Workshops in Finland

University of Helsinki
The facilitators & their training

The workshop facilitators in Finland were 14 master-level craft student teachers, performing one of their three teaching practices. Ten of them were conducting an applied teaching practice, which means that the practice is conducted in an applied setting, somewhere else than comprehensive school, for example in a museum, youth centre, elderly care, kindergarten or prison.

Four students were conducting an advanced practice, which is the final teaching practice before graduation. It is for most part conducted in secondary school, but students can choose to have a part in adult education, usually in Adult Education Institute. In this case, some of them chose to have practice in elderly care setting.

Only two students had prior experience of working with older people, but all of them had experience of teaching crafts in other contexts.

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Participant-student teacher collaboration in textile collage workshop. Photo: Carolina Mobarac

Teaching practices are part of teacher’s pedagogical studies in teacher education. Finnish craft teacher education focuses on the school pedagogy and teaching practices are mostly conducted in schools. However, exploring the possibilities for teaching crafts in various contexts is important to broaden the students´ professional competence. Not all craft teachers choose to work in comprehensive school, and some are employed in adult education or other contexts instead.

Because of the wide variation of teaching practice places, there is no special training in applied teaching practice, nor about adult education. Students find and read literature that is relevant for their topic and target group, observe the group they are going to teach as well as other groups in their site of practice, receive feedback from supervisors and peers who observe their lessons and write reports and reflections. However, in other courses in teacher education the student teachers receive knowledge and basic skills in developmental psychology, didactics, theories and pedagogical approaches, planning the lessons, evaluation and assessment and meeting different kind of learners. When students enter applied and advanced teaching practice, they have completed all the other courses of Teacher’s Pedagogical Studies (altogether 60 ECTS).

There was no special training for student teachers in this project, but some of them took part in international training weeks during the project before they had their own workshops in the care setting. Training week activities, especially visiting different care settings and having workshops with older people, was experienced very helpful. Most students didn’t have prior experience of working with older people and many said they haven’t had many contacts with older people. Many students visited elderly care settings for the first time in their life. Hence, just getting used to being with older people in care settings was an important experience.

Also, the student teachers who participated in this project, received more supervision from the university staff than usually. In applied teaching practice, the university lecturers don’t usually observe the student teachers’ practice lessons. During the project, a researcher collected research data by observing and video recording the workshops, and thus, was able to also give feedback of the lessons. Research data was also collected by interviewing the students before and after teaching practice, which provided another opportunity for guidance and feedback.

Care setting

The workshops in Finland were arranged in a comprehensive service centre in Southern Finland. Due to research ethics the name of this setting is not mentioned, as the clients were promised anonymity. This centre offers many different services at the same place for older people and for people with multiple disorders, as well as unemployed people who need social or care services, or both. The services include, for example, an assessment and rehabilitation centre and both long-term and short-term housing services. Altogether there are 18 housing departments with about 370 residents.

In addition, day care is provided for retired people still living at home with the assistance of home care service or family caregivers. They come to day care once or twice a week and have different kind of activities there to support living at home. Some day care groups are intended especially for people with memory disorders.

There’s also a service centre for retired and unemployed people living independently at home. Service centre provides guidance about social and health services, as well as both independent and group activities, for example physical activities and sports, excursions and crafts. There is also a restaurant, library, gym and a space for making crafts with looms and sewing machines in this comprehensive centre.

Altogether, the students arranged six different craft projects which all included several workshop sessions. The projects were arranged in three cycles, in spring 2016, autumn 2016 and spring 2017. All the projects were designed and instructed collaboratively by a pair of students or a group of three of them. Altogether, approximately 40 participants from 5 different care centre departments participated the craft workshops.

Workshop themes
A collaborative wall hanging of old CDs

This project was conducted with the customers of day care for older people with memory issues. There were two different groups working on this same project. The participants covered old CDs by weaving yarn on them. The idea was to make a collaborative wall hanging for the day care centre by combining the CDs. Every participant could work on as many CDs as they wanted. The composition was designed collaboratively, and the student teachers helped to attach them together.

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Almost any kind of yarn can be used, from thick wool to glittery gold! Photo: Mari Salovaara

Before designing the workshops, the student teachers met the staff of the day care to hear their ideas and wishes for the workshops. Students were given free hands in designing the theme and the techniques, but they got some useful tips. A collaborative work that might stay in the department was suggested, it might appeal to those who don’t necessarily need anything for themselves. The staff recommended to try something new, something the participants haven’t done before. It should be visually compelling, and not too difficult but on the other hand it shouldn’t underestimate the participants either.

Also a meeting with the participants was arranged to get to know each other, learn about each others craft making history and if the participants had some wishes. The student teachers had prepared some ideas which they presented. This was an interesting and successful meeting, and all agreed the workshop would be about CD weaving.

The idea of this technique was to weave different kind of yarns over an old CD. First, one must set up the warp. Then weft yarns are woven by turns over and under the warp yarns. All kinds of yarns suitable for crocheting and knitting can be used: cotton, linen and wool, even fancier yarns with sequins or other embellishments. A thinner yarn can be woven double. One can experiment with different materials, colours and textures.

In the final session the CDs were combined in to a wall hanging. Weaving the CDs was nice and everyone could see they are beautiful, but combining the CDs and seeing the final result was still a pleasant surprise.

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The cd weaving workshop in progress. Photo: Mari Salovaara
Handmade Wellbeing Helsinki
A collaborative wall hanging of old CDs. Photo: Mari Salovaara

There were altogether six 90 minutes workshop sessions, two times a week for three weeks. Some participants attended in all of the sessions, while majority came few times and some only once. There were usually 4-6 participants and 3 student teachers.

A felted collaborative wall hanging

This project was about wet felting a collaborative wall hanging in the long-term residential department. The idea was to make a wall hanging for the department, to be hanged over a table at which the residents often paint and have other creative activities. The topic was provided by the department staff, who wished for a cheerful and colourful, eye-catching piece of art. They suggested felting, as the wide movements and bodily work would be relaxing and calming to the participants.

The participants felted as many small, individual pieces as they wanted, and finally the pieces were combined into a big wall hanging. The composition was designed collaboratively, and the student teachers attached the pieces together. During the last session, the artwork was hung in its place and all the contributors received diplomas made by the student teachers.

The student teachers met the staff of the department before designing the workshop to hear their ideas. They also met the participants before the workshops to get to know them a bit and also to observe their work in a painting workshop.

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The student teachers dyed the wool themselves with Kool Aid soft drink powder. Photo: Mari Salovaara
Handmade Wellbeing Helsinki
Summer theme and fresh, bright coloured wool. Photo: Mari Salovaara

The student teachers dyed the wool themselves prior the workshops to get beautiful, bright colours. Partly because of these fresh colours, it was decided that the theme of the workshop would be summer. In the first workshop the participants reminisced summer with the student teachers and painted colours related to summer. For inspiration, there were summery pictures and music. The participants could look and touch the wools, and it was discussed, if anyone had had sheep at home, and if they had worked with wool, for example sheared sheep or spun yarn. Many had, but felting was a new technique for everyone!

On the second workshop session the student teachers demonstrated felting with warm soap water, using small bamboo mats and bubble wrap. The participants could then try felting themselves. Every participant could felt small pieces of whatever colours and shapes they liked. First they draw inspiration from summer memories discussed in the first session, but as they got more skilled and confident along the way, they started combining colours more freely.

The composition was designed in collaboration with the residents, and the student teachers sew the pieces together. The last session was for celebration and handing out certificates for all the participants.

There were altogether 9 sessions of 60 minutes, 3 times a week for 3 weeks. The first session was for inspiration and the last two sessions for composition and hanging the artwork. So 6 sessions for felting. One could finish one small felted piece in one session. There were usually 4-5 participants, 2 student teachers and 1-2 staff members in the workshop.

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The pieces finished in one workshop session. Photo: Mari Salovaara
Handmade Wellbeing Helsinki
A felted collaborative wall hanging. Photo: Mari Salovaara
Dyeing yarns with Kool-Aid

There is a possibility for retired and unemployed people living at home to make crafts independently in the service centre in a special craft-making space. A three hour long dyeing workshop was held in this place. Altogether six women, who visit the service centre regularly, participated.

The idea was to have an informal and casual workshop about dyeing yarn with Kool-Aid soft drink powder. This is an easy technique, that is suitable to try at home and with small children too, because there are no toxic chemicals involved. All you need is a kettle and a stove, or a plastic container and a microwave. The student teachers brought Kool-Aid and the participants brought their own yarns for dyeing. First there was a short instruction for using Kool-Aid in dyeing. After this, everyone could dye their yarns with the colours they liked. They were encouraged to experiment and try different things, for example dip-dyeing.

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Dyeing yarns with Kool-Aid. Photo: Sirpa Kokko
A collaborative felt flower bouquet

This project took place in day care. The participants live at home, but visit day activities centre once or twice a week. The idea was to needle felt individual pieces that would be assembled into a bigger, collaborative work that would stay at the department. The theme of nature was chosen because it was thought to be familiar to all.

As before, planning the workshops started with meeting the staff. Details about the dates and times were agreed on. Two groups would participate the workshops.  Once again, students got some helpful tips for planning the workshops from the staff. They should for example pay attention to that everyone in the group could hear them. Keeping the pace slow and peaceful is important, as well as making sure that everyone has enough support for making and learning.

It is important to keep up positive atmosphere. Of course, everyone should be allowed to express negative feelings. On the other hand, it’s a special day away from home, meeting others and doing something nice, so gentle redirecting the attention from negative feelings to nicer things was recommended. The staff would be present in the workshops, so handling the most difficult situations would be their responsibility.

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Colours were added on a white base by felting with needle. Photo: Mari Salovaara
Handmade Wellbeing Finland
Nature memories embedded in colourful flowers. Photo: Mari Salovaara

It was pointed out that the participants need some examples and models of the crafts they are going to make, but too much instruction will set “a creativity block” and they will make by the model. So, an important issue with learners of any age is how much inspiration material and instruction can you give, and what kind, to help them create something of their own but also succeed in making something nice?

Also an instructional session about memory disorders was arranged by the supervising nurse in this department. This was very helpful, because many of the participants have memory disorders and the students have no experience of them.

The students observed the groups they would work with for one day, and also had a discussion with the participants to get to know each other and learn about each other’s craft making history. Almost all the participants had made a lots of crafts. Knitting, crocheting, weaving and sewing were familiar techniques for them, and some had made woodwork.

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Bouquet under construction. Photo: Mari Salovaara

In each workshop, nature memories were provoked by looking at pictures, listening to music and discussing together. Discussions and reminiscing were pleasant moments in both groups.

After this, the participants needle felted flowers using their nature memories as inspiration. Everyone had a piece of white wool batting for a base. The piece was placed on a foam pad. Then strips of colourful wool roving were placed over the base and attached with felting needle. For finishing, one could cut the edges of the flower in suitable form and tie it with yarn from the backside to make it look more like flower.

Everyone could make as many flowers and plant parts as they can. In the final session, all the flowers were combined into a bouquet of flowers and put into a vase. The composition was designed together with the participants, everyone could place their flower in a suitable spot in the bouquet. Both vases were placed in the living room of this day care.

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A collaborative felt flower bouquet. Photo: Mari Salovaara

The participants, staff and students were all happy with the workshop and the results. The bouquets really became beautiful and they reminded of warm summer in the moment of darkest autumn. The technique was new for all, but everyone could adapt it easily, and many participants really got carried away by felting and made many flowers of different kind.

There were three 90 minutes workshop sessions for both groups for three weeks. In both groups there were 9-10 participants and 2 student teachers.

Needle felted scarves and 3D textile collages

The theme of this project was colour. The idea was to decorate individual scarves by needle felting and embroidery, and to make textile collages. Colourful postcards and the feelings they evoke were used as inspiration for working. The project took place in a weekly craft-making group, guided regularly by two activities coordinators. The participants of the group were six residents from different departments with an interest in craft-making.

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The workshop is about to begin! This is not the first workshop though. Photo: Mari Salovaara

Planning the workshops started with meeting the staff and observing the group. They had made all sorts of crafts in this group, from collective art to individual products by knitting, crocheting, beading and printing. Sometimes they had a common theme, but it was more common that everyone could make what they wanted. It seemed that the participants really loved making crafts, they were very concentrated and worked quite independently.

It was decided that mainly materials that are already available would be used, so that investments would not be needed. The staff stressed that the instructions should be kept simple and short so that it is easy to follow. There should be enough support and encouragement for all the participants, without pressure or demands for perfection. The most important thing is to experience joy of making.

The student teachers had also lessons in comprehensive school, where they had the theme colour. They wanted to try, how could they adapt this same theme to a different learning environment. The techniques would include needle felting on woollen fabric scarfs and making a small collage ornament by poking fabric scraps into a piece of polystyrene.

The workshop began with needle felting. Students had prepared in advance scarfs for each participant from recycled woollen blanket, and in the workshop, the participants would decorate the scarfs by needle felting  and embroidering with wool roving and yarns of different colour. Students had a stack of colourful postcards and for start, each participant chose the card they liked. The cards were used as inspiration sources for choosing colours when felting.

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Postcards were used as inspiration source for choosing colours. Photo: Mari Salovaara

Having a tangible inspiration source, such as postcard, always available proved to be successful. It really helped in designing the colours and motifs. The participants were happy about their cards and would tell memories and thoughts evoked by the pictures, colours and atmospheres. If they became tired of felting, they looked at the cards and others working.

Needle felting was new for these participants too, but it was quite easily adapted. The technique is simple, all you need is a piece of woollen fabric, some wool roving, felting needle and a foam pad to put underneath the work while felting. Wool roving is attached to fabric by poking it with felting needle. It was not a favorite technique for all, while others got really carried away and could have continued even longer.

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Scarf exhibition in the corridor. The inspirational postcards are placed above the scarves. Photo: Mari Salovaara

Another technique was also simple: poking fabric scraps into polystyrene block to make it a colourful collage. You need fabric scraps, a piece of polystyrene and a knitting needle or pen. The fabric should be of durable material (like cotton), not too thin and not too stretchy. Cut the scraps into squares with pinking shears to make sure the edges won’t fray. Then poke the fabric squares into the polystyrene block using the knitting needle. Poke the scraps close enough to each other so that the block underneath won’t show. It might a be a good idea to start from the middle, as in the picture. Fill the whole block.

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3D textile collages on polystyrene. Photo: Mari Salovaara

With this technique, the participants could look for inspiration from the postcards they had picked earlier, or choose another card, or use whatever colours they liked. The technique was simple, although some sorts of polystyrene can be really hard so you need force to push and attach the fabric. Anyway, working and especially choosing and composing the colours was very pleasurable. The finished scarves and collages are displayed in an exhibition hall of the care setting.

There were four 90 minutes workshop sessions, once a week for four weeks. There were altogether 6 participants, and 2 student teachers.

Forest memories on fabric

This project was conducted in the day care for older people with memory issues. The theme of the workshops was forest. The idea was to make individual collages on fabric, first by printing and painting the fabric and then adding details with different techniques, for example textile collage, hand embroidery and needle felting.

Planning the workshops started with meeting the head social welfare supervisor of the day care. Details and practicalities were agreed on. The students wished for a longer working period to be able to get familiar with the group of learners properly. It was decided they would have a six week workshop period with one group, once a week.

We found out that the participants are probably skilled and have done a lot of crafts. However, motivating and getting them to participate can be the tricky part.

Students were given free hands to design the workshops. There were some materials in the day activities centre, and designing the theme and techniques partly leaned on what was available. Students and staff also brought some materials, but only recycled and free material. Nothing was bought for this workshop.

The student teachers also met the group they would work with beforehand,  and had a discussion with the participants.

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Making birds. Photo: Carolina Mobarac
Handmade Wellbeing Finland
Making together. Photo: Carolina Mobarac

The theme of the workshops was forest and memories related to it. In each workshop, forest atmosphere was created through bringing in multisensory triggers to provoke memories related to forest. For example mystery scents (crushed berries, spruce needles, soil) were smelled from covered jars, guessing what was in the jar. Another time mystery objects (moss, stones, bark) in a bag were felt, guessing what they are. Also bird singing and forest fairytales were listened. These triggers and tuning into forest mood turned out to be very successful way of working. Especially guessing and mysteries were exciting and pleasant for participants and evoked a lot of conversation.

Personal forest memories, experiences, fairy-tales and discussions were used as inspiration for working. Multiple different techniques were used to produce the collages. A new technique was introduced each week. The first week was reserved for getting to know each other, and the participants decorated wood branches with an easy technique. Next time, the base fabric of the collage was painted and printed to create a forest. In third workshop, the participants made fabric collage birds using fabric scraps. The birds were attached to the base fabric.

In fourth workshop, trees and leaves were created on base fabric by embroidering and attaching sequels and other embellishments. In fifth workshop, the participants needle felted mushrooms, flowers and other things on the base fabric. In the last workshop, frames were created by plaiting yarns. We also had a small party to celebrate the ready pieces.

Handmade Wellbeing Finland
Flowers made of painted egg boxes. Photo: Carolina Mobarac
Photo: Carolina Mobarac
Attaching the plaited frames. Photo: Carolina Mobarac

The collages were hanged in the care settings tunnel, where they form a forest memory collection.

There were altogether six 90 minutes workshop sessions, once a week for six weeks. There were usually 8 -10 participants present and 3 student teachers.

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Forest memories on fabric. Photo: Carolina Mobarac