I have chewed over this post for weeks and those who follow my blog will also know I attend many workshops, some to learn and some to observe what is on offer to students.
I had looked forward to a felting workshop with a German felter being held in Perth near relatives and another chance to touch base etc. I booked and paid deposit a good 8 months before the event.
Then I am informed it is in another area of Scotland near Edinburgh. OK thought I near, my Aunt and another chance to see relatives as well. I reminded them the web site had not mentioned this and needed amending. I had stupidly thought we would be in another felting studio for that was the subject – FELT.
A dingy narrow drive in a village (not catering to anyone) and in what looked like a Gothic house bathhouse, badly and sadly maintained. Inside was no better, poor sanitation for all those students and a small kitchenette sink. Not good for felters, and a mishmash of coffee arrangements and towels and soap etc.
The tables were made for very tall people and had no high stools for them so actually I stood for an entire week. Some moaned and were accommodated with lower tables but it was far from ideal and quickly not looking like a well-organised workshop. By the time we had settled down it became very apparent even the supplies list we had been sent and instructed to purchase was far from correct and the subsequent moaning from all the students over the waste of money buying items not normally used and not to be used on the workshop either, did nothing for the atmosphere. It was a good job my husband had supplied me with plenty of graph paper in the correct size (this was noted as available to buy at the workshop) as no-one else had the correct paper and of course there was none for sale.
It was actually the home owners’ private little studio area and she confessed to not working in it very much – and it looked like she never cleaned it either.
I was disappointed, and even more so to be sat down to lunch for 1 hour and with a day that did not start until 10 and finished at 4 – only 5 hours were left and 2.5 hour sessions were never going to be enough time especially when not all students were up to being at a Masterclass. Time whizzed by and by doing plenty work in the evenings my schedule was kept.
The room that had housed 4 of us for 3 days now had to be transformed to hold 8 which for a Masterclass with International students coming was simply a joke. There were old settees pushed back against the rear wall and clutter everywhere.
I mentioned that not enough teaching time had been allowed for this subject and we were in a bad area with not good facilities and the stench of paint all day long from the home owners’ decorators. Nowhere to dry things and to be honest being badly allergic to bees and wasps THE LAST PLACE on earth I would choose to be would be community area full of bee hives — never mentioned when booking ! These things are important and should be listed.
It reminded me of some workshops I had been to over 20 years earlier before students spoke up and expected better. £80 per day was, and is, a lot for this kind of venue which frankly ticked no boxes at all. The 1st 3 days our hostess stayed in attendance all day to ensure what could be well was OK but the last 2 days we changed hostess and attitude and off she swept every day after lunch. One was left with the impression cooking for students was not ‘her thing’.
I returned on the 3rd morning to find my felt pieces pegged, yes pegged, on a washing line to dry. These had been removed from my table where I had left them to felt further the following day. By the end of day 5 even the very local students who I now believe the venue change was for their benefit were getting fed up and one student spent the last day taking photos of everyone else’s work, with or without their permission, and promising to forward on – never happened.
What must students from other parts of the world and the country believe felting is all about in the UK ? I shudder to think and in actual fact neither of the two hosts are 100% felters as such, but just use the medium at times.
I had booked at the main venue in Perth for 2 more International artists coming and did wonder what the venue there would be like. Having never heard any complaints, it had to better, surely.
I arrived home and was livid to find photos on FB without permission and also images of my hard work carefully arranged outside on the lawn- again permission was never sought to do this.
I complained about this and asked for them to be removed. It was actually at this point the hostess decided (thank goodness she did realise that some people do have standards and obviously Perth was not going to come up to scratch for me) to cancel my booking and return my money deposit for the bookings made 8 months earlier.
I am sad to have missed this artist but would rather work with her in a more professional environment.
Will I write a good report of Workshop conditions for this business in the Felting arenas and the American journals ? NO I will not. They have an awful lot to get right and you cannot keep taking students’ money for poor conditions even if you are hosting fabulous artists. You should not allow students who are simply not up to Masterclass learning to pay and attend- it is not right.
We do have fabulous places to learn felting and attend Masterclasses from the best in both the UK and Europe and Scandinavia. Norway is a short hop from the regions airports to fabulous workshops hosted in Ullform Stavanger, and accommodation there is no more expensive than the UK.
We have the fabulous Felt in the Factory here in a beautiful area of the UK with International tutors coming.
Holland has fabulous venues from felters passionate about THE ART OF FELT, PROVIDING GOOD LEARNING, and proud of their venues and hostess skills – a short ride on a plane or overnight on the ferry.
Thinking I may have judged all this too harshly I contacted others and they agreed, so thank you for my money back and do hope you get it all right one day.
Lesson to students “check out venues as well as being swayed by the fabulous artist on offer to you”