Express Yourself

Alternative art courses to draw out your creative side

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Megan Murray
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Let your creative juices flow free and try some of these alternative art courses.  

Have you ever, come that inevitable 3pm slump at the office, indulged a day dream about being more creative? Or mused aloud with your friends: “I’d love to be the kind of person who has artistic hobbies, something of my own to pursue outside of work”?

For many of us, the idea of painting in our spare time or nurturing an interest in jewellery crafting or a talent in creative writing is one of those things that we’d love to do, but realistically we struggle to get round to organising. The romanticism of it sounds so appealing, but putting ideas into practice is often a very different thing. 

Well, this September we’re challenging you (and ourselves) to the seize that back-to-school spirit, the feeling of starting of a new term and grasping a new season by the lapels, and finally giving your creative side the time it deserves. 

It has been proven that unleashing our creative sides can have seriously positive effects on our mental wellbeing (not to mention boost our confidence), but it’s something we’re not doing enough. 

A study by the art app Bloom found that 64% of people feel that they’re failing to live up to their full creative potential, and that figure increased to 71% among 18-34 year olds. Out of those who do get the opportunity to work on a creative activity, 85% of survey respondents believed it helped them to feel more relaxed and relieved stress. 

And it’s not just us who has a sneaking suspicion that leading more creative lives would make us happier: experts also advise that working on creative projects at work or in our free time is likely to have a positive effect, especially in our professional lives.

“Humans need to be taken out of regular patterns of behaviour or a comfort zone so that we have the opportunity to learn new skills,” says clinical neuropsychologist Dr Priyanka Pradhan. “This then gives us a sense of accomplishment and mastery which boosts confidence and resilience.”

So, what’s stopping you? Here are five examples of alternative art courses designed to get your creative juices flowing, as well as a selection of locations that you can do them. 

Street art workshop 

East London’s Brick Lane is famed for being a bustling hub of street art, with its walls playing host to the work of graffiti artists such as Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Jimmy C, Invader and many more. Become part of this ever-changing movement and take a day course with Alternative London, which first includes a walking tour of Shoreditch’s colourful streets before heading back to the workshop to wield a spray can for yourself. The team will teach you spray can techniques and all you need to know to draw, cut and create your own single or multi layered stencil and build your own unique piece of street art

The course is approximately four hours long and takes place on weekends and select days in the week. You’ll be with a group of about 18 people and the course is priced at £32. See more here

Similar courses around the UK:

Zap Graffiti workshop in Liverpool 

Bookbinding class 

If you’re the kind of person who adores hanging out in old libraries and your perfect evening consists of snuggling up with a good book, why not take your love of tomes to the next level and enroll in a quirky bookbinding class? The London Centre for Book Arts runs regular workshops for different levels of experience, starting with an introduction to bookbinding that teaches you how to create handcrafted books. 

Participants will learn how to fold and manipulate paper using specialist bookbinding tools, and will be taught three versatile book structures – the pamphlet, the concertina, and the Japanese stab binding – which can be used to present work, to personalise and give as gifts, or as the basis for artists’ books. Once you’re finished you’ll leave with your own handmade books to take away, and the skills to make more at home. 

The first introductory class is priced at £95, and there are three more classes that you are recommended (but not required) to do to complete your bookbinding training. 

Similar courses around the UK: 

Craft Bookbinding in the Peak District 

Introduction to Book Folding in Derbyshire 

Japanese Book Folding in Surrey 

Flower arranging workshop 

The Flower Appreciation Society’s bloom-filled space is a welcoming working studio where you’ll learn the basics and trickier skills of flower arranging. The evening hand tied bouquet workshop is perfect for all levels of experience. Plus, you’ll be greeted with a glass of prosecco, which we all know is the ultimate icebreaker.

Go solo or with a friend, and within an hour and a half you’ll learn how to ‘spiral’ together a bouquet from seasonal flowers, some grown right around the corner from the team’s cutting garden in Hackney. The technique is a handful (quite literally) to get the hang of initially, but with some great coaching from Anna, one half of The Flower Appreciation Society, and the knowledge that you won’t nail it first time (kudos if you do) you’ll be smug with the natural looking bouquet you produce.

The number one takeaway (other than a beautiful bunch) is creative inspiration and a sense of achievement. Working with both hands means there’s no time to reach for your phone, so you will be immersed and focused on the beautiful task at hand.

Anna also dropped plenty of tips and hints about flower sourcing and seasonality. It’s a whole new dictionary of flower terminology to absorb if you’re interested in taking things further than the single class.

After one evening, an overhanging flower, shrub or branch from a neighbour’s garden will begin to look like an opportunity to create another beautiful bouquet.

Each class generally occurs once a month, take a closer look here

Similar courses around the UK: 

Gigil and Bloom flower workshop in Nottingham 

Frog Flowers flower school in Manchester 

Green and Gorgeous flower farm in Oxfordshire 

Handmade Ceramics Course 

As far as chic ceramics go, North East London-based pottery workshop SkandiHus comes top of the list. The brand’s ready-to-buy products are a dreamy plethora of on-trend pastels, with plates, bowls and mugs coming in unique, free-form shapes making each one look special and unique. If you’re interested in learning how to master ceramic skills yourself, you can either try a half day taster session for £45 or commit to a 12-week course for £320. 

No matter your experience level, the course leaders promise to cater to your goals and ensure that you’ll be taught both how to hand build and throw on the potter’s wheel, while more experienced students will be helped to improve their existing skills. Throughout the course, you can expect to make between six to 12 of your own pieces to take home and of course, enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the studio and hopefully make some new friends in the process.

New courses start most months but be sure to register your interest pronto as they get booked up pretty quickly. 

Similar courses around the UK:

Sundragon community pottery courses in Birmingham 

Enigma Pottery classes and courses in Somerset

Cardiff Pottery Workshops in Wales

Calligraphy class

Alice Gabb is a calligrapher, illustrator and stationery designer, who after graduating from Bath School of Art with a degree in Graphic Design and Illustration has progressed from selling her hand printed fine stationery on East London’s design-led Broadway Market to running her own studio in Dalston and teaching a host of charming calligraphy classes. 

Out of some of London’s most talked about venues, from Palm Vaults to Carousel, Gabb gives lessons on both brush lettering and brush calligraphy (the difference between which is explained here) at both beginner and intermediate level. Classes take on average two hours and include an introduction to good technique and some lettering knowledge, before some practice exercises and letter forms. By the end of the lesson you will be able to write your name, or a favourite quote.

You’ll also get some guide sheets, ink, brush, paper and a tote bag to take home, all for £55. Take a look at her upcoming classes here

Similar courses around the UK:

Brahmin Lettering in Glasgow

Gemma Milly Joyful Ink in Bournemouth 

Polly and Me calligraphy workshops in Nottingham

For one day only on Thursday 20 September, Gemma Cairney has taken over and transformed it into her very own Express Yourself platform – a digital initiative which aims to inspire us, challenge us and encourage us to explore our creative sides.

For similarly inspiring content, check out Stylist’s September Shake Up initiative here.

Images: Getty 


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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a senior digital writer for, who enjoys writing about homeware (particularly candles), travel, food trends, restaurants and all the wonderful things London has to offer.