Wednesday, 17 May 2006

how to host a crafting get away

I've been asked for advice on organising craft get-togethers and though I do not consider myself an expert I am always willing to do what I can to get craft happening! It wasn't much work to organise our recent retreat and I am already keen to be there again. Email me if you are in or near Melbourne and want to be kept informed.

So for what it's worth here's what we did:
  1. Find a possible venue. Think space! The place we had (located by the ever crafty Cath) had a big dining room and living room that were joined, so there was plenty of space. We were able to spread out and because there was also a big table in the kitchen we didn't need to pack stuff up for meals. We had 4 sewing machines and an overlocker so we had a sewing table and a cutting table. There was also couches and armchairs for knitters, hand sewers and embroiderers. There were 5 bedrooms and a couple of people shared big double beds because they already knew each other and were fine about that. Good to check this out with potential people when matching beds to numbers. A well kitted kitchen helps if there are foodies on board (there was) and you want to eat well. Walks were also encouraged by the lovely scenery and gorgeous garden around the venue. Although totally unplanned, the crappy mobile reception no doubt helped some mums not get sucked into domestic affairs long distance! Also important to try and keep costs down, and not require too much driving.
  2. Draft up some possible dates that work for the venue, you and don't clash with school holidays or other big events that affect lots of people. Remember you need a LOT of lead time. 2 or 3 months might seem excessive, but can melt away before you know it. You are much more likely to get people if you give them plenty of notice. It also gives you more opportunities for word of mouth etc.
  3. Work out what boundaries you want around activities. We opted for a totally unstructured inclusive model - anyone who wanted to come was welcome. As a result we had a dazzling array of craft activities. You may, however feel that space or time constraints make a specific orientation better - knitting or sewing or doll-making or felting for example. You might also feel like you want a certain level of expertise, so everyone could get on with their own stuff, though I personally loved the diversity of absolute beginners to total pros. You might also want to consider a workshop format where everyone or some people run sessions to teach other people something specific. We toyed with this but ultimately abandoned structure. In practice there was a fair bit of teaching and learning going on though.
  4. Get together an email list of people who might be interested, or who might know someone who is interested. Then write a really enticing email, post on your blog and in any other forums you have access to - like the window of your favourite craft shop. Talk a bit about the venue and how fabulous it is, be clear about potential dates and a timeframe for deciding between potential dates. If you are going for an inclusive model reassure people that this is not a professionals deal, that everyone is more than welcome and willing to work with beginners on projects. Tell people about cost, including when you need a commitment and deposit by (we took 50% because the venue required that at the time of booking), how people are going to get the money to you, and any aspects which aren't negotiable. For us you had to pay for both nights even if you couldn't get down till Saturday morning because that was how the booking worked, you had to be prepared to contribute to communal meals and share bedrooms and you couldn't bring kids.
  5. Once you have your minimum number you are good to go on the finer organisational points. Book your venue. If you reach your maximum number make sure to inform people that bookings are now closed. Offer to keep a waiting list if there are people who missed out. Someone always cancels.
  6. Get an email or contact list for everyone and try and keep of track of any specific bits like anyone who is vegetarian or doesn't drive or is an absolute beginner or who won't share a bedroom because they snore or whatever.
  7. Put together a roster for meals. Keep asking about food and drink allergies or issues - I asked about 5 times before 2 people mentioned they didn't eat meat! I asked for volunteers for each meal (1 person for each breakfast, 2 people for each lunch and 3 for the evening feast), as well as someone to pick up the in between bits - tea, coffee, milk, butter, sugar etc. Everyone was encouraged to contribute any other bits they felt so inclined - cakes, biscuits, fruit, drinks and any other snacks. That all worked smoothly though surprisingly (not) we had a total excess of food and drink. If anyone felt unhappy about how the provisioning worked out they hid it well. We didn't allocate bedrooms - first in first serve was our intricate plan!
  8. We also car pooled because it's a disgraceful waste of resources to have everyone bring their own cars and because some people were not in a position to drive, so we helped connect drivers and non-drivers. Provide details about the venue and how to find it at the beginning and again close to the time. Everyone deletes the earlier stuff and asks for it again.
  9. Provide opportunities for people to get to know each other beforehand, even if only by email. I posted an email to everyone of what I was planning on doing, what crafts I knew about and didn't, and what I was prepared to teach others if they wanted. Only a couple of others did this so perhaps it wasn't necessary. Who knows.
  10. Relax and enjoy yourself. Aside from Cath needing to collect the final payments to pay the balance to the venue, and me making sure the place was tidy and locked before we left, there really wasn't anything else. Everyone was refreshingly grown-up and self-sufficient.
  11. Start planning the next one while you are all still together if you want it to be a rolling affair. If you've got a keen group, you might even rotate who does the organising and venue finding.
  12. Send me an email or post to let me know you are doing it!!

1 comment:

moki said...

I love that you posted this. I've been dreaming of a get away weekend! Thanks for all the tips!