A year in the making…..

Monday, 09 February 2015

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Blackhorse Workshop’s Creative Director Harriet Warden looks back on a successful first year of operation:

Blackhorse Workshop celebrated its first birthday this weekend in spectacular fiery fashion. It’s been amazing to take stock a year on to see how far we have come in such a short space of time. Last December we arrived at the new building – transformed thanks to the vision of Assemble – with just ourselves rattling around. Kitted out with a wide range of wood and metalworking machines the space has rapidly transformed into a fantastic community of makers, supporting local residents alongside emerging design talent from across London – by providing technical expertise from basic skills through to high-end fabrication advice.

Tucked away in an industrial unit in Blackhorse Lane, Walthamstow, the workshop has quickly established itself as a new kind of public space. The idea of an open access workshop in London didn’t really exist previously, and although there were workshops geared towards professionals, there was little to support anyone simply wanting to do some basic DIY, build some shelves or learn the basics.  What’s exciting about Blackhorse Workshop is that it’s become a place that supports both ends of the skill spectrum.

The Workshop now has more than 150 members, and provides space for over 20 new creative enterprises. It’s addressing the major issue that makers face after leaving college of having no access to the space and equipment needed to continue working. With our growing computer dependent lifestyle, the Workshop is providing a vital outlet for anyone keen to escape the keyboard grind. It’s been great to see so many thriving startups who simply wouldn’t have been able to venture out on their own without the Workshop. There’s been some incredible things built over the last year – a wooden bike frame (now to be seen pedaled around the streets of London), a steel smokery for specialty Dutch sausages, a giant stunt mattress for a film shoot, hand forged kitchen knives, giant pencil lamps, festival signage, cigar box guitars, theatre sets and hog roasts, not to mention solving many a DIY conundrum, and even building a religious shrine!

So the best moment for me so far? Perhaps it was the sight of over 500 people watching our giant mechanical burning skeleton in celebration of bonfire night, or seeing one of our members with no prior making experience proudly showing off her new set of shelves, or seeing a metalworking chef transform his horsebox into a fully operational street food business…there have been so many golden moments over the last twelve months.

So where to next? There’s already an exciting year starting to unfold. From next month we’ll be expanding our top floor studios to accommodate more makers starting out, developing a new building to support a programme for kids and young people, and there’s new partnerships in the pipeline with the V&A and TENT London. One thing’s for certain – there’s a making revolution happening in this city, and Blackhorse Workshop has become one of its major players.

Harriet Warden

Blackhorse Workshop is open Monday – Saturday, 9.30 – 5.30pm. Visit the Workshop’s dedicated website for more information including how to join as a casual or professional member.

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Images: Blackhorse Workshop’s first birthday celebrations. Images courtesy of Julia Jevzikova.