Make yourself useful with these summer school classes

Baskets have been a part of Irish rural life for centuries

A little DIY could make a real difference for those trying to holiday at home

While we all want to get away from it all, after a long confinement the idea of doing nothing while on holidays could prove to a bit dispiriting. So why not tag on a little learning to your summer staycation? Check out these classes.

Captain your own deck chair
Even if your holiday plan is to just sit back and relax, you might like the idea of observing the world from a deck chair that you’ve made yourself . This class takes place over one weekend, and involves the making of an Adirondack chair, a design that was first popularised over 100 years ago. Thomas Lee came up with the design while holidaying in his summerhouse at Westport in upstate New York. The resulting squat form has a broad seat and arms, big enough to accommodate a drink or book – perfect for patio or terrace.

“It’s making something yourself, doing something yourself with your own hands, especially if you haven’t made anything before,” explains Tom Kelly of Bevel Furniture, on Co Wexford’s Hook Head peninsula. Kelly set up the school in 2012 at a time when his main business was nesting boxes. His weekend course takes two days, in which time you should have completed a chair of your own to take home. The course, excluding accommodation, costs €240 and is open to anyone from the age of 15 upwards. If you’re not happy with your own results, Kelly will let you take one he has made instead of your own.

“I’ve never had anybody take one of my chairs,” he says. If you do want to buy one of his chairs however, they’re priced at €180 each. You can see his chairs outside the café cum museum, formerly the lighthouse keepers cottages, of the Hook Lighthouse. bevelfurniture.com

Even if your holiday plan is to just sit back and relax, you might like the idea of observing the world from a deck chair that you’ve made yourself
Even if your holiday plan is to just sit back and relax, you might like the idea of observing the world from a deck chair that you’ve made yourself

Basket case
Baskets have been a part of Irish rural life for centuries, from the skib used to drain water from boiled potatoes to the creels used to bring home turf from the bog on the back of a donkey. They’re also trending with the vessels once again being used for everything from serving bread to housing plants to holding wood for the stove. Joe Hogan is the master and has showcased the art of the craft, says Rosa Meehan, curator of the National Museum of Ireland - Country Life, where several of Hogan’s designs are on show. Hogan is based in Loch na Fooey, Co Galway, a place he discovered while cycling around the west in the 1970s. He has adapted a farm-to-fork strategy to his design business by using about three acres of his best land to grow his own crop of wicker for his basketry.

Hogan is based in Loch na Fooey, Co Galway with his son Ciaran, a place he discovered while cycling around the west in the 1970s
Hogan is based in Loch na Fooey, Co Galway with his son Ciaran, a place he discovered while cycling around the west in the 1970s
They’re also trending with the vessels once again being used for everything from serving bread to housing plants to holding wood for the stove
They’re also trending with the vessels once again being used for everything from serving bread to housing plants to holding wood for the stove

This wicker is graded, and stacked by size and by colour, and is what you will use in the classes his son Ciaran now runs on the premises. Joe has stepped back from running the classes to concentrate on his much sought-after sculptural work. Ciaran runs a four-day residential course, beginning in October, at Loch na Fooey that costs €400 on a self-catering basis in one of two houses where everyone has their own room. The course covers the making of a log basket or a skib. The latter has traditionally been used to drain the spuds, but can be used as a centerpiece bowl or hung decoratively on a wall. Ciaran also has a studio cum shop space in Spiddal, where a two-day weekend course, involving the same kind of work, excluding accommodation, costs €140.joehoganbaskets.com

Sample woodworking and make a centrepiece
If you’re going on a city break you may not want to spend the whole weekend on a class or course. So if you’re tight on time or just easily bored, then Cork city-based Benchspace has launched some great, bite-sized courses that let you sample woodworking skills in a single Saturday morning session at the old Ford factory building.

So if you’re tight on time or just easily bored, then Cork city-based Benchspace has launched some great, bite-sized courses
So if you’re tight on time or just easily bored, then Cork city-based Benchspace has launched some great, bite-sized courses

It’s a great way to see if you like working with wood without having to spend a lot of money or time on it. You can learn how to make a coat rack, a chopping board, or a wooden clock. On August 22nd, Benchspace is running a tealight board making class. It’s a table centerpiece that could be adapted to hold dinner taper candles or even a desk organiser. The four-hour class costs €50. benchspacecork.ie

The award-winning smith’s skillset ranges from flat-bar gates to sculpture, kitchen axes, pot racks and fire sets so there are any number of items you could ask for help in trying to complete
The award-winning smith’s skillset ranges from flat-bar gates to sculpture, kitchen axes, pot racks and fire sets so there are any number of items you could ask for help in trying to complete

Get fired up about forging your own poker or Viking knife
If you fancy making the kind of knives featured on the TV show, Forged in Fire, then head to Co Sligo where blacksmith Michael Budd runs a Viking knife making course that will give you a forged handle version about the size of a paring knife. This one-day course costs €200 and requires some knowledge of the workings of a forge. Budd also offers a course for complete novices at the same price, where you learn how to make a poker for the fire and a bottle opener.

Blacksmith Michael Budd runs a Viking knife making course that will give you a forged handle version about the size of a paring knife
Blacksmith Michael Budd runs a Viking knife making course that will give you a forged handle version about the size of a paring knife

He can also tailor courses to suit your needs, should you have specific items you’d like to make. The award-winning smith’s skillset ranges from flat-bar gates to sculpture, kitchen axes, pot racks and fire sets so there are any number of items you could ask for help in trying to complete. A sculptor as well as a blacksmith, Budd only learned his craft in his thirties. He came to Sligo on holiday one December, fell in love with its ruggedness, and decided to stay, apprenticing himself to a local smith. Less than one year after going out on his own, he won an RDS National Craft Award. He then went on to mentor budding smiths on the RTÉ television show, Craftmaster.

Budd also offers a course for complete novices at the same price, where you learn how to make a poker for the fire and a bottle opener
Budd also offers a course for complete novices at the same price, where you learn how to make a poker for the fire and a bottle opener

While Budd runs day-long courses from his base in Castlebaldwin, he advises that those travelling from Dublin stay overnight. He recommends B&B TowerHill, on the outskirts of the town or you could stay in Boyle, Co Roscommon, which is a 10-minute drive away. Sligo town is a 25-minute journey. Bus Éireann’s number 23 will deliver you to outside the forge’s door. michaelbudd.ie

Joanna Sloan is an interior designer who worked on hotels like Tulfarris House and showhomes before diverting her energy and talent into fashion design
Joanna Sloan is an interior designer who worked on hotels like Tulfarris House and showhomes before diverting her energy and talent into fashion design

Make your own printed napkins or cushion cover
Joanna Sloan is an interior designer who worked on hotels like Tulfarris House and showhomes before diverting her energy and talent into fashion design, with a range of upscale children’s clothing, which was stocked in independent stores including Avoca. She has now returned to her first love, home and prints. The botanical printmaker draws influence from her garden at The Old Rectory, a Georgian house near Brittas Bay. Her print classes take place every Saturday morning in August, from 9am to 1.30pm and cost €70.

The botanical printmaker draws influence from her garden at The Old Rectory, a Georgian house near Brittas Bay
The botanical printmaker draws influence from her garden at The Old Rectory, a Georgian house near Brittas Bay

The class is held in her studio, the gate lodge of the main house, where you can learn how to print a pair of tea towels, a set of four napkins, or a cushion panel, on either cotton or linen, using the paper method. If you find you have a knack for it, and want to flex your creative muscles further, you can sign up to a Roman blind-making class that Sloan is planning for later this year. For inspiration, ask for a socially-distanced guided tour of the property where you can see how she mixes her printed textiles and colours with an artful confidence that works wonderfully on period homes of all eras. oldrectory.com

You can learn how to print a pair of tea towels, a set of four napkins, or a cushion panel, on either cotton or linen, using the paper method
You can learn how to print a pair of tea towels, a set of four napkins, or a cushion panel, on either cotton or linen, using the paper method