather than presence.” 

Julia Samuel

Much like the Victorians, we now understand that relationships endure – and even evolve – beyond death. The theory of continuing bonds explores our ongoing relationships with loved ones who have died and how the strength of these relationships can impact our experience of grief and memory. In this panel session we will hear from people who have integrated their lost loved ones into the lives of the living, and how these continuing bonds have provided comfort and continuity during times of pain and upheaval.
Register free for any of these events at and you can buy books from the event here. This is a short film about the book.

When Words are Not Enough: Creative responses to grief, by Jane Harris and Jimmy Edmonds
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Tuning into your breath

Juno is one of our favourite magazines that supports a natural approach to family life. Assistant editor, Alice Ellerby, reflects on the need to tune into your breath and gives Finding Quiet Strength a lovely review on the way.

“In this book Kleinman offers a practical philosophy that helps us approach life with a sense of calm and confidence that comes from being centred, in balance and grounded. The aim here isn’t to solve or avoid life’s challenges – they are inevitable – but to give us the capacity to navigate these challenges without intense feelings of stress and anxiety. If we are calm, we can think clearly; if we can think clearly, we can make conscious decisions and avoid acting in fight, flight or freeze mode. The practice draws on the discoveries of F.M. Alexander, and is also influenced by ancient traditions of chi kung, tai chi and yoga. I know from my own yoga practice how beneficial breath, movement and stillness can be for mental equilibrium. When stressed, it’s easy to think you have no time for lying on the floorand tuning into your breath; but then I find that’s exactly what is needed to recalibrate. The book is full of physical exercises and body positions to try to help you find this balance, and is beautifully illustrated with ink line drawings. Kleinman is spot on in her description of the book as ‘a gentle start to building some skills of self-regulation and embodied resilience'”. Alice Ellerby, Juno

Finding Quiet Strength is a beautiful ethically made cloth-bound hardback that would make a thoughtful gift. We all need a little prompting to help us to tune into our breath. Printed in the UK on FSC paper. Order through Hawthorn Press.

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Talking about grief

Jane Harris, Jimmy Edmonds and Dr Kathryn Mannix
talking about grief
Talking about grief

We’re not often comfortable talking about death and grief, so we’re delighted that ‘When Words are Not Enough’ is part of Stroud Book Festival that this year includes luminaries such as Ali Smith and Ian McEwan. Authors Jane Harris and Jimmy Edmonds will be talking about their experience of bereavement and how they responded to it with foreword writer, Dr Kathryn Mannix, bestselling author of ‘Listen’ and ‘With the End in Mind’.
When Words are Not Enough will be launching as part of the Good Grief Festival, with an online event 28 Oct, 6.30pm. The Good Grief Festival is a virtual festival of love and loss. On October 28 and 29 Oct, their first mini-festival will take place on the theme of Grief + Memory.

The book includes the stories of thirteen other bereaved people and how their creativity helped them to survive. We’ve had such lovely reviews about the book, so don’t just take our word for it.

‘The word I keep coming back to with this book is beautiful, not a word I would usually associate with grief. But this book is rich in detail and compassion, it is authoritative and kind. Through their immense loss and pain Jane and Jimmy have done an extraordinary thing and redefined grief as love turned inside out. They make grief less scary. I have not read a better book on grief.’ Annalisa Barbieri, The Guardian

When Words are Not Enough offers that rarest of bereavement resources – a visual and verbal feast and a sustained look into the heart of grief that both acknowledges the raw anguish of tragic loss and invites the reader to share a fascinating and varied gathering of responses to it. I recommend it highly to all those who mourn, and all those who strive to accompany them through the experience.’ Prof Robert Neimeyer, Director, Portland Institute for Loss and Transition

Pick up a copy of the book and get it signed, for yourself or as a gift for someone you may be supporting. Book tickets for 5 Nov 2022, 3.30 Lansdown Hall, from the Sub Rooms or through the link below.