The artist-run Works of Glass studio burnishes custom stained-glass pieces and extends materials and advice to hobbyists of the semitranslucent arts. Each Make 'n' Take stained-glass class provides all of the materials and guidance for six students at a time to create a three-piece heart-shaped sun catcher using the same copper foiling method used in Tiffany glass production. After a practice cutting session with old windowpanes and the walls of glass houses, students select their favorite shade from the studio's spectrum of glass and cut it themselves to form the base of the heart. Like soldering a rainbow and heart together to create the ultimate T-shirt logo, students solder two clear half-circle bevels to the sun catcher, which will make it cast rainbow shadows on sulking rooms. Students will get to do their own foiling and soldering—the processes used to bring pieces together—and will finish off the piece with a metal filigree. Finished works measure 5 inches at the widest point and are 4.5 inches long, with every square unit of surface area declaring undying love to a favorite window. Just like remedial woodshop, classes take place on the weekends.
Sticks sprung from humble origins when, in 1992, Sarah Grant began carving ornaments and candlesticks from birch, poplar, and driftwood in a small studio in Des Moines. As her work began to attract national interest and demand for it grew, Sarah enlisted the aid of other local artists and expanded her inventory to include handcrafted heirloom-quality furniture, whimsical sculptures, and intricate keepsakes.
Today, the artists’ work is showcased in more than 100 galleries across the country. Their installation projects have even decorated the walls of Blank Children’s Hospital, the Animal Rescue League of Central Iowa, and the student center at Iowa State University.
Sticks artists can often be spotted by the shores of local rivers, gathering driftwood for their work. They assemble the wood into custom-designed tables, beds, and armoires within their spacious, light-filled studio before painting them with colorful, whimsical designs, from smiling suns and moons to lush landscapes. The versatile artists even take their tools and paintbrushes to homes, businesses, and underground mad-scientist labs to craft custom art installations and interiors.
The Heart of Iowa Marketplace has purveyed classic Iowa-themed gifts and gourmet foodstuffs in Historic Valley Junction for more than 25 years. Alongside Hawkeye gear, Heart of Iowa’s homemade fudge sits heavily, pondering its dense inner depths and a past life as a bar of gold. Thick cream and real butter collaborate to form the smooth, rich solid that melts upon contact with eager taste buds. Perennial flavor favorites include chocolate walnut and peanut butter swirl, but nuanced palates may pair well with the Iowa Explosion or salted nut roll. Fudge may also withstand the steady heat of the sun without melting, unlike regular chocolate bars or ceiling fans made of ice.
Fab’rik has garnered a lot of praise and wolf whistles from the press thanks to its wide range of women’s apparel and accessories. With the change of seasons imminent, stock up on fall fashions so that you’re not forced to craft makeshift loincloths out of jack-o’-lanterns when the summer outfit you’re wearing magically vanishes. Attract admiring looks with a paisley silk top ($52) or dazzle lumberjacks with a pair of suede chain flats ($28) during flirtatious log-rolling contests. A striking fringe one-shoulder dress ($58) will give you the power to turn heads of passersby and sashay past territorial badgers unharmed, while the big buddha carrie handbag ($68) comfortably accommodates knickknacks and jars of nail clippings. Fab’rik’s helpful, fashion-forward staff is on hand at all times to help you piece together gorgeous get-ups for your life-size action figures, and will dislodge the heads of any customers who mistake a pair of skinny jeans for a top.
Azul World Treasures drapes necks and wrists with gleaming semiprecious stones, fills cupped palms with geodes and fossils, and entertains children with educational archaeology kits. Wristlets ($7.50–$14.95) of smooth, buttery Costa Rican wood make wearers' forearms look as smooth and elegant as a dolphin at a royal ball, and Azul creations with beaded details ($19–$293) bewitch lobes, necks, and arms alike. Azul’s gem-chip necklaces come in a full rainbow of stones, from eggplant-purple amethyst to the pale-pink-and-green unakite ($4.95–$12.50). Polished minerals, such as chunks of quartz crystal ($1) and iridescent peacock ore ($1.55), cascade throughout the emporium, wending through pyramids of Iowan geodes ($2–$25). Meanwhile, Dig it Out! Kits ($4.95–$24.95) let young ones excavate, paint, and name dinosaur skeletons with scientific monikers such as "Tyrannosaurus Rex" or "Robocop," and soapstone boxes ($4.95–34.95) provide storage for the bones.