Lifestyle Journalist

M. Astella Saw writes about travel, food, retail, design and trends in the lifestyle sectors. Contact me at m.astella.saw (at)

The Gathering

The internet and social networking have transformed the notion of community for the 21st century. However, 20- and 30-somethings weaned on the web are gathering offline for real-life connection and experiences. Often passionate about revived classics, traditional skills and times that seem slower paced, today’s hobbyists come together to share knowledge, enthusiasm – and gossip. New Hobbyists span fixed-gear bicycle meet-ups in São Paulo and supper clubs in Hong Kong, crafting in Paris and carpentry in Boston. Viewpoint introduces five key examples.

Chair Club
Take a seat at carpenter Toby Liberman’s Chair Club, where a small group of DIYers meets once a week to mend broken chairs and initiate other woodworking projects, such as making wooden pegs or drawers. ‘It’s DIY in a club atmosphere,’ Liberman says. ‘It’s useful, you’re repairing stuff, and there’s nothing worse than a wobbly chair, is there? And we’ll have a curry, so it’s sociable as well.’ And where the attendees might be grateful enough for the carpentry skills Liberman imparts, they are just as keen on simply getting together. ‘It’s a meeting circle for blokes,’ says Liberman.
See also:
3rd Ward (Brooklyn)
Perth Wood School (Perth)
North Bennet Street School (Boston)

The 5th Floor
‘A sense of community inspired us,’ says David Hall, one of the organisers of the 5th Floor, a group of fixed-gear bicycle riders named after the roof-top parking lot where many of the collective’s members first met. While a core group of seven riders gathers at least once a week, the 5th Floor is open to all. Organised events, such as an all-night ride from London to Brighton, have attracted as many as 40 participants. It is not all gear talk and fast riding, though. ‘There’s something going on every week, whether it’s a magazine launch or a promotional night,’ Hall says. ‘Sometimes it’s not so much about riding as meeting up for a couple of beers.’
See also:
Fixa Sampa (São Paulo)
NYC Fixed (New York)
Siam Fixed (Bangkok)

Stolen Supper Club
The atmosphere of a game of musical chairs sometimes ensues at Stolen, the Monday-night supper club founded by Mia Kulla and Leandro Santos. Guests have been known to swap seats during a meal so they can mingle with as many of their intriguing fellow diners – bankers, cooks and fashion types among them – as possible. Many of Stolen’s foodie guests are keen on the cheeky recreations of famous chefs’ menus, but the intimate experience of a supper club (Stolen seats a maximum of 24 guests) has a particular draw as well. ‘Every night is different, as the guests are the ones who make the night,’ says Kulla.
See also:
Dai Due (Austin, Texas)
Once Upon a Table (Hong Kong)
Casa Felix (Buenos Aires)

Crafting is not just about products but also experiences. Bricolage, a collective of five textile designers, organises community-based workshops where attendees share ideas, skills and the stories of making things by hand. From darning and quilting to block printing and patchwork, the themed sessions in pop-up shops and village halls attract small groups of amateurs and serious crafters, architects and graphic designers, mothers and daughters, all looking to enjoy some social crafting. ‘Because most of our lives are spent in the digital realm, we crave something more grounded and “analogue”,’ says Clara Vuletich, one of the Bricolage collective.
See also:
Sweat Shop (Paris)
Seoul Stitch ’n Bitch (Seoul)
Crafty Foxes (Edinburgh)

Bleeding Thumb Whittling Club
Once a month, a group of urban 20-somethings assembles to carve pipes, hairpins, spoons and curious figurines out of bits of wood. Whittling may be a traditional craft, but the Bleeding Thumb Whittling Club is bringing it up to date with its east London gatherings around pickles and black coffee. What may have been considered a solitary pastime, akin to knitting, lends itself perfectly to groups as well. ‘The activity is necessarily slow and meditative,’ says co-founder Jack Brennan. ‘There is a social dimension to the meetings, obviously, but people spend a lot of the time in silent concentration, alone together.’
See also:
North House Folk School (Grand Marais, Minnesota)
Green Woodwork (Herefordshire)
Trackers Bay Wilderness Survival and Primitive Skills (Bay Area, California)

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30 April 2011