Workshop Day at The Forge, Bristol...

You could say that last Saturday kicked off this year's series of workshops. About time, really, considering it's already April. And what better place to start than at The Forge in Bristol. If you've never been there or heard of that place, you really ought to check it out. It's one of those places where the moment you walk in, you start to fantasise about making it your home and where you'd put your furniture. Well, I do, I have it all worked out... 

The day was completely booked out and I had an early start getting everything ready before the students would arrive. As usual, I had brought along a car load of props, flowers and foliage, and of course a cake. I had pre-baked the sponge and only needed to assemble and ice it on the day. "You had one job" springs to my mind right now... Actually, I obviously had more than one job and I'm always a little nervous before a workshop which won't have helped matters. Anyway, turns out that baking the cake more than one day ahead was a mistake because the sponge was by now anything but spongy. I knew the moment I unwrapped it from the cling film that things had gone wrong. I had also made the huge mistake of trying out a new recipe. Why? I honestly don't know. Why would anybody try a new recipe for an event? The orange and cream filling wasn't sweet enough, the icing turned runny, in short, the whole thing was a disaster and I knew it before I even presented it. I had no choice but to carry on red-faced though, present the cake later on, decorate it and let the students photograph it. "This won't do my reputation much good" I thought...

So why, I hear you ask, would I even think of including images of said cake here? Well, because it's important to me to show that we all have days where things go terribly wrong. Some more so than others. It wasn't my proudest moment, but if I only ever show the shiniest, best, proudest parts of what I do, then I'm presenting a completely wrong picture of myself and my job. And it shows that - with hindsight - it's not necessarily the end of the world. My pride might be somewhat dented and I could feel my cheeks burn, but I can now (nearly) laugh it off. I'm not saying that we shouldn't strive to do our best and work on our own definition of perfection (the emphasis being on "our own definition"), but it's also important to acknowledge that none of us live a life consisting purely of showreel moments. 

Anyway, the other parts of the day went much smoother. As I mentioned, I'm always a bit nervous before a workshop. I'm a natural worrier and tend to fret about everything from "did I bring enough props" to "will the students feel they've learned enough". I truly want people to feel they're coming away from one of my workshops with new knowledge, new confidence, new skills, and that the money they've paid was worth it. This in turn makes me constantly re-evaluate what and how I'm teaching. I will update the photographs of vignettes I'm showing and I always ask if there is anything I haven't covered or answered. I will lend a helping hand with the styling tasks whilst trying not to impose my own style. And I will try to make everybody feel as comfortable and welcome as possible. And when it comes to making feel people comfortable, I believe that sharing food always helps. The fab lunch provided by Silkie (the owner of The Forge) and shared around the huge table gave everybody the opportunity to chat and make new friends. Maybe that's my favourite part of any workshop: the community and new friendships that develop... 

I'm hoping to be back at The Forge in Autumn and also have new dates for London and Northamptonshire. If you're interested in taking part in one of these photography and styling workshops, then click HERE for all the details and to book your space. You can also find me in Portugal from the 15th until the 20th of May where I will be teaching a food/prop styling class at the creative and culinary retreat hosted by Natasha Seidel (Taking a Moment in Time) and Sarah Haycock (Sarah Notes). Click HERE for the details. There's one thing I can promise you right now: no more cake experiments.