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Making the mistakes here not at home

Making the mistakes here not at home

Collette came up with idea for Chix & Mortar as she’d spent so much money doing up her own house. As her family grew, she slowly converted four separate flats into a large family home but it had proved very expensive. And even when they didn’t shell out for a professional, the work was time consuming…

‘I asked my husband to do a bit of tiling but he was taking forever to get round to it, so I thought I’d have a go myself.’ She says.

This is a familiar story. I had wondered what sort of woman would splash the best part of £200 on a weekend spent in unflattering overalls, learning DIY skills. While our group’s a mixed bag of age groups and professions, every woman on the course wants to get things done herself and not have to rely on anyone else.

I’ve tiled, drilled and sawn alongside characters like Natalie, a glamorous 45-year-old American expat with immaculate nails; graphic designer Yuen, 36; semi-retired Moyra, 55, and Laura, a 31-year-old business information researcher.

The majority of the women on the course have partners at home but have either got fed up with waiting for them to get round to do the odd DIY job or have just decided that in an age of equality, they should be able to put up a shelf too.

‘It’s just about having the confidence to give it a go’ Rachel, a company secretary from London, tells me.  Her husband cooks her tea so she’ll take care of the DIY – now she knows how, that is.

‘A lot of women don’t trust builders’ says Collette, ‘When I was doing up my house, I didn’t feel I knew enough to even brief a builder properly.’

Collette realized there was a gap in the market for weekend DIY courses and decided to contact Craig to see if he’d be interested in setting up something with her.

‘I set up a construction training academy about five years ago,’ says Craig, ‘but I’d taken a step back and put it in someone else’s hands to run. Since then I’d wanted to set something new up – little weekend course rather than NVQ levels though.’

And so Chix & Mortar was born.

‘I wrote the course, got it approved by the National Construction Academy and got it passed by health and safety,’ Craig tells me ‘I love teaching. It’s good on TV but all the advice I give is to a camera so I don’t get feedback or see the results, on stage is better like at the Ideal Home Show but teaching one-to-one is the best. I get such nice feedback.’

Image: Moyra attaches door fittings and fixtures

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