08 Jun 2019
Angela Sara West jumps aboard with prolific cruiser Julie Peasgood to find out more about her supercrafting, stressbusting workshops-with-a-twist at sea
Boasting extensive acting and TV presenting credits, Julie Peasgood has been in some of Britain’s best-loved soaps, received the Royal Television Society’s prestigious Television Personality of the Year Award, and also made her mark as a prolific travel writer.
Alongside her column in ‘Crafts Beautiful’ magazine, her passion for craft has seen her co-produce and present five series of ‘Crafty Beggars’ for Discovery TLC and Together TV, develop two ranges of craft products for Create and Craft TV, and lead crafting workshops all over the UK.
Now, she’s going global. Embarking on a very different kind of craft journey, Julie has just launched her brand-new ‘Supercraft Cruise’ venture, seeing her at the helm of her hand-picked team of some of the country’s finest crafting talent and setting sail on a new combined craft and cruise adventure around the world.
What inspired you to start your exciting new venture, Supercraft Cruises?
I’ve always enjoyed crafting at sea, but I’m aware that although crafters onboard tend to be very loyal to the classes, it’s generally only a small percentage of passengers who attend - and they’re also mostly women. I’m on a mission with Supercraft Cruises to spread the word about how therapeutic and stress-reducing it is to make things, and to introduce a lot of new passengers to the confidence-boosting benefits of creating something original and unique – and that goes for men as well as women!
You hosted a ‘tester’ Supercraft cruise to the Canaries last October, aboard Cruise & Maritime Voyage’s ship MS Magellan. How was it received, which expert crafters joined you on board and what tuition did they offer?
I’m thrilled to say it was received extremely well. Eight crafters were on that first cruise, all of whom I had met at various craft fairs or through their TV work. After inviting them to appear on ‘Crafty Beggars in the House!’ (the magazine-style show that followed the initial TV series of ‘Crafty Beggars’, which I conceived) I was so impressed with their diverse and professional skillsets that they seemed a natural team for CMV.
Jennie Rainsford and Karen Holland, who run the celebrated Lechlade Craft Barn, taught everything from no-sew fabric Christmas baubles and embroidered brooches to blockprinted tote bags and enchanting mosaic hearts. Mark Vardy, who runs Silvar Design, is a renowned jeweller and his classes are always packed – whether he’s workshopping Curious Kumihimo Bracelets or his latest inspired invention of jewelled lariats to hold cruise cards. Melissa Waudby is the owner of Simply Vintage and I love her work with all things retro. I treasure a ribbon wreath, a teacup diorama and a teacup pincushion I made with her, and she sources a phenomenal range of vintage buttons, materials, ribbons, lace, china and antiques for lucky passengers to work with.
Lisa Marie Olson, of Tigerlily Makes, produces beautiful felted work. I enjoyed learning how to make no-sew felt rose brooches and I’m desperate to make the tiny slippers for my granddaughter from her book ‘Felt Wonderland’ (published by Search Press). Ali Reeve runs Stamps Away and is a very experienced and popular tutor. She employs a range of her own techniques on unique MDF boxes, shapes and books to create fabulous pictures and plaques. Janie Burnett-Bleach is the founder of Janiesoriginals.com and specialises in mixed media arts and crafts. Janie produces some wonderfully-detailed and delicate creations, and her workshop teaching how to make fine hand-bound notebooks is hugely popular.
Delroy Davis produces original copper wirework and distinctive Steampunk-inspired pendants, fridge magnets and key rings. He uses old-style cogs and watch parts, suspended in resin and set in antique brass bezels. Marilia Carvalho is a superb stained glass artist. There is always a waiting list for her workshops as she teaches one of the oldest traditional methods of copper foiling, previously known as the Tiffany method. Passengers are delighted when they produce a little stained glass angel, sailing boat or flower that looks polished and professional.
And I gave a workshop teaching passengers how to transform a humble sock into a teddy bear. I had over a hundred passengers attending - including a lot of men - and we enjoyed some good laughs as well as producing an army of much-admired sock teddies!
And how did your collaboration with Saga come about?
As a travel writer, I have written about Saga several times - for ‘Cruise International’ magazine (for which I am Contributing Editor) and ‘The Mail on Sunday’ - and at a wonderful evening hosted by Jools Holland last year (to announce the arrival of Saga’s newest ship Spirit of Discovery, with Jools’s own music club) I chatted to Nigel Blanks, the CEO of Saga Cruises. He was extremely supportive about my idea of Supercraft Cruises and felt it was something that could add considerable value to cruises.
During a recent recce, you cruised aboard Saga Sapphire, visiting Norway and enjoying craft instructor Sue Schofield’s workshops. Tell me a little about the experience and the creations you came away with.
I enjoyed Sue’s workshops; we made a slip cover for a notebook, pretty scissor cases, a Liberty fabric necklace and a luggage tag. But my favourite craft was an appliquéd ‘penny purse’, an homage to our first destination, medieval Bergen, with its colourful waterfront houses known as Bryggen.
The ship then hosted your and Saga’s very first Supercraft Cruise, from Dover to Montreal just last month. I gather you taught your first celebrity crafters on board this ‘Emerging Canada’ cruise.
I’m thrilled to say that Sue Jenkins and her husband, David Fleeshman, were passengers and they absolutely loved the craft workshops! Sue and I worked together on ‘Brookside’ and, not only was it great to catch up with her, but she and David really enjoyed making cruise card lariats and vintage bracelets with Mark Vardy. They followed this with my sock teddy workshop and then Sue made a beautiful bird and mixed media ornamental bowls with Nikki Szabo.
Where else have you voyaged to discover some of the world’s best craft shops, galleries, exhibitions, suppliers, flea markets etc, and what have been a few of your favourite finds?
One of my favourite crafty haunts is ‘Scraphouse’ in Barcelona – a haven for scrapbooking materials - and the city’s vast 14th-century Mercat del Encants flea market is the oldest in Europe. There are fabulous vintage collectables, too, in the Ecseri market in Budapest.
Croatia is one of my favourite countries and has some superb craft shops and galleries – the ceramics in Split are particularly good. I also love Amsterdam – its galleries and museums are so stimulating. There is a fantastic paper and art supplies shop, ‘Vlieger Papier’ and, for anyone who loves quilting, ‘Den Haan & Wagenmakers’ is a den of delight for material lovers.
A little further from home, I found some gorgeous beadwork and bowls in Martinique. Santa Fe in New Mexico is full of thought-provoking galleries and the huge awe-inspiring Museum of International Folk Art. Buenos Aires has some extraordinary markets and craft shops – notably a great yarn shop, ‘Milana’. ‘The Quarter Stitch’, in New Orleans’ French Quarter, is also one of the best yarn and tapestry shops in the world.
I’m a big fan of haberdashery and ‘Ouro Têxteis’ in Lisbon is sensational. All the legendary Portuguese tiles in this city provide constant inspiration. And don’t miss Lisbon’s ‘A Arta da Terra’ - set in ancient stables, the original stone troughs have been transformed into shelves housing a unique array of local (non-touristy) handicrafts made by talented artists.
You’re bringing a very wide range of crafts, including some very unusual ones, to your workshops. What else sets your Supercraft Cruises apart from the competition?
I think what makes Supercraft Cruises different is the fact that there are so many crafters offering a wide range of opportunities. Many cruisers are repeat visitors to a ship, so it’s important to provide as much variety as possible. On the six consecutive sea days crossing the Atlantic to Canada, we had eight crafters giving eight workshops each day – meaning a total of 48 workshops were available to passengers.
I also make sure that I pick crafters who are good tutors, and whose finished work is exemplary, plus I choose artists as well as crafters. To my knowledge, authentic stained glass has never been taught at sea before, neither have the marvellous mixed media bowls and birds that Nikki Szabo makes – Nikki is one of my newest Supercrafters.
Next September, I will be taking a small group of Supercrafters on a CMV cruise to the Norwegian Fjords, where John Rattenbury will be joining us. John creates exclusive bronzed plaques – again, never before seen at sea – and his work is displayed in the British Museum. We’re different, and we can offer more value onboard because of our numbers.
So you cater for all levels, from absolute beginners to the very experienced, as well as for groups or individuals travelling/crafting solo.
Of course! It’s essential to be inclusive – and because we give detailed and individual instruction (we’re all able to help each other if class numbers get big) then everybody benefits. We had a large contingent of experienced and talented WI members as passengers on the Canadian cruise, as well as some people who had never crafted before. We try to meet everyone at their level and guide them accordingly.
Your second Supercraft cruise, aboard Saga’s brand-new ship Spirit of Discovery this November, takes in Roman Italy and Sardinia and the new ship appears to have all the hallmarks of a boutique hotel! What are a few of the other highlights?
I think the highlight for me will be that there is a designated crafts room, which I’m very excited about. Normally on ships, the crafting classes take place in the restaurant, card room or wherever there is available space, so to have our own special crafting space will be fantastic.
Are you aiming to introduce some new crafts on every cruise?
That is my goal, yes. The crafters in my team are all gifted individuals, who all have their own businesses and commitments, so the line-up of Supercrafters needs to be a fluid, flexible one rather than a fixed group, as not everybody will always be available. This means that new crafts will regularly be introduced by different team members, or my established Supercrafters will choose new projects to bring onboard alongside firm favourites.
So, can Craft Business readers who are interested in hosting workshops on future cruises contact you?
I always enjoy meeting new expert crafters, but I have to be very selective as I already have a long waiting list! If anyone can master a few workshops (that run around an hour each) I would be interested in considering them for my database of Supercrafters.
Please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org