Most students in introductory stained-glass-making classes are in search of a new hobby or a fun few hours, but not Connie Beckers. In 1995, she took such a course and soon built a career around the art of stained glass and kiln-working. Now, through The Goddess of Glass, she teaches others her craft during classes that cover the creation of jewelry, coasters, plates, and transparent overalls. She’s also been known to flex her instructional muscle as a guest artist on the DIY Network show Cramped Quarters, where she taught the show’s host and contractor how to make stained-glass tiles for a kitchen in the middle of remodeling.
The Goddess of Glass also sells artwork and gifts out of a separate retail shop. Patrons can commission a custom piece, such as a stained-glass window, or peruse a collection of pieces by more than 80 local artisans. The shop’s staff can also advise clients who need custom framing, helping them to pick the proper matting and frame so that their Richard Nixon rookie cards really pop.
When Mercedes Austin sees a piece of artwork, her imagination immediately breaks it down into pixels and rebuilds it as a tile mosaic. Recently, she executed this process by making a mosaic of a wall mural: She fabricated jagged tiles, arranged them to resemble the original, and grouted the piece together. The resulting mosaic speaks to her intuition as an artist, and also to the years she’s spent honing the craft.
At Mercury Mosaics’ studio, Mercedes and a team of “tile elves” share their passion in two ways: through mosaic classes and custom installations. Classes explore all facets of mosaic creation, from cutting and gluing to grouting tiles into a pattern that resembles a real-life object or fuzzy television screen. Installations, which are fully customized to the client’s specifications, add a distinctive flair to commonly tiled areas such as bathrooms, backsplashes, and fireplaces.
With an eye for bold design, the staff at FinnStyle curates clothing, home décor, and other goods from Finnish designers including Marimekko, Iittala, and Artek. The online store and brick-and-mortar building house wares that have been featured in magazines such as Lucky, Dwell, and The Nest. Among the items, colorful bolts of Marimekko fabric await future occupations as curtains, pillow covers, or dresses, and Kalevala jewelry designs, modeled after archeological finds from the Iron Age, form bold statement pieces for the neck, ears, and wrists.
When Layl McDill's daughters were little, she would carry small bricks of polymer clay in her purse for them to play with. Over the years, the pastime evolved into a serious profession for her. Forming ropes of the colorful, malleable material into millefiore canes, McDill honed her skills, creating patterns, pictures, and delicious pies from the carefully sliced clay logs. With the help and support of her husband and fellow artist, Josh Blanc, Layl founded Clay Squared to Infinity in 1996, where today she not only creates and displays her own artwork, but also leads classes for clay-curious artists of all ages.
Started in 1998, Fired Up Studios has quickly evolved from a small pottery studio to an art center with classes and a gallery. Despite this growth, its mission remains the same: to raise the spirits of anyone who enters. In the 7,200-square-foot studio, experienced potters provide a judgment-free creative outlet for students and visiting artists alike, inviting them to have fun and experiment with the studio's collection of pottery wheels, kilns, and glazes. These potters also teach students how to throw clay, shape up elegant bowls and vases, and sculpt pixelization onto nude figures.
Like sword makers in a samurai movie, Eversharp’s skilled artisans toil over blades to ensure that each one is flawlessly straight and sharp. Their shop, hailed as one of the nation's largest Wusthof retailers, houses specialized knives and knife sets suited for any need, be it cutting a turkey, slicing bread, or carving a jack-o’-lantern into the spitting image of Alex Trebek. In addition to supplying cutlery, the staffers sharpen blades on a rolling grindstone and host knife-skills classes that prepare students to tackle any cooking emergency with gusto.