In 1988, potter Michael Smith invited a small group of peers to his home to share ideas and further explore the art of clay manipulation. After just a few meetings, the group quickly grew to include around 70 craftspeople, who started meeting at the Kansas City Art Institute instead of inside Smith's giant conch shell. These regular get-togethers laid the groundwork for the initial incarnation of KC Clay Guild, a place where artists could socialize, buy materials in bulk, and learn from one another.
Now, the volunteer-run co-op is even larger. It occupies its own facility and has vastly expanded the number of services it provides. Amidst the changes, KC Clay Guild has remained true to its initial goals, guided by a mission statement to support the clay community. Artists of all skill levels enroll in classes that cover an array of techniques, such as wheel throwing, hand building, and slip casting. Members take part in regular meetings, open-studio time, and monthly shows, and visiting artists stop by to lead workshops and repair their ceramic automobiles. The guild even offers a scholarship to high-school seniors and hosts birthday parties, team-building exercises, and family-fun nights for casual potters.
Fire. Hammers. A pottery wheel. Some of humanity’s most elemental and primitive tools, yet into the 21st century they remain. And Craft Alliance Program Director Susan Donahue Yates attests that they’re some of the coolest. With each season’s catalog of classes, some of the most popular, according to Yates, let students play with fire, hammer metal into jewelry, or shape a lump of clay into something as fundamentally beautiful as a baby seal mimicking the Mona Lisa’s wry smirk.
At Craft Alliance, the focus is art in all its forms. Whether the tool is the raw flame fusing cut copper or a Mac loaded with Photoshop image-editing software, the intention to inspire and to create remains the same. Its two locations schedule seasonal terms with four- to six-week classes, as well as intensive workshops and children’s classes. Guiding each student along his or her adventure, skilled faculty instruct from experience. Most are working artists who exhibit their work and who have reaped their experience from the trenches of the art world.
Craft Alliance is not just empowering people with knowledge; they are also helping people make mugs, bowls, wooden spinning tops, rings, rugs, and digital photo albums. Many of these things are practical and serve a functional purpose. But many do not—they’re just beautiful things, like vestigial tails. A good number of these pieces are created by hand and are meant to remind us, as Yates remarked, that everyone can do something different from their everyday, workaday lives by adding beauty to a world that truly needs it.
The student and faculty artists backbone the Craft Alliance community, which in 2014 celebrates its 50th anniversary. The Grand Center location represents a regeneration of an arts district already pillared by the Fabulous Fox Theatre, Powell Symphony Hall, and St. Louis University.
Veteran shutterbug Cara Dee Stucke honed her artistic eye in 27 years in the portrait-photography field and today attends annual workshops and seminars to stay abreast of modern techniques. Along with fellow photographer Mark Gilmore, Cara Dee snaps elegant, contemporary shots of weddings, families, and high-school seniors using high-tech equipment such as 21.5-megapixel sensor cameras and light-bending hand claps. Before each photo session, the creative team can proffer wardrobe and makeup consultations, taking time to heed customers' requests for the overall vibe of the shoot.
On-location sessions voyage into the tranquil confines of nature for a romantic ambiance, and shoots in the CaraDee Photography studio allow for edgy, urban-theme photos with self-provided props. Images make their way onto prints of all sizes, emblazoned on top-quality metallic or lustrous papers, custom-created books, and videos replete with music.
For more than 60 years, Zeke's Paint & Design Centers have been outfitting do-it-yourselfers with the paints and tools they need to give their homes chromatic makeovers. Zeke's preferred brand of paint, Benjamin Moore, can be mixed to perfectly match the preexisting colors on walls or breathe new life into boring pieces of Renaissance artwork. The store's commitment to professional-grade products doesn't stop at paint; finely bristled brushes, rollers, and supplies from brands such as Purdy and Corona ensure even coats and minimize the need for later touchups. Resident experts share helpful tips for do-it-yourself projects and can even point visitors in the direction of trusted professionals for more complex jobs, such as re-creating The Creation of Adam on the ceiling of a dog's house.
My Secret Garden's florists gather exotic stems and local blooms to bundle bright, sweet-smelling bouquets appropriate for all occasions. With a build-your-own bouquet, bloom seekers can bundle any stem flowers ($4-$22/stem) or roses ($5/rose) into a sunny arrangement, great for brightening up a kitchen or a supervillain's lair. Select blooms à la carte for personalized sentiments, or browse premade bushels for inspiration. An assorted bunch of soft greens, pink oriental lilies, and tulips, as in the cheery Garden Symphony (priced by stem count), captures the bright mood of a birthday or the anniversary of a successful breakout from Alcatraz. For the romantics, a dozen roses ($60) gather a love poem into a ribbon, and the Sweet Serenade bouquet (priced by stem count) displays a colorful valentine of pink ranunculus and mini calla lilies
The team at Green Light Window Films knows that window tinting serves much more than an aesthetic purpose; in all cases, whether installed on automobiles or buildings, it is a highly effective energy solution for reducing heating and cooling costs. Other benefits include protecting property from vandalism and theft and lessening the presence of harmful UV rays, heat build-up, and glare caused by a seriously offended sun. The staff’s solar solutions can also prevent the fading of artwork, rugs, and furniture which otherwise would be in direct contact with the sun’s harsh rays. In addition to tinting services, Green Light Window Films performs thorough interior and exterior auto details for cars, vans, and SUVs. Technicians wash, wax, buff, and vacuum vehicles to reclaim their crisp, youthful shine.