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Bartering for knowledge at Trade School Indy


Creek Stewart teaches "Natural Primitive Cordage."
  • Creek Stewart teaches "Natural Primitive Cordage."

Want to learn how to clean, re-string and tune a guitar? Or how to can your garden's bounty without fear of botulism? Or maybe you're more interested in having fun with fungi? While Sally Struthers might charge a very reasonable price for you to get a degree at home (well, perhaps not in permaculture), Trade School Indianapolis asks only that you give a little something of yourself in return for an hour or two of specialized instruction.

Trade School's inaugural month of classes opens Wednesday, Sept. 5, at Indianapolis City Market, with a party at 6:30 p.m. featuring brews from Tomlinson Tap Room, treats from Circle City Sweets and a raffle for a gift certificate donated by Edible Arrangments Indy.

Instructors for the courses will be on hand at the launch party, including Creek Stewart, whose “Natural Primitive Cordage” class will open the semester following the party at 7:30 p.m. A survival specialist whose lessons aim to prepare people for sudden survival scenarios ranging from natural disasters to terrorist attacks, Creek will teach how to make usable cordage from plants and tree fibers.

Trade School organizer Blaire Huntley says that the program is based on the idea of mutual exchange and cooperation: “This is an opportunity to learn for a very very minimal cost. I think that something that’s missing from a lot of communities is that people don’t take on another hobby or take on another skill because of the cost — or maybe they think that they don’t have anything else to offer besides money.”

Trade School was launched in New York City in 2009, when three co-founders of OurGoods, a barter network, thought about just how hard it is to learn a new skill without spending money. They created a system by which teachers propose a particular class and ask for barter items from students. For instance, for a baking techniques class, students might bring ingredients, clothes, vegetables or tips on doing something else. The first Trade School offered 85 different classes in 35 days.

Slowly, the project began spreading to other cities and countries, including England, Germany and Singapore. Huntley heard of the project while living in New York. “I think that a lot of people don’t realize how many talents they have, but I think that anyone is capable of sharing their knowledge,” she says.

Also on the course catalog are “Nail Art 101” (on how to spruce up that keratin-using basic household product; taught Sept. 12), “Writing Workshop: Self-Editing Tips & Techniques” (Sept. 19) and “Build Your Own Website” (Sept. 27). All classes are open for enrollment at


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