Though she's been a professional artist for more than 25 years, April Tracey's career began with a momentous decision. After receiving her BFA from Queen's University, April was accepted to the MFA program at the Rhode Island School of Design. However, she instead decided to strike out on her own, launching an art gallery, supply store, and school. Now she offers her discerning eye to students through critique services. April pores over pieces in all mediums, offering compassionate criticism in person or via Skype, email, or messages hidden behind the work's frame.
Since 1964, Guitar Center has paired musicians with guitars, keyboards, drums, Pro Audio gear, and necessary accessories, including DJ and recording equipment to capture newly made melodies. An iPad music-stand adaptor ($39.99) connects an iPad to a music stand, allowing musicians to access online programs and music apps on-stage, or to publicly dedicate a song to their online Scrabble partner. A clip-on tuner ($29.99) keeps notes pitch-perfect, and Guitar Center’s array of sheet music produces a wider variety of sounds than singing from a thesaurus, with options that include the C-surfing The Real Blues Book ($31.49). Stitch tighter harmonies by threading notes onto Slinky guitar strings ($3.79), or use the value of today's Groupon toward a larger purchase, such as the Epiphone Les Paul Special II guitar ($169–$179.99). Guitar Center rounds out its collection of gear with Pro Audio and DJ equipment, keyboards, and drums, allowing every band member or solo cymbal player to stock up on their chosen form of expression.
Tia Harris, a mother and a Montclair resident since 2008, couldn't have predicted that an activity she enjoyed as a relaxing hobby would later become her full-time career. She was laid off from her previous job in 2011 and found herself turning to beading as a stress-reducing creative outlet. Embracing her entrepreneurial spirit, Harris decided in 2012 to open TiaMarie Beading Studio, where she shares her passion with other jewelry enthusiasts. She told Barista Kids that "We are striving to create a sense of community and a fun place for creative ideas to come together."
To accomplish the studio’s goal, Harris handpicked her team of multitalented instructors, which includes a former interior designer, a certified fine-arts teacher and writer, and a graphic-design expert. In addition to teaching classes, the friendly crew regularly hosts birthday parties and girls' nights out, where ladies can learn the art of wire wrapping—one of the oldest known jewelry-making methods next to training cobras to coil around your wrist.
At any given time, more than 200 pieces of unfinished ceramics can be found on the shelves at Brushes & Bisque. Though the pieces will soon find use as coffee mugs, dinner plates, and jewelry boxes, they still require a final glaze before they can hold treats or treasures. During classes for kids and adults, painters work with provided tools and materials to coat the pieces with an artistic touch.
In addition to pottery painting, Brushes & Bisque offers clay classes, also with provided tools and materials. Kids’ clay classes cover the basics of coiling, pinching, and glazing, and adult pottery classes equip sculptors with a pottery wheel.
The artisans at Express Frames preserve photos, artwork, and mementos with more than 2,000 custom and archival frames by brands such as Larson-Juhl and Roma Moulding. They cut mats with a precise, computerized process, and offer more than 10 types of glass—including nonreflective glass, museum-quality glass, and Plexiglas. The art in the shop dances off framed mirrors by Uttermost, and staffers display signed Steiner Sports prints of athletes hitting homeruns or successfully untangling a whole bunch of Christmas lights.
Named one of Parents magazine's Top 10 Birthday Chains in 2010, Color Me Mine's international franchise of DIY ceramics studios cater to an older crowd as well. Hundreds of unadorned ceramic pieces—including vases, flatware, and busts of Elvis—await the attentions of muses of kids and their keepers alike, as do glazes in earthy tones and bright crimsons to frighten bulls away from china cabinets. Guests follow simple step-by-step instructions that leave plenty of room for creative expression. When painters are satisfied with their work, the professional kiln-workers help glaze and fire it for them before customers retrieve the finished piece a few days later.