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From time to time we will post articles about our courses and events and links to things that we think will interest you.


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By Janet, Apr 23 2013 12:58PM

A few weeks ago The Refectory Table played host to 7 makers from the Crafts Council injection programme, 2 officers from the Maker Development Team and a photographer.

Crafts Council had commissioned us to provide a networking experience combined with excellent content for the makers to get to grips with as a group. They were going to be spending a rare day together, away from Crafts Council HQ, getting to know each other and building lasting ties and working relationships.

We wanted their time together to be thought provoking and have lasting value.

We modelled the day on Tell Your Story, one of our most popular courses. The makers spent time exploring their business and personal values, and thinking about how to create stories around those values in order to build meaningful relationships. It was all about creating messages about themselves and their work that would resonate at a deeper level with clients and customers, fostering empathy and helping build understanding and loyalty around their brands.

The day was also very much about the makers finding out about each other, so exercises spent helping each other explore personal and business values helped them build relationships not just as fellow makers but as potential future collaborators.

Some makers brought their wares – and these were used over the lunch and breaks – giving them the opportunity to see each other’s work, handle it and drink and eat from it. There were beautiful blown glass vessels and platters from Michael Ruh’s studio, witty white tableware from Reiko Kaneko and beautiful sculptural wooden kitchen boards from Lee Borthwick. In asking the makers to bring work we also created an opportunity for them to get some great photos of their work in use. Tas, the photographer, somehow managed to make everyone comfortable enough to be unselfconscious whilst he snapped away throughout.

While the makers were discussing ways in which their stories could be told on websites, blogs and social media, the two Crafts Council officers used the day as time out to think about elements of a re-design for the Crafts Council website.

A day at The Refectory Table is designed to provoke those special ‘aha’ moments – where the light bulb goes on and clarity of thinking arrives. The makers worked through a substantial workload and took away pages of notes, and goodie bag and CD of course materials – but still clearly had a lovely day out together.

The deeply social nature of our courses, built around great content and great food, connects people together in a community of ideas and creativity. We keep a conversation going with previous participants (and they with each other) on social media and in real life. This diligence in staying in touch leads to fresh thinking and fruitful collaboration. And that’s what The Refectory Table is really all about.

Thank you to Crafts Council for commissioning this event, and to the makers on the day.

Thanks also to previous course participant Helen Hallows for loaning her work ’Up the Garden Path’ for the day.

You can read more about the day in this article from the May/June edition of Craft & Design Magazine.

The makers were – Samantha Bryan - Brain’s Fairies, Linda Bloomfield - handmade porcelain tableware, Yen Duong - Yen Jewellery, Noorin Khamisani - Outsider Fashion, Lee Borthwick - Installations & sculptural maker, Natascha Wahl for Michael Ruh Glass, Reiko Kaneko - Ceramics.

Photography Tas Kyprianou

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By Janet, Dec 12 2012 02:43PM

Here’s some feedback from our recent 2012 courses –

Fascinating session answering a lot of questions that I have had about social media for years - good food too.

Chris Tribe, Furniture Maker

An open-minded event for anyone working in any field. It was engaging & worthwhile and totally recommended.

Janet Middleton Owner/Director of Starchild baby Shoes

A very valuable day & worthwhile course. I came away with solid areas that I need to work on & with the advice & information given I know I can now achieve them.

Rachael Pinks, Artist

Bloody Amazing. Vibrant & dynamic way of re-booting your business. Worth heaps more than I paid.

Jo Ludbrook, Exotic Cushion Maker

An engaging & thought-provoking day. Left me with a range of tools & techniques that I could utilize with all groups I currently teach.

Sarah Hancox, FE lecturer in Design & Maker

A very relaxed way to consider your business life & career - whilst engaging with like-minded folk.

Dionne Swift, Textile Artist

This event gave me the opportunity I needed to talk about my business and myself in a very safe & relaxed environment.

Helen Rhodes, Artist

A great days training, really tailored to the needs of people attending. Useful for work & professional development.

Emma Watson, freelance Arts Education consultant

Having attended the course, I have actioned many points and have had that illusive paradigm shift I needed. The day was great but the after burn is fantastic.

Rachel White, Training Facilitator

Great food, good company. Step by step ways to put you in touch with yourself.

Helen Hallows, Artist & Designer

Great creative business course in relaxed surroundings with great good. Very good value.

Andrew Findlay, Artist Blacksmith

Thank you! We love what we do. Our 2012 courses are now complete – we look forward to working with you in 2013!

By Janet, Oct 3 2012 04:06PM

The autumn got off to a flying start at The Refectory Table with our Creative Business Away Day.

We’ve designed this particular workshop for people seeking some structured time out to look at their business in the round, diagnose strengths and weaknesses, and get a clear picture of what they need to do to take their business to the next level.

'This event gave me the opportunity I needed to talk about myself and my business in a very safe & relaxed environment.'

Participants arrived between 9.30 and 10am from Norfolk, Nottingham. Loughborough, Liverpool and West Yorkshire and got to meet each other over coffee, fruit and pastries. Janet welcomed everyone and said a few words about The Refectory Table courses and activities, and then Pete set out the shape of the day.

The morning began with Pete coaching the group to look at their individual businesses in detail, working out future directions, sketching out hopes dreams and aspirations, then thinking in pairs about what might get in the way of progress and how to remove any obstacles.

'Pete hit the nail on the head perfectly – reining us in graciously when we needed it – letting us fly when we needed that.'

At lunchtime we all sat at the table to share stories, whilst enjoying a meal of baked salmon, roasted beetroot salad and steamed new potatoes, followed by mixed berry salad with mint.

'Great food, good company. Step by step ways to put you in touch with yourself.'

In the afternoon the group focused on working out how to cultivate new customers and develop the right products and services. This was followed by our ‘marketing swap shop’ – everyone compared notes about what they felt were the best marketing tools and techniques – a really useful session.

'A very relaxed way to consider your business life & career - whilst engaging with like minded folk.'

The mid-afternoon energy slump was avoided by taking a working break for refreshments with both fruit and a home-baked cake on offer. We’ve named this break a ‘crumbhuddle’ after our twitter name.

In the final session everyone compared notes with their fellow participants, got support and feedback from Pete and the other group members before setting out an action plan to help them move forward with the development of their business.

'Very thought provoking - made me think about my personal aims for progression'.

After a final few words from Pete the day wrapped up at 4pm, contact details and warm goodbyes were exchanged and everyone headed home – tired, but full of energy and ideas.

'Amazing. Vibrant & dynamic way of re-booting your business. A wonderful atmosphere & great food. Worth heaps more than I paid.'

Any creatives out there who need a swift soft kick into a new creative tsunami have a look at The Refectory Table's brilliant courses. I spent yesterday with a great bunch of people zooming through the stratosphere of ideas.'

The Refectory Table team works with people in small groups and aims to help you get better at the business of being creative.

To find out more about the Creative Business Away Day click here.

You will also find feedback here on Helen Hallows blog

All quotes are from participants attending the day. You will find their websites here -

Helen Hallows, Art, ceramics & prints

Jo Ludbrook, Exotic Cushions

Diana Morrison, Designer

Helen Rhodes, Artist

Dionne Swift, Textiles

Blog - musings from The Refectory Table

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