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The Amazings

    Creative Living Creativity Corner

    Colourliving’s Alternative Gift Guide

    November 18, 2013

    The newspapers, magazines and adverts are filled with ideas for Christmas gifts and whether we like it or not, it’s not long now till the big day! So dear readers, I’ve been thinking about what it is I might like to receive and the gifts I would recommend here on the Colourliving blog. It isn’t always easy to come up with the perfect gift for everyone on our list. Many people end up buying something random which can feel a little impersonal and dare I say it, a little unsatisfactory to the receiver. This year I’m proposing Colourliving’s alternative gift guide.

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    My regular readers might know my love for creativity, wellbeing and all things educational. In the past few years there’s definitely been a shift towards people wanting to create more time and space, to switch off from the pressures of modern life. There’s a real surge in people wanting to make things with their hands, learn new skills, invest in themselves and find purpose in their lives.

    With this in mind I have a few alternative suggestions that just might change your view of gift giving this year. This gift guide strays from the traditional shop-bought presents. It’s based on experiences, educational endeavours, thoughtful actions and time as gifts. It’s meant to try and create memorable experiences for both the giver and receiver.

    So, how do I go about buying a present? I look at the person I’m buying a present for and ask myself a few questions! (please feel free to add to this list)

    What do I know about them?
    What do they love to do?
    What have they mentioned they would love to do, if money or time would permit?
    What kind of things could they use help with?
    What would make their life easier?
    What would be a memory I could facilitate that they wouldn’t forget?
    What would they like to learn?
    Would they like to learn something new but fear the prospect of it?
    What do they like reading?
    What do they do in their free time?
    What might be some of their dreams for the future?
    What wouldn’t they spend money on themselves?
    What would they enjoy but maybe would never think about?
    The list could go on and on. I think you get the gist!

    Go on, why not break in that new notebook you bought or got as a present:-)
    Now let’s get creative…..

    Some of these gift ideas below are off-line and therefore location based. Many are on-line, to be enjoyed by everyone around the world. They are merely my curated list of suggestions that I’ve tried first-hand or had great recommendations for. Feel free to take these as a springboard for your own ideas and selections. Why not find similar classes or courses in your own city? The list below serves as an inspiration and I hope that there’s something here for everyone. Have fun and happy gift giving!

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    I find that giving someone a subscription to an interesting magazine can have a wider effect. Many of these publications celebrate so much more than just a magazine and are treasure troves in themselves.

    Hole & Corner – is a bi-annual print magazine devoted to “celebrating craft, beauty, passion and skill”.
    Smith Journal – is a quarterly publication aimed at men and read by all sorts of interested folks. A guide to all things creative, intriguing, genuine and funny.
    Another Escape – is an independently published magazine that is inspired by individuals who are creative and inquisitive. Inspiring, uplifting and insightful, it offers readers the opportunity to discover something new.
    Monocle – is is a global briefing on international affairs, business, culture and design. 
    Libertine – is a multi platform lifestyle brand for widely interested women. Their mission is to redefine the women’s media landscape by celebrating inner life over outer appearance.
    Gentlewoman – is a bi-annual magazine that celebrates modern women of style and purpose. It showcases inspirational women through its distinctive combination of glamour, personality and warmth.
    Gather is a bi-annual food magazine, fuelled by recipes and full with insane food porn. In addition to all the photos and recipes, you’ll find a few essays and a crew of heavy-hitting photographers, designers, artists, and writers backing the whole project.
    The Art of Eating – is a quarterly periodical, delving deep into how the things we eat are produced. Each issue has a theme which guides the content. It’s been around for 25 years!
    The Runicle Spoon – is described as a quarterly(ish) food zine, this handmade delight comes from three ladies out of D.C. Their goal is to capture the pleasure and playfulness of eating through imaginative, delicious (and sometimes made up) recipes, illustration, storytelling and collage.
    Uppercase – is a magazine for the creative and curious. It sparks the imagination and inspires creativity.

    Alternatively you can give a Stack subscription. It’s a unique service that brings together the best independent English language magazines from around the world and delivers them direct to your home. Every Stack delivery is a surprise – you never know what you’re going to get next, but you do know that it will be an excellent independent magazine that you probably wouldn’t otherwise have found.

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    There’s very little to beat learning a new skill. It’s fun, it builds confidence and can lead to a new career.

    The School of Life – is a cultural enterprise offering good ideas for everyday life. They offer a variety of programmes and services concerned with how to live wisely and well.

    I’ve been to numerous events. Why not look at some of the great stuff they offer:
    Bibliotherapy – Take your reading life in hand with their prescription reading service. They offer this service for adults, parents and children.
    Therapy – Life MOT, Career MOT, Relationship MOT, Creativity MOT.
    Classroom – explore their eclectic and varied classes on offer.
    Sermons – these are fun and informative. I can’t wait to attend this one.

    How to: Academy – provides compact courses. They run workshops, evening events, midnight master-classes, business breakfasts, dinner-debates and weekend courses. Subjects range from build a bicycle in the morning, make a movie in a weekend to start an online business. They will shortly be streaming many of their courses on-line.

    The Academy is new so I’m looking forward to trying some courses. Here are some that caught my eye:
    How to: Makeup (A Masterclass for Teenagers) – what a great idea for Mothers and Daughters.
    How to: Negotiate – I use this skill everyday in my work and in life. Great skill to have!
    How to play Killer Chess (in an evening) – This is for competitive Dad’s as well as for anyone looking to brush up on Chess.
    How to: explore Japan (via it’s museums) – This is for those who are planning a trip of a lifetime, and those who want to absorb Japan without leaving their armchairs.

    How to: Remember – Yep, for those who could have a little help with their Memory.

    The Idler Academy – The latest offshoot of the Idler is the Idler Academy. They teach old-fashioned subjects such as calligraphy, grammar and Greek philosophy at festivals, clubs and houses across the country, and run a series of courses and events at their London headquarters.

    Calligraphy workshop: calligraphy at Christmas – Put your calligraphy skills to creative use to delight friends and family in this practical workshop with a seasonal theme.
    Beyond Mindfulness: Eastern Wisdom in everyday Life – A six week course with novelist Tim Lott on the best of Eastern philosophy.
    How to Draw – A perfect course for both beginners wishing to practise visual art and for more experienced artists who would like to refresh existing skills and gain ideas.
    Ukulele for Beginners – Danny Wootton’s course will cover theory as well as practice. As well as learning contemporary pop songs, you will learn a bit of classical ukele.
    Philosophy in 12 Key Steps – A twelve week crash course in philosophy, ancient and modern, western and eastern, examining key thinkers and key texts.

    The Amazings – Learn from an Elder. You’ll find online classes to inspire your next project and teach you the skills to master your craft. Each film is the product of an unique collaboration between different generations of crafters. They come together to share their knowledge, stories and skills and charm us all at the same time.

    They started off with classes in their own homes but have since gone into online courses. There was a great course on Mushroom foraging… of course no longer available through an online class. Here’s my selection:
    Make a Scrapbook Keepsake -Discover how to turn an old read into a special keepsake. You’ll learn how to create secret pouches and pockets within a hardback, so you can hide secret messages and gifts for yourself or loved ones. It’s a novel take on traditional scrap booking.
    Big Knit a Weekend Bag – It’s fast, it’s simple, it’s colourful – it’s big knitting. You’ll learn how to use giant needles to knit a bag in just an afternoon. No previous experience of massive needles required.
    Needle Felt a Furry Friend – Got a fantastical creature living in your mind? Bring it to life with needle felting. You’ll learn you how to invent your own characters and make them out of felt. 
    Make a Mosaic Flower Pot – You’ll be shown how to transform a plain flower pot into a beautiful piece of art that will survive dozens of winters and really show your plants off.

    Upcycle charity shop Shirts into a Dress – Bring out the thrifter in you with three ways to revamp, reuse and recycle a man’s shirt into a dress.

    Skillshare – “The traditional way of education forces square pegs into round holes. It’s a one-size-fits-all solution that forces people down a predetermined path. Our mission is simple. Reunite learning with education and make it accessible to every single person on this planet. Anyone can learn anything, at any age, at an affordable cost, anywhere in the world.”

    Here are some courses I’m already doing and others I will enrol in.

    Learn InDesign: Layouts, Type and Images – Great intro to InDesign.
    Map Making: Learn to Communicate Places Beautifully – Maps in all formats, shapes and sizes. A true eye opener!
    Digital Illustration: Communicate with Colour, Pattern and Texture – Great way to learn digital Illustration.
    Flip it! make magazines on Flipboard – Flipboard is great. Making magazines on it is even greater!
    Basic Watercolours: Learn painting with PaperFashion – Do you love watercolours? Do you love shoes? If yes, this is for you!
    Paperfashion: Illustrate your favourite Runway Looks with Watercolour – Just gorgeous and so creative.

    Guardian Masterclasses – From novel writing to journalism and photography to blogging, find a course to match every interest and level.

    Here are some that appeal to me:
    Creative Writing Courses – Choose from a variety.
    Food and Drink Courses – Choose from a variety.
    Culture Courses – Choose from a variety.

    How to write a Blog that people will want to read – Spend a weekend in an eighteenth century weaver’s house in Spitalfields and learn how to write a blog with The Gentle Author.

    Photography Courses:
    City at Dawn – Photographing cities at dawn is a photographers paradise. The light is incredible and the city is virtually empty.  There are plentiful opportunities to create stunning images.
    London School of Photography – A great selection of different photography courses.

    Online Photography Courses:
    Extremely Essential Camera Skills – Take creative control of your camera and have more fun with photography. A great resource I dip into from time to time.

    Guided City Tours:

    Vayable – An excellent idea for those wanting to explore a city with a true local.
    Scooteroma – specialises in unique and exhilarating guided Vespa Tours of Rome.
    Bike Copenhagen with Mike – does what it says on the tin!
    Alternative London Tours – Gary created Alternative London as a fresh and exciting new approach to the London tours market.

    Themed Walking tours: another great way to see and discover a city, even if you live there:

    Art Deco in Bloomsbury Walking Tour (Architecture in the Machine Age) – I’ve been on this tour and Yannick does a great job.
    London Trails (Walking Tours with Old Maps) – Using old maps to help you find disappearing and lost London. Each walk is round a specific, often over-looked London neighbourhood. Great!
    Street Art London Tours – Their knowledge of the street art scene is very deep and has been experienced first hand through their relationships with artists and not read in a book.

    Design, Interiors and courses for the Home:

    Abigail Ahern Design School – With a twist from the norm, Abigail’s alternative design school breaks rules and creates new ones. Sharing her inside knowledge, decorating secrets, tricks & tips, Abigail shows you how to create seductively stylish spaces overflowing with personality. You’ll find online and off-line courses.
    I was fortunate to do a class in Ms Ahern’s Home so highly recommend either online or off-line.

    Megan Morton School – In a world of information overload, Megan’s Styling MasterClasses, and all the other classes at The School, will ignite your inner creative and help you discover the magic that happens when you work with your hands and your heart. Tuition from the best-of-the-best craftspeople inside the industry will give you insights into the coveted worlds of craft, styling and design.
    If I were in Australia, I would run to do some classes there.

    The Decorcafe: All about helping you to create a more individual home that suits you and your family. Fun and affordable ways to create the home you love!

    These caught my attention:
    Furniture Restoration and Advanced painting – I’ve had a taster session with Louisa from Westegg. She’s simply brilliant!
    Painted Furniture Workshop – another popular course with Louisa.
    Create the Home you love – This home workshop series is a fabulous way to build your skills and confidence to create the home you love and share your ideas.

    West Egg Interiors – owned by Louisa Blackmore, hold regular workshops on all aspects of home and interiors including furniture painting, furniture restoration, interior design, a cushion masterclass, how to make a roman blind and lots more.
    Colour Your Home – Where to find colour inspiration; Understanding colour; Using colour effectively in design; Relationship between colour, light and materials; and Develop a colour scheme.
    Paint like a Pro – Create an authentic French country look using chalk paints.

    Cass School of Design Short Courses – I’m a big fan of their courses. I can recommend Cass School highly!

    Here’s a selection.
    Furniture Restoration – This is an introductory course in the restoration and repair of wooden objects and furniture.
    Gilding for Beginners – The course aims to offer those who wish to gain an introduction to the skills of the gilder, or to refresh or extend their skills, an opportunity to do so.
    Woodcarving for Beginners – This 4 week course is designed to give beginners the skills and opportunity to become confident carvers.
    Loose Cover Cutting – The course encompasses the practical fundamentals of making a loose cover for an armchair.
    Introduction to Leatherwork – This short two-day course is to give you a taste of learning to work with leather, providing a practical guide with emphasis on hands-on application.
    Sketching Interior Spaces – This course is designed to give individuals with an interest in interior design/architecture an opportunity to develop their drawing skills in sketchbook format. I’ve taken this course and cannot recommend it enough!

    Everything Green – from growing your own food to learning about everything green!

    Start growing food at Home – Connected Roots provides a service that will install your urban garden, help you maintain it (with tips and growing knowledge from others growing themselves) and will help you reach a market to trade anything you don’t want or have to much of.

    Roots, Shoots & Leaves – offers a range of grow your own vegetables and gardening courses, rural skills and craft courses.

    Here are some that stand out!
    How to grow Chillies – This is a fiery taste workshop! You’ll learn how to grow, cook and eat chillies from around the world.
    How to create a Flower Garden – You’ll be shown you how to prepare your plot and how to grow in pots too, from choosing what to grow and planting seeds, to on-going maintenance and when to harvest. Flowers from March to November.
    Interpreting the Past | The Story of the Designed Landscape –  This course will look at some of the main garden design styles through history and look at the key design features that define them, and how they influence garden design today.

    Health and Nutritionchampioning the holistic, natural healing approaches and the healthier side of food, here are some suggestions for you.

    Deliciously Ella – You’ll make a range of delicious gluten free, plant-based dishes and a wonderful dessert and then spend the last 45 minutes or so having a beautiful dinner and enjoying everything you’ve cooked!
    Jayne Totty – Nutritional therapist Jayne Totty of Supernourished offers classes and workshops demonstrating how to add fresh and energising foods into any diet.
    Central Street Cookery School – An exciting and unique venue for all food lovers, located in the heart of London EC1. They offer inspiring cookery classes.
    Radiance – For a New Year’s cleanse, not a diet!
    Naturopathic Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Reiki – This is where I go to be treated!

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    This can be one of the most valuable gifts you can give. 

    South Bank’s Alternative Gift Guide – Give your time to be one of their Winter Festival Volunteers; give your skills by taking part in the Get Your Knit On! project, helping to knit blankets for vulnerable older people in London; give a coat to someone who needs it more than you as part of their Coat Tales installation or give a different type of gift this Christmas by buying something from the Gift of Giving charity shop in Spirit Level.

    Other charities you can participate in this Christmas:
    Crisis – The National charity for single homeless people
    Shelter – The housing and homeless charity
    Volunteering at Christmas – some more ideas!

    This list is by no means exhaustive, but if I don’t stop now I would be here till Christmas!
    In view of this being an extensive list, there’ll be no new post on Thursday. I do hope this has given you a little inspiration for your gift buying. Enjoy! See you all on Monday x