For more than three decades, the framing specialists at The Framin' Shoppe have preserved memories behind glass. They build custom frames for flat items such as diplomas or photographs and build shadow boxes to contain three-dimensional items such as quilts or football jerseys with the athletes still wearing them. The shop also purveys DIY framing materials; posters; prints commemorating Alabama, Auburn, and other SEC football teams; and a wide selection of mirrors. Conveniently, the company operates at four Birmingham locations.
In 1965, Popular Mechanics ran a small classified ad for Brookstone, a new catalog company that packed its pages with functional products and detail-oriented descriptions. Brookstone quickly expanded to meet the high demand for its collection of “hard-to-find tools,” and opened the door to its first retail location in 1973. Today, Brookstone’s more than 300 nationwide retail locations allow customers to test-drive its ever-growing lineup of interesting products, which range from Bluetooth-enabled massage chairs to power adapters designed for international travelers and their electronic passports. Staying true to its roots as a catalog company, Brookstone houses an even larger selection of products, each waiting patiently to be shipped, on its website.
The Bead Biz's bright, cheerful shop is bursting with beads and baubles of all shapes and sizes. Sparkling batches of Swarovski crystals, Japanese seed beads, and glassworked beads invite an artistic eye to adopt them and set them loose upon a string that catches the eyes of passersby and arouses the envy of dully colored mollusks. To burn love into the heart of an uninformed crush, pick up a few fire-polished strands ($3 each or $12 for six) and intertwine them with a variety of base metal chains ($1.75 and up). Or nourish natural beauty with turquoise, jaspers, and agates ($9 and up each). A wide selection of jewelry-making tools is also available. Uncertain shoppers can call upon the sharp eye of The Bead Biz's friendly cats or the friendly knowledge of the expert staff; the owner is a veteran lampworker and wire-wrapper who has a degree in fashion.
Inside their blue-walled studio, staffers at Do-It-Yourself Crafts help visitors wield glass, tie-dye, silver clay, and pottery paints to create colorful, one-of-a-kind artwork. Glass-fusion classes teach patrons the skills they need to meld glass shards into funky tiles, and parties bring friends together to bond while they work on various art projects; patrons 21 or older can tote along libations to fuel the festivities. During pottery-painting sessions, patrons select a piece of raw ceramic bisque to adorn with provided pigments, choosing from forms such as plates, mugs, and plaques.
Dedicated to a next-day turnaround for many assignments, Thompson's encases everything from diplomas to completed jigsaw puzzles within the ornate borders of more than 2,000 customizable frames. Guests can also peruse a collection of 300 ready-made frames that will fit snugly around standard-size pictures, or commission custom tabletop frames to showcase unconventionally sized posters. More than 100 framed, beveled mirrors further populate the store, silently reflecting the reversed T-shirt graphics and snarky grins of each shopper's personal doppelgänger. Frames and mirrors are complemented by a collection of original oil paintings, which help homeowners adorn their walls with a colorful still life, a muted landscape, or an unflinchingly honest portrayal of the human condition.
Painted By U caters to burgeoning artists and crafters of all ages in a studio that invites visitors to create fused glass works, paint ceramic bisques, or color blank canvases. After choosing their piece from a selection of more than 300 ceramic forms, walk-in artists can elect colors from a rainbow of glazes with which to paint mugs, tiles, and pieces of Atlantis. Meanwhile, a glittering array of glass pieces awaits selection as experts help artists fuse and slump their assemblages into vibrant silica masterpieces. The studio's collection of idea books, stencils, and stamps kindle artistic inspiration, while studio assistants lend tips and tricks to creators hard at work. Party-planners can rent out an activity room that accommodates up to 18 guests to forge art-filled birthdays, bridal showers, or ladies' nights.