Pop-Up Workshop to Celebrate the Bowes Museum's 125th Anniversary

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Last weekend I had an intense but super-fun day! On Sunday, the Bowes Museum held a summer fete to mark the end of a years' worth of celebrations of the 125th anniversary of the museum. There was so much going on... live music, face painting, dance, a wood-fired pizza oven...even a pop-up prosecco bar for the grown-ups! It was a beautiful, hot sunny day and was absolutely packed with happy families enjoying a summer day out. 

And I was there too! Just inside the main foyer I had a table laid out with all kinds of coloured glass, wood and semi-precious beads, tempting-looking metallic wires, and coloured cords for pendants. I'd also cleaned out my workshop of every pair of pliers and wire snips that I could find, plus few pairs of safety goggles for our younger visitors.

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Obviously it's not my usual area of jewellery practice, but for events like this I think it's so important not to get too hung up about precision and technique. For me it was about sharing my enthusiasm for pure creative joy, and making sure that it was a fun thing to do, and also to be very relaxed and accessible. It was clear from so many faces (from little 5 year old faces to the older ones!) that there is a very real satisfaction and sense of reward in creating something new, and navigating all the thought processes that go with it!

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We kicked off at 11am, and I didn't catch a breath all day. I was hoping that people would follow their own creative paths and be spontaneous with what they found on my table, but I had also pre-made a few example projects which people could copy if they were stumped for ideas.

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The most complex was a wire-wrapped ring which was popular with adults, and the simplest was a wire bracelet with hook clasp and a bead or three in the centre which was great for the smallest visitors. I made sure to have alphabet beads as I thought the youngest visitors might enjoy making name bracelets, and even some fun super-detailed Fimo fruit beads which went down surprisingly well with some of the mamas!

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Most of all, I enjoyed working with the younger children. I was amazed at how confident some of them were at creating their own pieces, from their own imagination. Here are a couple of my favourites.

The ring below was designed and made by 7 year old Sophie, all by herself, whilst I was helping someone at the other end of the table. I think this is absolutely fantastic - and could totally see the same ring working amazingly well with 18ct yellow gold wire and drilled diamond beads!

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The gorgeous, free spirited pendant below was made by little Freyja. She took one of the example pieces I'd brought along as her starting point, and she was absolutely adamant that this three-bead pendant was what she wanted to make! So so just went for it, and came up with this utterly joyful "3D scribble". You can see her happy smile in the top right corner!

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By the time 4pm rolled around, just over half of the beads and wire that I'd brought along had been turned into jewellery and was being proudly worn around the museum and grounds. The day had begun with an ordered, well-laid out table, but what with every stool and seat taken all day long (and several layers of people standing behind to wait for their turn) I was left with an explosion of creative chaos! Which I truly believe is the mark of a day very well spent. 

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