Workshops in Finland

In Helsinki, three cycles of workshops were arranged during the project: in spring 2016, autumn 2016 and spring 2017. The partner organisation in Finland is Craft Teacher Education, and the workshops were guided by master-level craft student teachers as part of their applied or advanced teaching practice and designed in collaboration with the department staff.

All the workshops were conducted in the same care centre, but in different departments. Altogether, approximately 40 participants from 5 different care centre departments participated. Also, the student teachers were different in each of the workshop cycles. Altogether 14 students were involved in planning and conducting the workshops.

Training the Instructors

As mentioned, the instructors of the workshops were craft student teachers performing one of their three teaching practices during their studies. For most of them, this was their second practice, called applied teaching practice. Mostly the practices take place in comprehensive school, but in applied teaching practice the students are free to explore the boundaries of teaching crafts and go somewhere else. Applied teaching practice can take place for example in a museum, youth centre, immigration centre, prison, or in elderly care.

Some of the students were conducting their final, advanced teaching practice. Most of the lessons in this practice are conducted in comprehensive school, but students can choose to have part of their practice in adult education, usually in Adult Education Institute. In this case, they had their practice in care home instead.

Because of the wide variation of teaching practice places, there is no special training in applied teaching practice or adult education practice. Education and pedagogy studies are part of teacher training, so the student teachers receive basic skills on didactics, planning the lessons and meeting different kind of learners in other courses.

The most important learning methods in this teaching practice are reading relevant literature and receiving guidance and feedback from the teaching practice supervisor in the site of practice and also from peers, other students. Students teachers are expected to get to know the group they will teach by observing them and maybe also other groups in the site of practice. Student teachers make lesson plans for each workshop, and are supposed to get feedback from their supervisors. The supervisors are also expected to observe their lessons, to give feedback afterwards and reflect on the workshop. Student teachers also observe each others’ lessons and give and receive feedback.

The supervisors in these varied practice places are usually not experts on crafts or pedagogy, but instead they know well this particular environment and target group, and can estimate, what are suitable goals for a workshop. Thus, in elderly care, which was a totally new environment for all the student teachers involved, it was important to gain knowledge and support from the staff on how to work with elderly and what kinds of things must be considered.

CD Weaving in a Day Activities Centre
Spring 2016

The participants of the workshops in the day activities centre were elderly persons with memory disorders. They live at home, but visit day activities centre once or twice a week.

Before designing the workshops, the student teachers met the staff of the day activities centre 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. And they have done everything! It should be visually compelling, and not too difficult but on the other hand it shouldn’t underestimate the participants either.

Cd weaving in elderly care
Almost any kind of yarn can be used, from thick wool to glittery gold!

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 have 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 is 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.

cd weaving workshop
The cd weaving workshop in progress

Every participant could make as many as they can, and in the final session the CDs were combined in to a collective wall hanging, that is to be placed in day activities centre for all the visitors to admire. 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. It’s so beautiful and full of colours! The participants, instructors and the staff were happy alike.

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.

CD weaving in elderly care
The colourful collaborative piece of art!
Felting in Residential Department
Spring 2016

Another set of workshops were arranged in residential department of the care home. The participants were long term residents of this department.

As in day activities centre, the student teachers met the staff of the department before designing the workshop to hear their ideas and wishes for the workshops. The staff suggested felting, as the wide movements and bodily work would be relaxing and calming to the participants. They wished for a large and colourful artwork that would be placed in the department, over a table at which the residents often sit and paint or read. This was agreed, and the student teachers designed a workshop for collaborative artwork. Every participant would felt smaller pieces which would be combined into a big artwork in the end of the workshop.

felting workshop in elderly care
The student teachers dyed the wool themselves with Kool Aid soft drink powder

This time there was no planning meeting with the residents, but the students met them before the workshops to get to know them a bit and also to observe their work in a painting workshop.

It was decided the student teachers would dye 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, as was predicted. But felting, it was a new technique for everyone!

felting workshop in elderly care
Summer theme and fresh, bright coloured wool

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, and it must be said they got it quickly, despite it being a new technique.

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.

Felting workshop in elderly care
The pieces finished in one workshop session

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. The artwork is very bright, beautiful and summery. Hopefully it will bring joy and happy memories to everyone in this department!

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.

felting workshop in elderly care
Felt artwork, theme summer
Yarn dyeing with Kool Aid in Service Center
Spring 2016

Two student teachers had their workshop in the service centre, which is open for retired and unemployed persons living at home. This was a small part of their teaching practice, a one day workshop. The theme was dyeing wool and 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 participants were a group of retired ladies, who come to service centre every week to make crafts and meet each other. They are very skilled and eager to learn new things.

kool aid dyeing
Easy dyeing in microwave
Needle Felting in a Day Activities Centre
Autumn 2016

This workshop took place in another day activities centre in this care home. The participants live at home, but visit day activities centre once or twice a week.

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, with same content for both groups.  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.

Handmade Wellbeing Finland
Can you recognize these beautiful flowers? They are violets, made of sheep's wool!

It is important to keep up positive atmosphere, even if the participants sometimes wish to discuss the difficulties in their life. Of course, they shouldn’t be overlooked and it must be allowed for everyone to express negative feelings. On the other hand, it’s their special day away from home, meeting others and doing something nice, so redirecting their 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.

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 only 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?

Handmade Wellbeing Finland
Colours were added on a white base by felting with needle

This autumn, also a special instructional meeting 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 others craft making history. Almost all the participants had made a lots of crafts, as was expected. Knitting, crocheting, weaving and sewing were familiar techniques for them, and some had made woodwork.

Handmade Wellbeing Finland
What feelings and memories are there embedded in these individual, colourful flowers?

The theme of the workshops was nature, plants and flora. This was thought to be a familiar theme for all, and also versatile. Needle felting was chosen as technique.

The idea was to first discuss memories and thoughts related to nature, and then, inspired by this, each participants would needle felt any kind of flowers or parts of a plant they wish to. To evoke memories, it was suggested to use multimodal means, such as pictures and music. Discussions and reminiscing were pleasant moments in both groups.

In this technique, 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. Simple as that!

Handmade Wellbeing Finland
Bouquet under construction

Everyone could make as many flowers and plant parts as they can, and in the final workshop all the flowers and other parts were combined into a bouquet in a vase. The composition was designed together with the participants, everyone could place their flower in a suitable spot in the bouquet. Both groups made their own bouquet, and both of them were placed on a shelf in the day activities centre to bring evergreen joy every day.

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.

Handmade Wellbeing Finland
Ready and in its place!
Colour baths in craft-making group
Autumn 2016

Another workshop during this autumn was designed for craft-making group that meets every Wednesday in the craft-making space of the care centre. Participants are residents of the care centre, living in different departments. For many of them, making crafts has always been a beloved hobby. There are 6 participants in the group. There are two regular instructors in this group. Another one of them is the craft instructor of the craft-making space, and the other is activity instructor of the whole care centre, responsible for many kind of activities.

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

Handmade Wellbeing Finland, fabric scraps
Poking fabric scrap pieces was simple and fun. You can use any durable (e.g. cotton), non stretchy fabric scraps you find in your closets.

Students were given free hands to design the kind of workshop they wanted to. The staff told it’s difficult to know in advance, which ideas work and which don’t. So it’s always worth giving a try! However, it was decided that mainly materials that are available would be used, so no big investments would 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.

Handmade Wellbeing Finland
The workshop is about to begin! This is not the first workshop though.

The student teachers had also lessons in comprehensive school, where they had a theme “colour workshop”. The students were eager to try, how could they adopt this same theme also to a different learning environment, thus it was decided colours would be the central theme. The techniques would include needle felting on woollen fabric scarfs and making a small ornament by poking fabric scraps into a piece of styrofoam.

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.

Handmade Wellbeing Finalnd, needle felting
Postcards were used as inspiration source for choosing colours. Amazing results!

Having a tangible inspiration source, such as postcard, always available proved to be successful. It seemed really help 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 could look 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.

An exhibition of ready scarves was set up in a corridor in care centre. Many residents, members of the staff and sometimes visitors as well pass this spot every day and see the beautiful work.

Handmade Wellbeing Finland, needlefelting
Scarf exhibition in the corridor. The inspirational postcards are placed above the scarves.

Another technique was also simple: poking fabric scraps into styrofoam to make it a colourful ornament. You need fabric scraps, a piece of styrofoam and a knitting needle. 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 styrofoam using the knitting needle. Poke the scraps close enough to each other so the styrofoam underneath won’t show. It might a be a good idea to start from the middle, as in the picture. Fill the whole styrofoam. Ready!

With this technique, the participants could also 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 styrofoam 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.

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

Handmade Wellbeing Finland, fabric scraps
Fabric scrap ornaments are almost ready!
Textile Collages in a Day Activities Centre
Spring 2017

Textile collage workshop was arranged in a day activities centre where we had worked also in spring 2016. It was nice they wished to have us again!

Planning the workshops started with meeting the head social welfare supervisor of this day activities centre. 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. Thus it was decided they would have a six week workshop period with only one group once a week.

Again we found out that the participants are probably skilled and have done a lot of crafts in their life. However, motivating and getting them to participate can be the tricky part. This was good to know in advance to prepare to pay special attention to motivating, and on the other hand not to be intimidated if someone isn’t thrilled right away.

handmade Wellbeing Finland
Making birds. Can you guess what is the theme of this workshop? Photo: Carolina Mobarac

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.

As in previous workshops, the students also met the group they would work with beforehand,  and had a discussion with the participants.

Handmade Wellbeing Finland
Making together. Photo: Carolina Mobarac

The theme of the workshops was forest and memories related to it. The idea was to make individual forest memory textile collages using multiple techniques. The collages would be hanged together on a wall in day activities centre where they form a forest memory collection.

Special attention was paid to create multimodal forest atmosphere in each workshop to provoke memories and thoughts 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.

Handmade Wellbeing Finland
Flowers made of painted egg boxes. Photo: Carolina Mobarac

Everyone could make as many flowers and plant parts as they can, and in the final workshop all the flowers and other parts were combined into a bouquet in a vase. The composition was designed together with the participants, everyone could place their flower in a suitable spot in the bouquet. Both groups made their own bouquet, and both of them were placed on a shelf in the day activities centre to bring evergreen joy every day.

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.

Handmade Wellbeing Finland
Ready and in its place!