With creative hubs popping up and celebrating milestones in and around Portsmouth, now is the perfect time to get crafting. Despite arts groups and charities across the nation feeling the pinch at the hands of funding uncertainty, many fervent makers would still argue there has never been a better time to embrace one's creative side.
That much definitely seems true in and around Portsmouth, where residents – whether they know it or not – are spoiled for choice thanks to the efforts of a multitude of clubs and facilities.
From Havant to Fareham, to Gosport and back in to the heart of the city again, there is a collective out there waiting to hone and unleash the dab-handed talents swathes of people likely never knew they had.
Among the newest on the block to embark on that very quest is the Maker's Guild – which boasts tenancy on the second floor of Portsmouth's iconic Guildhall.
At this colourful, not-for-profit studio space, creatives young or old, experienced or intermediate can let loose and break, build, bend or destroy.
And that's all thanks to founders Gavin Hodson, an ex-art teacher, interior design expert Sam Asiri and entrepreneur and industrial designer Ming Wu.
For the price of a £10 half-day, £20 full-day or £120 full-month pass, crafters can reap the spoils of the Maker's Guild's wealth of workstations, practical resources, machinery and – most importantly, expertise from 9am to 8pm on weekdays and 10am to 2pm on Saturdays.
'The reaction to what we're offering here has been absolutely amazing,' says Gavin.
'What we have managed to do is bring together makers of all ages and abilities, support them and create something of an open forum while they get to work.
'The focus of it all is collaboration – and our absolute dream is sustain a really vibrant community and centralise Portsmouth's making flair.
'The city is extremely talented, but for better or worse, much of that talent goes under the radar and we want to change that.'
To encourage more makers to join, the guild's top trio run free taster sessions every Wednesday from 5pm until 8pm.
It's at these drop-ins the collective can build on its 70-strong weekly cycle of crafters, which includes jewellers, sculptors, robot designers, painters and leather makers – to name just a few.
Potters are a growing addition to that list too, with the Maker's Guild having acquired the popular Clay Station studio at the Omega Centre in the heart of the city, in November.
Up the road in Leigh Park, Havant, aptly-named charity Making Space also poses a valuable resource to the creative community in Hampshire.
It is fair to say this arts hub is not at the finding-its-feet stage, with celebrations recently marking its 10th anniversary – with a visit from Princess Anne no less.
Headed by director Lynne Dick, the Bishopstoke Road centre is home to seven studios rented out by expert artists and makers, who on top of their own professional tenancy, stage hands-on masterclasses for the local community.
These sessions enable creative souls of all skill levels to get to grips with aspects including painting, filmmaking, lingerie and womenswear, embroidery, gilding and print work.
And with special events like its forthcoming Open Studios in May, the folk at Making Space welcome new faces to go along and be inspired – often with great results.
'We are always keen to nurture new talent and people’s interest in craft and designing,' says Lynne.
'Since 2007 we have worked with more than 28,000 people and supported 22 different designer makers in our studios.
'Making Space is about providing a small step into making that connection between an idea, to handling materials and tools and making something.'
With a packed calendar of events to draw respective newcomers and regulars in, the results borne from Making Space's output are not only physically artistic, but personal to the individual, too.
Lynne explained: 'For one person it could be mastering a technique, the enjoyment of making and handling materials, meeting people and making friends – or building confidence because they have achieved an result which is unique and surprising.'
While some classes at Making Space do come with a sign-up fee toward materials used and artists' time, like the Maker's Guild it also offers free and informal insights into what the hub offers.
At a glance, its next such session - dubbed a Space to Make - will take place on April 17 from 10am to midday.
Widening the radius across the whole Weekend patch, there is one group which has at least one base in Portsmouth, Havant, Gosport and Fareham respectively – the Men's Shed.
Aimed at uniting retired men or men on their own, the regional makers' groups provide a forum to get active, make new friends and support the community by taking commissions for building projects.
The 20-strong Portsea M en's Shed was established four years ago and currently meets at St George's Church Hall three times each week, while members search for a new premises .
Explaining how vital the club is to its members, chairman Andy Pottinger says: 'For some of the chaps, this is the only time they get out and share a laugh, a cup of tea and fellowship with like-minded people.
'One of our members said he would probably be at St James' Hospital were it not for the Men's Shed – and that really underlines the importance of our get-togethers.'
BREATHING NEW LIFE INTO OLD KIT
While no city makers play down the satisfaction of creating something brand new with their bare hands, one outlet will soon provide an option some would argue is even savvier.
Spearheaded by Clare Seek, Repair Café Portsmouth is set to kick-start on Saturday, April 21.
The initiative will provide a social and creative space where people can take in defunct household items and possessions to be fixed alongside dab-handed volunteers.
Originally founded in 2009 in the Netherlands, the idea has already been met with great praise in the city - thanks to a successful behind-closed-doors test-run held recently.
It will now open to the public in a week's time, at Buckland Community Centre.
Running the drive in partnership with the Maker's Guild, Clare Seek says: ‘The trial was great - there was a real community feel and a buzz about it.
‘We had about 13 people turn up with broken items and almost all of them left with them fixed and with a smile on their face
‘We're excited to get the real thing going now.’
And just like the art of making from scratch has its benefits, so too does making do and mending, Clare says.
‘Money is tight for a lot of people these days. Repair Café Portsmouth will give them an opportunity to save it and fight back against the obsolescence that is built into so many products.
‘Not only that, but I think when you are able to learn how to fix something yourself, it almost feels as if you own it that little bit more.
‘It's a brilliant thing to do.’
• Here are the contact details you will need to start getting crafty
• Call: (023) 9247 2491 / makingspace.org
THE MAKER'S GUILD
• 07739 408348 / makers-guild.com
PORTSEA MEN'S SHED
• email@example.com / portsmouthmensshed.16mb.com/portsea/
HAVANT MEN'S SHED
• (023) 9307 9877 / havantmensshed.weebly.com
GOSPORT MEN'S SHED
• 07852 452664 / thegosportshed.co.uk
FAREHAM MEN'S SHED
• 07786 107001 / farehammensshed.org.uk