Finding a hobby can mean meeting like-minded people while developing old-school skills, writes Danielle Wright.

American writer, Dave Barry, once wrote: "Hobbies of any kind are boring, except to people who have the same hobby." If you've ever been cornered by a person passionate in a hobby you don't have any interest in, you'll be nodding your head at this statement, which also explains the appeal of having a hobby - to meet like-minded people.

Woodturner Kevin Hodder says he's heard members of his guild comment: "I've never met a woodturner I haven't liked, but I've liked some more than others." It's this bonding experience, as well as the satisfaction of making something with your own hands, that keeps these old-school trade crafts alive.

Analogue photography and darkrooms
Selwyn College, 203-245 Kohimarama Rd, Kohimarama. Ph (09) 521 9623. Next five-week course starts Monday August 20, $112.

Anthea Whittle recently completed Selwyn College's Photography and Darkroom course. She liked it so much, she's booked to take the same course again - and so have most of her original class.


"I always had a bit of an interest in photography - it started as a curiosity thing mainly," says Whittle, who admits it has spiralled into a camera obsession. Her latest acquisition is a camera her uncle used as a child, 70 years ago.

This passion can expand into other areas, such as making your own camera or coming up with chemistry mixes to get special effects. The hobby extends online where likeminded people discuss the analogue crafty approach. There's even a website showing how to use the boot of your car as a darkroom.

"It's nice to be able to do it all yourself and the first time you put a photo into solution and see the image come up is a pretty satisfying feeling," says Whittle, who recently put up digital photos of her holiday online, but saved her analogue photographs to discover as "happy surprises" once developed.

Stained glass making
Mandy Wood Stained Glass, 13 River Rd, Mangawhare, Dargaville. Ph (09) 439 1737.

"We have groups making a weekend out of learning the craft of stained glass. We'll go to the local restaurant or pub and it's a chance to mix with other people who like making things," says Mandy Wood, who teaches stained glass techniques in Dargaville. "Everyone takes away a finished product they've made themselves, as well as seeing a bit of the Kaipara."

Often, the group will make a window with a tulip design because it provides all the curves people need to learn to cut. And if you make something personal, such as to celebrate the birth of a child, you can take the stained glass window with you when you move - it works as a kind of double glaze on existing windows.

"Being taught by professionals, rather than taking a hobby course, means you'll make something you'll be proud of. If it's your business and your passion, you want anything that leaves your studio to be of a high standard," says Wood.

Woodturning Guilds are available throughout the country, see North Shore Woodturners Guild meets on Tuesdays at 7pm at the Guild Hall, Agincourt Reserve, Agincourt Rd, Glenfield. Ph (09) 478 8646.


"You can see the results appearing in front of you - it's a really great experience," says Kevin Hodder, President of North Shore Woodturners Guild, who took up the hobby almost 20 years ago and loves "the smell and feel of turning wood."

The group meet for "show and tell", followed by demonstrations. They work on a lathe, which is a piece of equipment used to support the wood, turning it as it's shaped. Hodder admits it's easy to become a collector of tools, forever looking for the perfect gouge.

"The most complex wooden toy I've made for my grandkids was a nine-piece train set and puzzle. Spinning tops also provide instant satisfaction and come with a lifetime battery, which will last through to your great grandkids play-time," says Hodder.

The wood is often found through our "huge urban forest" and Hodder says he recently found, "a great big pohutukawa fallen in a storm. It's now being made into beautiful wooden bowls, things of beauty that will last for generations."

Men's sheds
Find a shed in your region through Men's Shed Glenfield, Ph (09) 959 0185. Annual fee of $50. There are similar clubs, such as Devonport's The Clay Store, which has been running for 27 years and operates on a pay as you go basis. Ph (09) 445 8786.

"Women network very well, men don't," says Ross McEwan, Chairman of the North Shore branch of Men's Shed. "Men tend to hibernate and depression can set in. But, there are a lot of these guys who have huge knowledge to share."

Heading to the shed for a break from family responsibilities was an essential part of men's health in New Zealand.

Now, men without sheds at home can still get the benefits by joining the men's shed movement, with around 50 community sheds around the country.

Anything from turning steel or building a trailer can be made possible at the Men's Shed. They provide the equipment and often the know-how.

"Even if guys want to learn how to cook a steak properly, we'll organise someone to show them how to do it," says McEwan, whose members often live by themselves.

He says the medical profession has been particularly encouraging of the concept and in Australia, it's growing fast thanks to huge monetary grants from their government. And ladies, don't worry; if you'd like to come you're most welcome.

Motat and the Association of Book Crafts has bookbinding workshops every third Sunday of the month, the next one is August 19. Every week this month, join the Journey of the Book (this weekend, printing; next weekend is binding and August 25-26 is the massive steamroller printing event with the team from the Lopdell House Gallery). Motat, Great North Rd and Meola Rd, Western Springs. Ph (09) 815 5808. Free with entry.

"Bookbinding is a craft," says Roger Boud, of the Association of Book Crafts.

"In some respects you could say it's a bit of a dying art, but bookbinding was once a trade. There are not many apprenticeships now, but we're fighting this."

The Motat workshops are basic, such as learning how to re-bind a paperback, but if you get the bookbinding bug, you can join the association for $30 per year with access to how-to DVDs and a newsletter.

"I work with leather and that smell is retained in the binding, it's lovely. Leather is the ultimate material for us to use," says Boud. "There's still a few people teaching gold leaf lettering too - quite an art, if you can do that."

Children can also learn bookbinding at Motat and they have the chance to sew a booklet, which Boud says is: "Lovely, the children get quite excited."

Sewing, patchwork, embroidery, spinning and weaving

In a back room of her home, overlooking a carefully tended garden, Lyn-Marie Young teaches people how to sew.

As a new mum, rediscovering my crafty side after years working in an office, I went along to learn how to make dresses for my daughter. Young is the model of patience. She runs adult, private and children's sewing classes.

For something more intricate, consider Patchwork & Embroidery at the Beach Haven Community House or visit Cushla's Village Fabrics in Devonport for classes such as layer cake quilts and a Christmas-themed Santa and friends workshop.

Groups such as the Manurewa Spinners and Weavers Club also produce work for sale and exhibitions. President Hazel Harty says the appeal is about "the creativity plus the friendship, everyone bounces ideas off each other. It's infectious".

She says that craft is no longer "old fashioned, a bunch of old ladies sitting around spinning and gossiping. We have brought it forward into the 21st century. Felting for example has migrated from quite thick pieces/garments to cobweb thin in the last few years."

Sew Inspired is based in Torbay. Ph Lyn-Marie Young (09) 473 3990.

Beach Haven Patchwork & Embroidery Group: $3 at the Beach Haven Community House, 130 Beach Haven Rd, Ph (09) 483 9942.

Cushla's Village Fabrics, 38 Victoria Rd, Devonport. Ph (09) 445 9995.

The Manurewa Spinners and Weavers Club meets every Tuesday at the Nathan Homestead from 10am-2pm. Ph (09) 294 8334.