Learn how to express yourself through arts and crafts with like-minded people in a fabulous new Doha-based creative hub. Lisa Travell speaks to Inspiration Station co-founder Mel Schade to find out how.
Whenever I see craft projects on social media sites I’m immediately inspired. I want to make a scrapbook of family photos, design my own cards and make colourful cushion covers, but I never do. It’s not just the hassle of sourcing materials for all my would-be hobbies – I don’t want to buy a sewing machine and then realise I don’t actually enjoy sewing.
Enter Inspiration Station, a haven of creativity just off Al Waab, where you can sample a variety of crafts without a huge outlay on materials. It’s just what the crafty among us have been waiting for.
Founded by Mel Schade and Louise Al Jaidah, and located above Central English Speaking Kindergarten (CESK), the centre’s name speaks for itself. ‘We called it Inspiration Station as we decided we wanted it to be not just about making things, but about inspiring people,’ says Mel. Walking through the rooms I can see it was aptly named. There’s a Sewing Room with six machines, a Wet Room for painting and drawing, a Paper Room for scrapbook and paper craft, and a Cozy Room for knitting, crochet, embroidery or just relaxing.
It’s my turn to be inspired, as I take a seat in preparation for a bag making class for beginners. My mum was an expert seamstress so I’ve always wanted to learn to use a sewing machine. Mel explains that her inspiration came from her family too, ‘My mum has always sewn and been a crafter and my Dad was a builder. Instead of getting toys for presents I was always getting paints and doing projects.’
Class sizes are small here – there are six of us in the Sewing Room – to ensure everyone gets the attention they need. There are piles of colourful materials to choose from and we all select two and cut them to size, which is easy with a marked cutting board and circular blade.
‘The policy is that you come in empty handed,’ explains Mel, ‘so whether you are already a crafter and you just don’t want to cart your stuff around or you are new to the country, or even new to the hobby, you come empty handed and always leave with something.’
Mel guides us through the first steps and before I know it I’m machining in a zip! There are a few false starts, as I jam the machine and the thread comes away, but Mel is patient and explains step-by-step how to set it up again. I even wind a bobbin (see I already know the lingo). When I finish the class I look joyfully, and somewhat objectively, at my bag. Not all the seams are straight and the handle is slightly off centre, but I made it – it feels amazing.
‘I try to create projects for beginners where you can achieve something... so you always leave with a skill,’ explains Mel. ‘The purpose is that you have a good time making something. That’s what makes me happy.’ Plus it’s obvious that classes can become addictive, as fellow class member Angela Morrison explains. ‘I’ve never used a machine before and last week I made a beautiful cushion and I’m back tonight to make a bag,’ she says. ‘I’m completely hooked now!’
It’s a feeling that Inspiration Station is keen to promote and what prompted Mel to start up a membership programme with prices ranging from QR300 to QR3,000. ‘The membership covers using the equipment and dress making patterns, borrowing books from our library, and I’m also making up kit packs for people,’ she tells me. ‘The idea is that you get started in a class then use the facilities to build on that.’
Inspiration Station is also set to inspire the children of Qatar with fun classes such as introduction to scrap booking, mask making, papier-mâché, card making and creating friendship bracelets. Mel, a former art teacher, feels that some expat children miss out on crafts. ‘I see kids here that are not acquiring skills because of their expat lifestyle. Not because they are not being encouraged, it’s just that with the lifestyle of an expat family, you don’t always have craft stuff at home,’ she says. Mums with young kids can also look forward to getting crafty, as plans are afoot to include childcare services.
It’s easy to see that Mel is multi-talented and able to turn her hand to any craft, but she is equally as skilled in inspiring others. ‘I have always been passionate about making things so it’s really nice to light that fire in others,’ she says. ‘It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you’re crafty, it’s about being inspired and finding something that gets your creative juices flowing!’
Follow Inspiration Station on Facebook, or visit www.ourinspirationstation.wordpress.com.