Material – The Alchemy of Making

With Nick Kary, Ruby Taylor, Elizabeth Crawford and Jessie Watson Brown

Do you long for a deeper connection between your hands and the land beneath your feet? Do you wonder what it really means to be human, to understand how our ancestors lived and worked in synergy with the world around them? Do you think you can find the wild beating heart of the maker within?

This is a gathering of humans on a piece of land, looking for our belonging to it, through our ability to transform its generous bounty into material objects of use. In doing so we will observe the transformation of ourselves.

31st May - 31st May with Mac Macartney & makers Nick Kary, Ruby Taylor, Elizabeth Crawford and Jessie Watson Brown
Free Talk: 31 May 2022
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24th June - 29th June Material Camp Book Now

Is this for you?

In these 5 days, we will live in a simple camp, cook and eat around a fire, work with the materials of the land, and explore our own relationships to them, uncover their primary nature, their stories and ours, and look for the threads that bind us together.

These are the five-fold stages of our transformation:

  • The land,
  • the material harvest we take from it,
  • the materials we create through this,
  • the processes we engage with through making,
  • and the objects we produce.

We will investigate and experiment with the following thoughts, among many others:

How we take for granted the objects we buy, how often we don’t make connections to their provenance or to the damage caused by the extraction of the materials they use.

The Earth from which these Materials are birthed, and which provides us with everything we need, but to which we show little respect.

The stories of our ancestors developing hand skills and language through making objects necessary for their survival communally.

Inspiration and nourishment for the makers within ourselves who are often dormant, reliant on mass-produced things

Objects with stories carry the power of memory, and when rooted in us have so much more power.

What will you learn?

  • To relate to place through what grows there, or from the soil it grows on.
  • To transform these raw ingredients into materials of the human dimension.
  • Through this process to gain a deeper understanding of the transformative union of ourselves and nature
  • To develop a deeper awareness of our power and our danger
  • To make some objects: a stool from wood we will harvest; a purse from fish skin tanned with tree bark; some pendants, vessels made from raw clay straight from the ground, fired in a clamp kiln that we’ll build together

Note: Out of the four materials to work with and objects to create, you will have time to make two.

Who is it for?

For anyone who has ever longed to make with, to communicate and transform with, the primary material and the place around them.
No previous experience required.

24 – 29 June 2022

Residential course based in Devon, at Embercombe

Accommodation is at Embercombe in our yurt village or selection of vintage glamping caravans

FEE: £525 includes accommodation and food.
Limited bursary places of £350 are available: apply here.

We are delighted to offer a 30% discount to those interested in purchasing Nick Kary’s recent book. Please use the discount code MATERIAL30  here.

material: the alchemy of making

material: the alchemy of making

Facilitator details

Nick Kary

Nick Kary

For nearly four decades Nick has worked to commission making fine, distinctive furniture and cabinets from wood, most of it sourced near his home, in the counties of South West England. During this time, he has been both a teacher and a student; one who is fascinated with the philosophy and practice of craft work of all kinds. Over the last 10 years he has split his time between making, teaching and writing. He is a visiting lecturer at the Schumacher College in Devon and an associate lecturer at Plymouth University. He also runs furniture making workshops at The Brake creative centre in South Devon that he runs with his wife Dolly. They have both been involved with Embercombe since its inception over 20 year ago. His book MATERIAL- Making and the Art of Transformation is his first published work and expresses his love and interest in the relationship between humans and the natural world through our inclination to make.

Jessie Watson Brown

Jessie Watson Brown

Jessie is on a path of rewilding, reconnecting, reskilling and remembering. Weaving together a love of making and crafting using natural materials, with immersing herself in the natural world and learning what it might mean to live as a human on this earth. She works running camps, facilitates on various nature-based programmes and in the winter plants thousands of trees. She currently lives in a land-based community on Dartmoor, and feels most at home among the granite and moss.

Ruby Taylor Native Hands

Ruby Taylor

Ruby’s practice is materials-led (using clay and plant fibres); concerned with origins and connection and the immersive, sensory experience of making; inspired by the dialogue that emerges between the maker’s hands and the materials. Immersed in the whole cycle of production: harvesting in a sustainable way, processing the raw materials, creating functional and sculptural pieces. Her work is also informed by extended periods of silent contemplative practice in the natural world, and being a team member of an archaeology & museums partnership for a number of years. A trained educator and maker with over 30 years’ experience, Ruby regularly runs courses in Sussex woodland and at UK heritage sites.

Link to a 3-minute film about why she does what she does


Elizabeth Crawford

Elizabeth Crawford

Elizabeth’s work revolves around plants and our essential human relationships with them. She is a basket maker, working primarily in mixed, locally harvested materials, and has been teaching about and practicing herbal medicine for 7 years. A keen forager and grower, Elizabeth is interested in what the plants have to teach us as well as in their myriad uses as materials, foods and medicines. Through creative, sensory experiences in nature she hopes to inspire others to find belonging on the land and in their bodies within a wild and changing world. She lives in a land based co-operative in South Devon.