The Great Upholstery Hammerdown

What a fabulous day. Judith is a brilliant tutor with a relaxed and generous style. Her knowledge of furniture, wood and materials was fascinating and encyclopaedic . (I did not know that pure wool is 80% fire retardant).

Everyone brought a different item (we all agreed that we had all embarked on the course with a specific project in mind). They were all very different and all told a story. Layers of fabric were peeled back, dust from 100 years ago was released, and the stuffing from Kevin’s dining room chairs brought back the smell of his childhood.

No one felt rushed and there were plenty of tools and materials available. The venue was light, airy and perfect. There was homemade cake, and coffee and an electric stapler which was just dangerous enough to make you feel as if you were wielding a chainsaw…
Slowly but surely we all hammered, pinned, sewed and tapped our way to the transformation of our dearly loved furniture. It was amazing therapy!

It was marvellous value for money – any additional materials were of a reasonable cost. The covering for my piano stool cost £3 from a charity shop so I was chuffed to bits. It was great to go home and feel a great sense of relaxation and achievement … although sitting on the ‘what feels and looks like a new one’ piano stool is not allowed …yet! I am so proud of it … never did I think I would achieve so much in one day ….

By Julie Brown


What’s in your Button Box

Funky or Vintage Up-cycled JewelleryJewellery 4

Have you ever wondered what to do with your old beaded necklaces – old fashioned, broken, or just not ‘you’? Don’t throw them away, be creative and make them into something beautiful, funky or vintage. Kate designs her own up-cycled jewellery using bits and pieces found from charity shops or from the bottom of her button box.

Kate has been teaching jewellery making for many years, but the idea of up cycling goodies she finds is a relatively new idea. With a very good eye for colour and texture, Kate will work with you to make thoroughly beautiful jewellery that no one would image was made from charity shop pickings!

The joy of this course is that you make something bespoke that you like. These earrings couldn’t be more different in style. It costs nothing….just time! Look at these beautiful venetian glass beads from an old necklace made into a more modern style, plus enough left to make earrings to match.

Jewellery 1


The Art of Glass Fusing

Learner’s Review

This was a wonderful introduction to the world of glass fusing.Cut Glass

The tutor expertly combined technical know-how with creative inspiration.

There was plenty of opportunity to create unique designs to enhance your home or garden, or that you could give as beautiful gifts for family and friends.

The Old Hall Cowbridge was an ideal venue – it was easy to get to, provided excellent facilities and had fabulously friendly staff.

All materials and equipment were provided – we were able to choose from most amazing selection of glass to create our designs.

I so enjoyed the luxury of a day, learning a new skill and meeting new people without the distractions of the washing machine or the iron!

Top tips

1. Glass cutting can be precise work so if you’re like me and you need to wear your glasses for measuring, remember to bring them with you!


2. During the course you get the opportunity to create 3 beautiful pieces – this is all included in the course fee. However, if you are a fast worker, you may have time for a fourth piece – in which case bring a couple of quid with you for the extra materials.

3. The fused glass designs need to be fired in a kiln so remember to pencil in a follow up visit to Cowbridge to collect your pieces. I decided this was the perfect opportunity to sign up for another course!


Bitten by the Willow Bug

Jbigstock-Handmade-baskets--112201415 RSane was bitten by the willow bug and picked up a well deserved Vale Role Model Award. We were delighted to celebrate Jane’s learning journey which started out on a 3 day willow course with Vale Courses at the Old Hall Cowbridge.  Jane made excellent progress, creating 3 beautiful welsh baskets.  It was Jane’s enthusiasm that galvanised the others learners into action and formed a private group with ‘Out to Learn Willow’ to provide progressive tuition in a variety of willow disciplines but mostly basketry.  Jane’s desire to experiment with different weaves has now caused a houseful of baskets!

This year Jane decided to enrol on one of the only 2 long courses in basketry which currently runs in this country – the City and Guilds in Basketry at Westhope College in Shropshire.  She continues to make progress and has now decided to retire from her job as a counsellor which will give her more time for basketmaking!Jane Clarke Role Model Award July 2017 RS

Jane said “I am so glad I saw the Vale Course advertised through their emails and would say to others to get on and if you see something that excites you then have a go!!”



Through the Looking Glass

Inspired by the Physic Gardens these beautiful pieces would look lovely in my home. Unbelievably these were designed and created on a One Day Course at the Old Hall Cowbridge. Learners spent the first hour exploring the Physic Garden, taking simple thumbnail sketches or some used their mobile phones to take a photograph. The lines and colours identified from their image were used to inspire their design in which to create their stained glass. The course enabled you to cut the glass safely and accurately, how to grind the edges, apply copper foil and solder together. The tutor Ingrid Walker was so encouraging and provided all the materials needed. All you had to do was remember to wear closed toe shoes and have arms and legs covered. A fantastic day out.