Creating the Environment That Will Make You Love Your Workshop

I love running my craft workshops and have been regularly running them from my home for a while. However the Il Magpie workshop environment has not been all that I would wish for and I worried that this affected the overall customer experience. Our long, narrow kitchen was too small for much movement and it was difficult to separate the work in progress, completed work and the refreshments provided. As workshop environments go it was adequate but not ideal.

This blog post takes you on a tour of the exciting changes that are happening at the nest to make YOUR workshop experience more enjoyable.

Now the Il Magpie workshop environment is getting a radical make over! It will give forthcoming workshops an inspiring & practical space to get creative in.

However at the moment it looks like this:

Building work well under way to make the Il Magpie workshop environment an inspiring and practical place

What Is Happening?

A rethink of almost the entire downstairs footprint is giving us a much larger, squarer kitchen.

These quick sketches of the old layout versus the new layout really give you an idea of the better use of space.

The kitchen units will form a U Shape around the farthest end of the kitchen. The computer generated picture the kitchen company have given us shows the room when looked at from inside the back door (I am beginning to think that they know us too well, including the bottle of wine!)

Detailed plans to make the Il Magpie workshop environment an inspiring and practical place

The under stairs cupboards have been improved and extended. They will contain a cloak room, extra storage space and a chalk board on the outside of one.

These three doorways will contain a cloak room and more storage with a chalk board on one door

Finally there is a re-vamped and easily accessible bathroom situated just inside the door for workshoppers convenience.

How Will The Changes To The Workshop Environment Improve The Experience?

This means that the workshop environment will be much easier for attendees to move around, getting new perspectives on their work in progress or picking up further materials.

Plug sockets in the floor under the central work table allow sewing machines, hot glue guns and other electrical tools to be plugged in without trailing cords. Plugs with USB sockets will allow me to use more technology to help in the teaching and learning process.

These brushed steel double electrical sockets mounted in the floor will make using sewing machines much safer

The space now has two windows and French doors allowing lots more natural light in and 10 recessed LED spotlights throughout the rest of the room simulate daylight when none of the real stuff is available.

There will be a gallery wall in clear line of sight from the work table that students can use for inspiration or display.

This cheerful yellow wall will showcase a gallery of inspiration and if you look carefully under the building supplies you can just see the pew.

A separate space for relaxing with a hot drink and a slice of cake is now possible and will be furnished with a converted pew and side tables to let students chat and socialise.

At the other end of the table a movable trolley allows students to watch videos or presentations of techniques they are learning on repeat.  A blackboard on the door of one of the cupboards can be used to brainstorm ideas or write reminders for drying times. Another cupboard hides a cloakroom where coats can be safely stored away from paint and dye.

Finally there is a re-vamped and easily accessible bathroom situated just inside the door for work-shoppers convenience.

The downstairs work-shoppers bathroom with the tiles just starting to go on the wall

When Can You Come And Try It Out?

Work is scheduled to finish in early May so sign up to my mailing list below to be the first to know when the grand launch event is and what workshops there are for you to enjoy!
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Pamper Your Creativity – Spend A Day Gift Wrapping With Jane Means

Last week I spent a day simply gift wrapping with Jane Means, doyenne of the the art, and I have never left a workshop feeling as pampered & relaxed. I was proud of my creations and confident to replicate them.

Any person can sometimes feel as if their creativity has “run out” in the day to day grind of just staying afloat and I must admit that before the day I wondered how gift wrapping could fill  six hours (without the mountain of presents every parent wades through prior to Christmas Day).

Jane Means is the UK’s wonder of wrapping.  A professional gift wrapper and designer she has wrapped for royalty and provides gift wrapping services for brand like Dior and Chanel. She also runs day long courses for members of the public to learn some of her secrets to making gifts look stunning.

Disclaimer: - I received a complimentary place on this day course. However all opinions are my own and the provider of the course has had no input in this review.

Arrival and Welcome:

First of all, let me be clear. This isn’t a class or a course. It’s an experience.  From the moment you travel up the long drive to the Lainston House Hotel (other, similar, venues are available) you feel like a heroine in your own version of Jane Austen (or Jilly Cooper!). It would be a difficult venue to get to with public transport but quite a few of Jane’s other venues are much more centrally located.

Is your creativity in need of pampering? A Jane Means' gift wrapping course will be just the ticket...

As you arrive to a door it is opened by a Concierge and you are guided to the room where the course is being held.  Jane and her lovely assistant Caroline greet you in the friendliest way possible and introduce you to the vast array of Tea and Coffee available.  The surroundings may be posh but no-one stands on ceremony!

For 10-15 minutes there is a chance to have a cup of tea and a biscuit (from Fortnum’s no less, Jane had a meeting there earlier in the week and thought of us!) and a quick chat with the other attendees. My shoulders dropped and I relaxed, already feel like a queen.

I took my place. in the room and we were off…

The Morning:

You start by learning (or should I say re-learning) how to wrap a simple box.  Boxes are weapon number one in Jane’s arsenal of wrapping weapons. She recommends buying postal boxes via Amazon in a sensible size to fit a lot of your gifts. Voila, a pair of slippers or a framed picture become MUCH easier to wrap impeccably.

Is your creativity in need of pampering? A Jane Means' gift wrapping course will be just the ticket...

We learned how to guesstimate the about of paper we needed and the secret of working on the area farthest away from yourself. It sounds counter-intuitive but once I tried it I was converted.  We finished our ends symmetrically and I revelled in the feel of such lovely wrapping paper under my fingers.  As I am a self confessed stationary addict this was one of the best things!

Before the course I was concerned that I wouldn’t have the patience to fiddle endlessly with frills and frou-frou.  Although I like pretty things I don’t do fussy. I needn’t have worried. Through her job Jane has developed an endless armoury of no fuss, fail safe approaches to wrapping conundrums that get the job done quickly and efficiently.

Then we graduated to the big leagues…

Is your creativity in need of pampering? A Jane Means' gift wrapping course will be just the ticket...

We each produced a pleated effect for the top/front of a parcel (again, much easier than it’s sophisticated appearance would have you think). Then it was onto gift bags.

Jane’s bold assertion was that “You’ll never buy a gift bag again”. I was sceptical that it could be so easy to make a gift bag that I would truly hate wasting the money on buying one. I was wrong.  With the help of a hole punch it was a revelation how little fuss it was to create something gorgeous and personal.

Is your creativity in need of pampering? A Jane Means' gift wrapping course will be just the ticket...

From there it was an easy jump to gift envelopes and using natural products to prettify the envelopes. Not bad for a piece of wrapping paper eh?

Homemade gift bags that look good and are easy to make

I will be raiding the charity shops for artificial greenery to spruce up my parcels!

Bows were the next challenge, tailored and freestyle, and continued to introduce more “props”. A bell on our wreath ribbon, a rose made from wired ribbon

Is your creativity in need of pampering? A Jane Means' gift wrapping course will be just the ticket...

Then it was the turn of every Mum’s nemesis, the bottle.  Jane advised us to use tissue paper and cellophane and showed us how to hold the bottle, gathering the paper in one hand.  It was then a simple step to add more pieces of flamboyant tissue and ribbon to finish the look.

Is your creativity in need of pampering? A Jane Means' gift wrapping course will be just the ticket...

No-one would believe that inside is a bottle of mineral water!

Then came lunch…

On the terrace…overlooking the park…  WOW!

Is your creativity in need of pampering? A Jane Means' gift wrapping course will be just the ticket...

Photo via Jane Means

Lunch time also provided a chance to shop the beautiful papers and ephemera that Jane had brought with her. Conveniently there was the opportunity to pay by either cash or card (my downfall!) It was a good job we were asked to bring a large carrier bag along with us. I concentrated on buying the stuff that was awkward to get elsewhere. A roll of cellophane, high quality wired ribbon, tear-able double sided tape and I couldn’t resist the most amazing glittery gift wrap!

Is your creativity in need of pampering? A Jane Means' gift wrapping course will be just the ticket...

I also patronised the most amazing Ladies Loo I have ever been in!

Is your creativity in need of pampering? A Jane Means' gift wrapping course will be just the ticket...

The Afternoon:

During the afternoon Jane proved again how well she knew her audience. The Malteasers were passed round and we learned how to wrap a bar of chocolate with no tape at all. I have to admit this was probably the thing that I found the most difficult all day.  I managed a passable effort (decoration hides a lot of sins) but definitely need more practice!

Is your creativity in need of pampering? A Jane Means' gift wrapping course will be just the ticket...

Then came the “Challenge Jane” part of the afternoon. We had been asked to bring along any awkward shaped gifts that we needed help wrapping. Jane rose to the challenge with typical humour and aplomb, wrapping an unusual shaped box of sweets for one participant’s neighbours and a two part gift for my father in law’s birthday.

Is your creativity in need of pampering? A Jane Means' gift wrapping course will be just the ticket...

There was time for a few more tricks and tips… (Tissue Pom Poms anyone!)

Is your creativity in need of pampering? A Jane Means' gift wrapping course will be just the ticket...

Then time was up.  Those six hours flew past and by doing everything “hands on” it boosted my confidence hugely. Jane was an extremely fun and knowledgeable course leader and both she an Caroline showed endless patience.

At the end of the day Jane was happy to pose for photos and sign copies of her book that attendees had purchased.  I already had her book from last Christmas so she even went as far as to sign a sticky label (sourced by Caroline) that I could put inside my book.

Is your creativity in need of pampering? A Jane Means' gift wrapping course will be just the ticket...

I came away with armfuls of parcels, purchases and a copy of Jane’s DVD in case I forgot anything.  I am the proud owner of a certificate to prove that I completed the course and a desperate urge to wrap everything in sight!

My Personal Take Aways From The Day:

  1. I will now always sit at a table to wrap – so much easier.
  2. Work on the side farthest away from you and pre-crease on the edges so that the wrapping holds its shape better.
  3. Buy decent quality wrapping paper. You use less and it looks much better.
  4. If in doubt use brown parcel paper – you can print it, glitter it, sticker it and generally make it fit any occasion.
  5. Double sided sticky tape CAN be the easiest thing to use for wrapping – you just need Jane’s GENIUS hack for making it easy to peel!
  6. Wired ribbon is the bees knees and an essential part of the gift wrapping armoury.
  7. Pick up little bits and bobs as you see them in charity shops or pound stores to use as decorations on gifts.

To Sum Up:

This is an expensive day but the experience and materials you use are the very top quality.  You have fun, relax and feel like Queen for a day. I was inspired and empowered and for me that was the most valuable thing.

Now I plot how to adapt and develop Jane’s strategies for my own use.  How’s your gift wrapping? Do you have tricks and tips that I could use to become more of a wrapping ninja?

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