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.
Since 1990, Pitaya has fashioned its own line of American-made clothes for ladies looking to stay stylish no matter the season. Fresh merchandise hits the store weekly—stock up on what's hot so you're not forced to design makeshift togas from dead leaves and discarded cornhusks. Annettes can attract admiring passersby with the tulle-ruffled skirt ($18), whereas Carols can give their legs a big pair hug with the twilight jeggings ($39). The peek-a-boo shoulder dress ($34) emits elegance sprinkled with adventure, like a cocktail party held on the side of a cliff, and the blue Pitaya tee ($12) gives décolletages the social exposure not allowed by tyrannical turtlenecks or stifling scarves.
Sunshine Daydream’s resourceful staff unveils a collection of hard-to-find vintage gifts that stand as tributes to days past with tie-dyed threads, hippie-era band merchandise, candles, and incents. The periwinkle-colored Grateful Dead Blue Bear Mandala tapestry ($26.99) allows buyers to embellish empty walls with Sanskrit-inspired designs or cover up holes kicked in by temperamental Rockettes. Transform stark rented flats into personal temples with wood-and-bamboo door beads ($22.99) that fall in a whimsical arch formation. The shop also pays homage to contemporary pop culture with T-shirts ($19.99-$26.99) declaring love for cult classics such as The Big Lebowski, Dazed and Confused, and The Hangover. Guests can occupy their palms with a variety of hand drums ($24.99) designed for drum-circle frequenters and stock traders that sell via Morse code.
The friendly staff at Your Pot's Desire guides kids and adults of all experience levels to create their own usable works of art. Peruse the wide selection of premade pottery bisques, fully stocked with paintables such as a 12-ounce mug ($10), an 8-inch plate ($10), and a range of banks, boxes, and scale models of Buckingham Palace ($15–$25). Next, amateur artisans wield their choice of paints to adorn their pottery with names, drawings, or personalized messages. Patrons with painters’ block can also search out inspiration in a bevy of samples, example books, stencils, and stamps. When ceramic creations are complete, the staff applies a final glaze before setting them in the kiln, which hardens their exteriors with extreme heat and readings from stoical self-help books.
Star Clipper, St. Louis’ only Eisner Award winning comic retailer, was originally founded in University City, Missouri in 1988 and has since grown to become the region’s premier independent retailer of graphic novels, import & domestic comics, manga, pop culture collectibles & merchandise.
The smoke sommeliers of HSB Tobacconist curate a grand collection of fine cigars, pipe and cigarette tobaccos, shisha, and all necessary accessories. DIY rollers can peruse the stock of loose cigarette tobaccos, such as a 6-ounce bag of Custom Blends Blend 1 ($24.95), a mild mix of Virginia and Burley tobaccos that crumbles readily into the contents of a 200-count box of Texas Tubes ($3.50). Loose-pipe plumage ages in jars upon the shelves, with concoctions such as Sangria, rich with wine and fruit flavors ($3.50/oz.), and Royal Champagne, inspired by the preferred beverage of Buckingham Palace house parties ($3.50/oz.). The shop also stocks a vast array of pipes, hookahs, and lighters, ideal for igniting matches when their striking pads cease to work.
Sole and Blues procures a trendsetting array of jeans, shoes, and attire for men and women along with home décor items. The clothing cache prides itself on its collection of designer denim, with styles from Hudson and Serfontaine for women ($139+), Joe's Jeans for men ($152+), and G-Star jeans for the celestial bodies of both men and women ($149+). Women's garments also include dresses ($104+), T-shirts ($39+), and a mélange of leather, woven, and fabric handbags ($58+). Men can top off their fashion façades with Projek Raw dress shirts ($79) or one of Sole and Blues' multitude of graphic tees—from John Lee Hooker tributes to Japan relief motifs ($32+)—and bottom off a look with footwear such as flip-flops, dress shoes, and athletic sneakers from brands such as Gola ($36+). Sole and Blues' home décor section features recycled magazine bowls ($17+), glass vases ($78+), and a collection of Leftbank Art ($298+).