Meredith Huston, founder and principal daydreamer of Turquoise Boutique Studio, is a maker on a mission to bring handcrafting and do-it-yourself workshops to the UAE community – and perhaps help spread a little happiness in the process.
Research indicates there are considerable wellness benefits to be derived from being creative and making things with your hands. The by-hand process can help to decrease stress, relieve anxiety and can impact positively on depression, while also imbuing a sense of accomplishment.
In addition, ditching digital stimuli for an hour or two and exercising your creative muscles on a practical level can also lead to an increase in creative insights and thinking in the days that follow.
Inspired by myriad crafting projects she was finding on Pinterest, Huston used her background in teaching and international development, and founded her company, Turquoise, to help people start making stuff.
In the past 18 months, the company has run more than 40 workshops, which have included macrame, scarf printmaking, lino carving for print, perfume-making, string art, terrarium-making, woven wall hangings, embroidery, flower crowns and various jewellery-making sessions.
Huston reflects that at school she was never good at drawing, painting or making clay shapes, and felt that it didn't come naturally to her. After high school and her "last failed attempt at sculpture", she decided that she wasn't a creative person, a viewpoint that is shared by many others once they have left formal education.
Yet she rediscovered the joy of making while working with young refugees and teaching children. “There are so many ways to be creative – you don’t necessarily need skills, it’s just a questions of training our hands,” she says.
It is this forgotten part of the brain that Huston taps in to with her workshops, by providing a no-hassle platform for making and creating, while also bringing together groups of like-minded people.
Huston began experimenting with projects at home and reflects that “learning how to do it on your own is really different to a workshop environment. It’s almost like the muscles in your hands aren’t used to making things, they don’t remember from when you are younger.”
Originally, Huston had the idea that she would create a supply business for making, and while she does produce kits and YouTube videos to support her special brand of DIY, she observed that the beauty of these experiences was enhanced when they were shared. The early workshops allowed Huston to experiment and see which projects and materials worked well, then further refine her concepts.
A large part of any crafting or DIY project is sourcing materials, and Huston takes on all the time-consuming legwork, networking with suppliers to ensure that workshop participants have everything they need for their sessions.
Even something as simple as nails for nail-and-string art projects can be a challenge. "I can't even tell you how many awkward conversations I've had trying to explain to construction people that I'm looking for 'nice nails'," Huston says with a laugh. "Pretty wooden pin tacks are difficult to come by."
Many participants are repeat attendees and have formed friendships over crafting sessions. “I realised that the workshops were lovely at building community and with no facilitation for this at my end. That happens organically when you are sitting side by side, making the same thing and asking opinions.”
It was this observation that inspired the development of team-building workshops for corporate gatherings, as well as bespoke making events for bachelorette and birthday parties, and other occasions. “I sometimes call it anti-team-building team building, because I don’t really include specific team-building things – these all just happen naturally,” Huston says.
For example, a recent nursery merger brought together two different working teams, and Turquoise Boutique Studio was commissioned to create a making event over which the employees of the two companies could join forces and collaborate. The circular weaving wall hanging that was produced as the employees got to know one another now hangs in one the nurseries as a reminder of that day.
Earlier this year, Huston ran a series of string-art workshops for the Happiness Journey, a free, government-sponsored event at Dubai Design District. "It was a unique experiential event, centred around community and getting strangers to talk," Huston explains. "In the first instance, mothers would sign up on behalf of the family, and then because there was a hammer and nails, the fathers would get involved, too.
"It was a nice chance for the family to bond. On a few evenings, towards the end of the last workshops, it was about 9pm and there were just tables of dads together finishing up the projects – not even the hammer-and-nail part. They were stringing up unicorn designs their daughters had picked," Huston recalls.
For information on forthcoming workshops, DIY kits and team building, visit www.turquoiseboutiquestudio.com