Plastic Fantastic: I Am Acrylic workshop review

You can buy pretty much anything in London if you’ve got the money, but where’s the fun in that? A series of workshops in South East London aims to put a spotlight on craft, and on where objects come from, by encouraging people to get together and create things for themselves (with the help of the experts of course).

LOIS founder, Helen Ward, says: “I know not everything we buy can be straight from source – I get my wardrobe basics from H&M like anyone else – but I think it’s really important to remember that objects don’t just appear from thin air: they’re all made by someone.”

We went along to one session to see what it’s all about…

Lois workshop

We arrive at a bustling Peckham café for our acrylic jewellery-making workshop with Spitalfields’ I Am Acrylic, and find the crockery, glasses and leftovers have been replaced by boxes overflowing with coloured plastic swatches, safety goggles, fret saws (whatever those are) clamps, and eye-popping jewellery, every hue of the rainbow.

Lois workshop 2

I Am Acrylic’s Brendan and Ruth make us all feel welcome by asking about our “homework” – our thoughts on an email sent to attendees the week previously, asking us to think about potential jewellery designs.

Some of us have done this, some of us haven’t (ahem) but either way it doesn’t matter – they are both on hand to chat through ideas and make sure we come up with something simple enough for our inexpert abilities but interesting enough to be, well, interesting.

After much deliberation we settle on a fairly simple lightning bolt design, mainly for the straight lines: design and technology classes seem a long time ago and those hand saws looked decidedly tricky.

Once designs are finalised and sketched out on Post-It notes (comfortably low-fi for non crafty-types) the group is shown how to use a fret saw – which sounds more complicated than it is – and set to work on cutting out our shapes. Giggling and cries of frustration, and mounds of plastic dust (seriously, mounds of the stuff) ensue.

Lois workshop 4

Our guides, who founded I Am Acrylic over 10 years ago after Brendan made Ruth a bird shaped keyring for her birthday (naaw, you guys), couldn’t have been more encouraging and helpful: at one point we got stuck trying to “turn a corner” with the saw, only for Brendan to appear immediately and talk us through how to get out of it.

Finally – after a couple of snapped saw strings and less-than-straight edges – comes the finale. We file down all the edges to work out any kinks or bends, then round off the corners (our lightning bolt is surprisingly sharp) and sand down the sides, making them shiny and neat with a dab of Vasaline.

Lois workshop 3


Pendants are hooked onto chains, and chains are proudly thrown around necks. The results are great, but the best part is the process: sitting around a table, making new friends and learning new skills.Lois workshop 5

If this sounds like something you and your mates would enjoy, LOIS is offering 20% off all its workshops – booking binding, copper jewellery making, lino printing – throughout July, with discount code MAKE JULY. Check out the classes and sign up here.

I Am Acrylic are based in Spitalfields, you can catch them at the Designers/Makers at Spitalfields Market every third Saturday and Sunday of the month.

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