Training Week in Viljandi, Estonia

February 6th – 10th, 2017
Training week programme
Superact in Viljandiread the blog post
Introduction of Department of Estonian Native Crafts

The fourth training week of the Handmade Wellbeing project was held in the charming town of Viljandi in Estonia. The host of the week was the department of Estonian Native Crafts in Viljandi Culture Academy of University of Tartu.

Ave Matsin, the head of department and Handmade Wellbeing project manager in Estonia, introduced the department of Estonian Native Crafts. There are three study programmes for undergraduate studies: native textiles, native construction and native metalwork, and one master-level programme. The mission of the department is to keep traditional crafts and techniques alive and integrate them in modern design and society.

Handmade Wellbeing Viljandi
Ave Matsin introducing the department of Estonian Native Crafts in Viljandi Culture Academy. Photo: Sirpa Kokko

We had an introduction walk around the building and the workshops for different techniques, for example a room full of weaving looms. All around we could see skilled, high-quality handicrafts made by the students. It is obvious that skills and making are highly appreciated here. Students learn their techniques thoroughly and become master craftsmen, but they also learn the concepts and methods of academic research in this field.

Handmade Wellbeing Viljandi
A nice detail: all the looms had names! Meet Joosep. Photo: Mari Salovaara

Throughout the week, all the training participants were really impressed by the presence and appreciation of tradition and handicraft in Estonian culture. Estonians are proud of their traditional crafts and it is part of their identity. Traditions can be very well utilised as a source of inspiration in modern design too, and of course when working with older people. They have such knowledge and experience we younger ones lack. It is truly something we can learn from them.

Handmade Wellbeing Viljandi
A student work: a woven wall hanging made of wool. Photo: Sirpa Kokko
Hands on: Metalwork Workshop

In the afternoon, we visited a metalwork centre in Viljandimaa Loomemajanduskeskus, a centre for creative industries that provides for example support, working space and equipment for starting entrepreneurs in creative crafts business. Viljandi Culture Academy is one of the partners of this centre, and department of native crafts uses the metalwork centre for educational purposes in native metal work programme.

Handmade Wellbeing Viljandi
A room for goldsmith work in the metalwork centre. Photo: Sirpa Kokko

Eilve Manglus, head of the native metalwork programme, and Indrek Ikkonen, goldsmith and student of metalwork, introduced the workshop space and rooms for different kinds of metalwork, from blacksmithing to goldsmithing. After introduction, we had a chance to try metalwork ourselves and design and make brass jewelry. The workshop was instructed by Indrek, who had also given similar workshops in day centres for older people. This was reflected later in the week.

Handmade Wellbeing Viljandi
Indrek is showing us the space for blacksmithing. Photo: Sirpa Kokko

It was exciting to try something that was new for most of us and really special. Metalwork seems to require special tools and equipment, so it’s probably not so easy to try it on your own. We were amazed that our partners in Estonia had provided this workshop for older people! The workshop and metalwork technique was reflected together later.

Handmade Wellbeing Viljandi
Hammering, concentrating... Photo: Sirpa Kokko
Estonian culture & food + other national delicacies

In the evening, we gathered together to enjoy good food, company and Estonian folk music. Participants from each partner country had brought some local food to share, so we learned about each others’ cultures in multiple ways!

Handmade Wellbeing Viljandi
Dinner is served! Photo: Sirpa Kokko
Visiting Viiratsi Care Home & Sakala Day Centre

On Tuesday we visited some of the places where project partners in Viljandi had given craft workshops. First we saw Viiratsi Care Home, a former orphanage but now a care home for older people. There are 68 residents and 28 staff members to take care of their needs. The place is very beautiful with art and crafts hanged on walls and plants all over. There is a nice yard and a view to Viljandi town.

Handmade Wellbeing Viljandi
A view from Viiratsi care home to Viljandi. Photo: Sirpa Kokko
Handmade Wellbeing Viljandi
Made by a resident in Viiratsi care home. Photo: Sirpa Kokko

Facilitators from Viljandi Culture Academy had provided textile workshops here, such as printing, during the autumn 2016. Unfortunately we didn’t see a workshop in action now, but we had a chance to visit some of the residents in their rooms and talk with them.

Handmade Wellbeing Viljandi
Plants, teddy bear, cozy. Photo: Sirpa Kokko

After Viiratsi, we returned to the town centre to visit Sakala Centre, a modern community culture centre. Many kinds of cultural and pastime activities and events are arranged here. Also day activities centre for seniors who live at home is located here. During our visit we met a folk dance group and some skilled ladies working on weave design and preparing looms for weaving! Also other craft activities are arranged, such as making organza flowers, ceramics and cards.

Handmade Wellbeing Viljandi
Weaving looms in Sakala day centre. Photo: Mari Salovaara

It seemed that the customers here are in quite good condition and able to do all sorts of things. The Viljandi Culture Academy instructors had given here workshops about textile printing, badge making, metalwork and braided ribbons.

Handmade Wellbeing Viljandi
Beautiful cards made by a craft making group in Sakala Centre. Photo: Sirpa Kokko
Hands-on: Making badges

After introduction tour in Sakala Centre, we had a hands-on workshop of badge making. This was one of the techniques in the workshops that were provided for older people in Viljandi, for example in Sakala Centre. We were accompanied by few older ladies who attend day activities here.

There were several options for making badges: one could decorate a ready-made reflector badge by drawing on them with permanent marker (so it won’t wash off outside if it’s raining). This was very useful at this dark time of the year. In Estonia you have to have a reflector, otherwise you may have to pay a fine!

Handmade Wellbeing Viljandi
Badge making in Sakala Centre. Photo: Sirpa Kokko

It was also possible to make a badge of fabric or paper. You could draw or cut patterns from colour paper for decoration. Many of us had inspiration from leaflets with traditional Estonian patterns. It would be a nice idea to make a badge with some pattern that in the old days was used to for example give protection against something.

Handmade Wellbeing Viljandi
Instructions & inspiration for badges from traditional Estonian patterns. Photo: Sirpa Kokko

There was a handy base pattern for badges, so one would know what size your artwork should be. The badges were made by pressing together the base with safety pin and the artwork with a pressing machine that was not too heavy to use. The technique was nice and easy, so must of us finished several badges for themselves and maybe also for gifts to take back home from lovely Estonia.

Handmade Wellbeing Viljandi
Cutting Estonian words to make a badge artwork. Photo: Mari Salovaara
Workshop Reflections: Metalwork & Badge making

After badge making workshop, we gathered together to reflect about the workshops. The idea of the reflection sessions is to share our thoughts about the techniques and their suitability to working with older people, and also think about further ideas to adapt the techniques. Also interaction between the instructors and older participants as well as interaction between the participants is reflected, if possible.

This time, there were not so many older people working with us in the workshop, so the focus was on reflecting the techniques and arranging the workshop and the setting. First, we discussed in groups of four and after this all together in a big group.

The discussion in big group was audio recorded for research data.

Workshop reflection sessionRead the instructions
Handmade Wellbeing Viljandi
Reflection time! Photo: Sirpa Kokko
Thoughts about metalwork

Metalwork techniques require agility & strength, good eyesight, fine motor skills, power and grip. It is possibly dangerous work: you can cut or burn yourself, and hammering the metal is loud. It was not an easy task for those who are young and have no limitations in what they can do, and it was reflected that it’s probably more limited with older people.

On the other hand it was thought that we are often too careful and try to “bubble wrap” older people. This way we limit the possibilities for them and for us, by being scared about what might happen, even though seeing and doing something as challenging as metalwork might be a real thrill for older participants too.

Handmade Wellbeing Viljandi
Small details of metalwork, look closely! Photo: Sirpa Kokko

Metalwork was seen especially suitable for men, who might not be tempted by textile techniques which are usually offered as they are easier and lighter. Now we made jewelry in the workshop, but especially making useful items instead of decorative might be of interest for some participants and help them regaining the feeling of usefulness.

Similar workshop had been provided for older people, but it was aimed for those who are physically able. The facilitator of the workshop usually did the loud hammering part. Of course it is possible to further adapt this technique for people with different abilities: it might be an option to prepare pieces for simpler workshop with just decorating, or even use lighter materials.

It was also noted, that with this technique one must be very thorough with preparations and clear in explaining the working phases and techniques. There must be enough time to try out different tools and techniques. Possibly a lot of one-on-one instruction is needed. This workshop had been given for day centre customers in groups of four, maximum eight persons, so there is enough time for everyone. A big group of 25 persons like we had wouldn’t work, but now it was easier because everyone was used to making with their hands and feeling quite confident.

Handmade Wellbeing Viljandi
Hammering. Brass plates on the table. Photo: Sirpa Kokko

It was also concluded that for some participants metalwork might be very challenging, perhaps too much. For people with dementia there may be too many different phases and techniques. Also loud noises and strong smells are not well tolerated.

Reflections of metal workRead the document
Handmade Wellbeing Viljandi
Metalwork tools. Photo: Mari Salovaara
Thoughts about badge making

Making badges was an accessible, simple and fun one time workshop. It was much easier than metalwork and doesn’t require many special tools. Thus, it is an appropriate technique for almost anyone, for young and old and people with different levels of skills and abilities. Only the pressing machine requires some strength. The wide variety of different materials was inspirational, and we could think of more ways to make badges; for example printing fabric yourself, or embroidering the fabric. It is possible to adapt different techniques for different levels of difficulty. The possibility to make a reflector was nice, because some like to make useful things.

Handmade Wellbeing Viljandi
A fabric badge and a reflector badge. Photo: Sirpa Kokko

We were told that in earlier badge workshops the participants were happy to make badges for their grand children with positive messages to cheer up their day. A possibility for intergenerational workshops was discussed, why not have the grand children and grand parents making badges together?

The workshop space was beautiful, but it might have been good to arrange the tables in smaller groups to promote interaction and conversation between participants. Working by a huge long table didn’t encourage communication, and it was probably a bit challenging for instructors too to navigate between learners. They managed well and everyone got help when needed. On the other hand, everyone worked quite independently now. Some participants might need more help and encouragement.

When the technique is as simple as this, it is possible to give lots of time for experiment, creativity and working on the design. This needs to be supported however. Having no limits and constraints in what you can do will cause “a creativity block” for many of us. Some participants in this workshop expressed having no ideas at first. Design and creativity can be supported for example by giving some theme, like traditional Estonian patterns, or presenting ideas about how to use different materials and techniques. It was discussed that making badges could well be a sociable activity, where working in group provokes further ideas.

Handmade Wellbeing Viljandi Estonia
Inspiration from tradition. Photo: Sirpa Kokko
Reflections of badges Read the document

All in all, we experienced two very different kind of techniques. It is good to keep in mind that the variety of techniques and ways of adapting them to different target groups is endless! Sometimes it might be appropriate to take an easy activity, but one should also be brave and try challenging techniques with older people. They might enjoy it, like the rest of us!

Supporting interaction and communication is important, also when working on individual items. And sometimes it is good to make something together. Metalwork would be ideal to make a collaborative piece as well!

Handmade Wellbeing Viljandi
Intensive badge making. Photo: Sirpa Kokko
Seminar & exhibition

Wednesday was reserved for the seminar and exhibition, which are one way of showing our project and work for others. Read more about the seminar and exhibition in Viljandi here.

Reflections & educational model development

Thursday was reserved for reflection session and the development of educational model and the handbook. Once again, we started working in small groups and after this, gathered together to share our thoughts.

This time, the task was to think of concrete examples of the content of the branches. The educational model text that was written in Graz training week last October was shared to everyone via Google Docs, so all the small groups wrote their examples and thoughts directly to the same document.

The model was amended between Graz and Viljandi training weeks, because there was some overlapping in the mindmap ‘branches’. Also, some comments and questions had been added to the document.

The discussion in big group was audio recorded for research data.

See the content of the educational model document after Viljandi development session from the document and the mindmap.

Educational model development sessionsee the instructions
Handmade Wellbeing Viljandi
Third Draft of Educational Model
Educational model after Viljandi training week see the document