Harmonica lesson among offerings at New London library do-it-yourself event

New London - Next weekend, if you have a few minutes, you can learn to change a bicycle tire, write poetry, play the harmonica, re-pot a plant, raise chickens, make natural beauty products, brew beer at home and play a song using plastic cups.

The Public Library of New London is putting together a Do-It-Yourself Festival Oct. 19. Volunteers will offer brief tutorials and share their knowledge for free. The event is open to anyone.

"This is a fantastic idea. I think there's going to be something for everyone," said Mollie Clarke, director of education at Lyman Allyn Art Museum. "I think it's such a clever way to bring people in the community together."

Clarke will be teaching sumi-e painting, an east Asian technique that uses dense black ink and thick bamboo brushes. She will provide paper, ink and brushes, and will demonstrate how to paint a simple bamboo shoot.

"I took a class in grad school - it was an entire semester, and I consider myself an educated beginner," she said. "You can spend your whole career mastering the technique."

Christiana Sieburg, a librarian's assistant whose son is so sensitive to the chemicals in soap that she learned to create her own natural bath products, will demonstrate how to make a brown sugar scrub and a honey-lemon hand soak. She'll also be handing out samples.

The 15 or so tutorials also will include how to mediate an argument, how to tie knots and do rope tricks and how to write a haiku.

The DIY festival is the brainchild of library Director Suzanne Maryeski. Tables will be set up in the community room at the library and the idea is stop by whatever looks interesting. She said she's starting small and has no idea how many people will attend. But if it is successful, she wants to expand the program.

"I'm excited about it. I hope people come," she said. "It's like if you give (a) party but you're afraid no one's going to come."

Bigger cities have hosted similar events over the years. Chicago's Learnapalooza is an all-day event where businesses offer quick-hit information on a variety of skills - from sessions on drawing, painting and embroidery, to making pesto or learning the art of "intentional conversations." Learnapalooza, now in its fourth year, has been so successful it has expanded to several neighborhoods and offers hundreds of free classes that also include "How to Plan the Perfect Date," "Knife Skills" and "How to Buy a Home."

Robert Bareiss of the nonprofit group Bike New London will be teaching people how to change a bicycle tire. He said learning how to fix things is a lost art.

"I think the whole country has gotten away from the do-it-yourself mentality. I think a lot of people are isolated from what we used to call Yankee ingenuity," said Bareiss, who immediately agreed to participate in the event. "Hundreds of bikes get abandoned or are otherwise neglected when they get a flat. They end up going to (the) dump as scrap metal. ... A lot of times, people haven't learned the skills to fix them."

Bareiss plans to change that next week.

All you need is a screwdriver, he said. And someone to show you how to do it.


If you go

Who: Public Library of New London

What: Do-It-Yourself Festival

When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 19

Where: Public Library of New London

What else: All sessions are free


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