Is there something you’re great at that others would probably be keen to learn too? The burgeoning gig economy is making it easier than ever to monetise your passion and share it with your community. One such avenue for earning a second income is Airbnb Experiences, and 1,800 activities are already on offer hosted by people like you. We spoke to four such folks – artist weaver Sky Carter; milliner Neil Grigg and maker Pamela Woods; and luxury whisky expert Simon McGoram – who’ve chosen to share their individual passions in this way.
Sky Carter, host of The Artist Weaver
Four years ago, Sky Carter was watching a movie when a woven wall hanging in the set design caught her attention. Something inside her clicked. “I went onto You Tube then ripped up a cardboard box to create a loom. Using some old fabric and yarn scraps in a couple of hours I had my first ever wall hanging – it was love at first sight,” she says. Over the coming year, her studio practice evolved from one of oil paints to a fibre and textile space. “I realised the frustration I always experienced trying to get textural elements into my painting was satisfied through weaving.”
The joy Sky most derives from weaving is simply the feel of the materials in her hands. “It’s very pleasurable to be holding, playing with and manipulating yarn and fabric. Weaving is also a very ancient and primitive craft and I feel very grounded and connected to the past when I practice my contemporary version of weaving,” she says.
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Having left the full-time workforce, Sky had the bright idea to monetise her business beyond the sale of her artworks. “Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say. Having made the bold decision to remove myself from the workforce (at a time when I should have been hunkering down to ensure future security), I felt I had an obligation to myself and my very supportive husband,” she explains. “Studio work can be solitary, so it’s very important for me to create ongoing opportunities to engage with others and teach something I love.”
So she developed her own free-form weaving workshop, for which eager pupils scurried to sign up, pleased to walk out of Sky’s class wielding a piece of art they crafted themselves. “This is the beauty of this practice – it is so accessible,” says Sky. “I am always so delighted to see my students’ reactions as they see their work start to evolve and take shape after only a short period of time and some simple instructions from me. Weaving can be as basic or as complicated as you want to make it.”
“I teach these workshops through many avenues and it’s great to now be part of Airbnb Experiences allowing me to reach a global audience through my teachings. A woven wall hanging also really takes on the personality of the weaver. For example in a recent class of 16 students, all created very unique pieces that were very different from each other.”
Neil Grigg and Pamela Woods, hosts of Fascinator Extraordinaire
When they met in their twenties, Neil Grigg was a dancer with the Sydney Dance Company and Pamela Woods was studying at art school. Thereafter, Neil developing a love of hats and creating for the theatre and stage, while Pamela moved into working in TV and teaching. Today, they run an intimate class for Airbnb Experiences called Fascinator Extraordinaire, in Neil’s Paddington shop and studio stuffed with feathers, trims, hats and baubles. While Neil holds court, Pamela assists, and whips up homemade cake and pots of tea, so no-one works hangry.
“Everyone can look fabulous in a hat but some people are scared of hats, we aren’t brought up with hats in the way our grandparents were, it takes a little time to get used to wearing a hat, but once you do….” says Neil.
As for the three elements that make up a note-worthy fascinator, Neil doesn’t hesitate: “Three main things, line shape and texture. It helps too if you choose colours and tones that compliment your own skin tones. Fascinators should be creations, impossible and fantastic. It should frame the face – to be prettier and stylish. Oh, and make you taller!”
At the conclusion of every Fascinator Extraordinaire workshop, Neil says students are amazed they can make a hat. “It is lovely to help them make something stunning and beautiful, that they will be proud to wear.” Pamela admits it gives everyone such a rush that lasts well beyond the workshop. “They can say ‘I made it’ when people admire their fascinator; that’s a real buzz. I love seeing them try it on in the mirror at the point where they have finished. Their faces are priceless,” she says.
Having been in the business of making fabulous hats for 30 years, we asked Neil his advice for staying in love with the job. “I was lucky, very early to find something I loved as much as dancing,” he says. “But I think, whatever you do, constantly stimulate yourself by looking outwards, look at all aspects of design, not just your own little area but all areas.”
Simon McGoram, host of Luxury Whisky Tasting
It was a visit to Oban Distillery in Scotland’s western Highlands as a young man that piqued Simon McGoram’s interest in whisky. If you’re curious about the drop and want to be a more refined whisky drinker, rest assured it can be learned. How? “Through experimenting with the myriad of flavours the category has to offer,” Simon says.
If you’re a complete novice, take comfort in the fact that whisky is surprisingly versatile with food. “Chocolate, ice-cream, antipasto and cured meats all work a treat, perhaps my favourite pairing, though, is Talisker – a smoky, salty and spicy malt – with Stilton cheese… especially in a jaffle!” (If that prospect doesn’t thrill you, we’re unsure what will.)
Guests who sign up for Simon’s whisky experience often ask him the best way to drink scotch whisky. His answer is always simple: “Whatever way you enjoy it best! A little water can help open up the aromas and aid enjoyment when tasting whisky, but it is also versatile when mixed,” he says. To start your own journey of discovery, Simon recommends websites like scotchwhisky.com or malts.com so have a browse and see what you can find. “Becoming knowledgeable about whisky is something that takes a bit of time, self-motivated research and sampling,” he says.
If you’re interested in turning your passion into a profession, create your very own Airbnb Experience here.
Photography supplied by Airbnb