BSL users at Lark's candle making workshop. Image: Gemma Forde
BSL users at Lark's candle making workshop. Image: Gemma Forde

Craft workshops for deaf people have been launched to help beat loneliness

‘I often feel lonely with other crafters and miss out on conversations,’ said one sign language user

THE owner of a craft studio introduced workshops for people from the deaf community because of a request from a British Sign Language (BSL) user.

“I often feel lonely with other crafters and miss out on conversations,” said Heather Williams, the BSL user who came up with the idea. “Meeting like-minded BSL crafters, chatting in BSL and doing things together has really benefitted my wellbeing and mental health.”

Gemma Forde is the owner of Lark Design Make, the craft studio which runs workshops for BSL users. These workshops started during lockdown in 2021, when Ms Williams asked if she could join a crochet course that Ms Forde was doing on Zoom. 

This led to Ms Forde running workshops solely for deaf people on Zoom and later in person in her studio. Claire Anderson, the BSL interpreter at a candle making workshop on February 5, said: “Access for the deaf community has been pretty non-existent for years, especially in the art world.”

Claire Anderson (Left), Andrew Wellbeloved (Middle) and Gemma Forde (Right) in the Lark Design Make studio. Image: Lowri Lewis

“It is imperative that the deaf community have access to events like this if they wish to. Why should language be a barrier?” she said. Ms Anderson advocates for BSL interpreters like herself to be integrated into hearing environments more often.

She wants deaf people to have access to events outside of spaces made specifically for the community like Deaf Hub Wales on Newport Road.

Andrew Wellbeloved is a community support worker who helped with the interpreting at the candle making workshop. He praised people like Claire and Gemma for enabling deaf people to access events outside of Deaf Hub Wales, but spoke about the fact that there is still progress to be made.

He said: “It doesn’t make sense in 2024 that we don’t have access for the deaf community to come and do anything they want.”

BSL users at the candle making workshop on February 5. Image: Gemma Forde

Christopher Coles, 40, attended the candle making workshop and said he feels “much more relaxed” at events made for the deaf community. But he added: “It’s important we mix with the hearing world as well.”

Another attendee, Jane Hughes, 71, said events like this mean she is able to “get out of the house” and socialise.