The extra hours at home that accompanied coronavirus shutdowns gave rise to a wave of new time fillers, from bread baking to victory gardens to jigsaw puzzles.
And some folks got crafty.
Whether opting for online instruction or in-person classes with safety precautions in place, area residents have taken up new artistic hobbies, or at least made trial runs to see which of their latent talents might be worth pursuing.
Several Chattanooga-area businesses and nonprofit agencies have helped in those pursuits, offering instruction in fields such as canvas painting, woodworking, glass blowing, pottery and textile arts. Offerings play to various levels of interest, from one-offs that double as social outings to ongoing classes to hone emerging skills.
“We have a workshop called Get Your Hands Dirty,” says Emily Lloyd, studio manager of Scenic City Clay Arts, a nonprofit community ceramics studio in downtown Chattanooga. “That is kind of our one-time introductory class for people who don’t have any clay experience and want to try something new.”
The class, which meets 6-8 p.m. Saturdays with a $65 fee, lets participants “come in and throw on the wheel for two hours with the help of an instructor and learn the basics of clay,” Lloyd says.
Later, studio staff will handle the drying, firing and glazing of the pieces before class participants return to pick up their mugs or bowls. Lloyd says they’re often surprised by how well their first-time creations turn out.
“They’ll be like, ‘I made that? It looks way better than I thought it was going to.'”
Lloyd says they see “a lot of different paths” from the students who take the introductory class.
“Some people like it so much they come back with a different group or with their family or their spouse,” she says. “Some people get the pottery bug and want to take our Wheel 1 class, which is a more in-depth introduction to wheel throwing. Some people come back and join us as a studio member and are in here every day. Some enjoy it as a single experience, something to check off their bucket list.”
North Georgia artist Durinda Cheek sees a similar pattern among participants in her monthly Painting With a Purpose classes at the 6th Cavalry Museum in Fort Oglethorpe. Some participants may show up only once, perhaps for a design they particularly like, while others may come back every month.
“I get all kinds of people, all ages and all backgrounds,” says Cheek, who proposed the classes several years ago after joining the museum’s board. “Most people have never painted before. They all come away with a painting.”
Designs are original to Cheek or her backup, Kati Schmidt, and change monthly, from barns to bouquets to beach scenes. The instructors provide step-by-step instruction from concept to canvas. Participants get free rein of the color palette and frequent reassurance that they’re not going to mess up, no matter how little experience they may have.
“Never fear mistakes. They’re just happy accidents,” says Schmidt. “I joke frequently that there’s not much I can’t fix.”
The $45 fee for the fourth Thursday painting class also includes a boxed dinner, which has proved popular with participants — as has the freedom to bring an adult beverage if they wish.
“We always have a great time,” says Cheek.
Although hands-on instruction would seem the norm for learning a new artistic skill, the pandemic has meant a fresh embrace of online learning. Melissa de Leon Mason has been leading quilting classes at The Chattery from her home in Logan, Utah.
The Chattery, a nonprofit learning collective, has hosted hundreds of classes at its Rossville Avenue headquarters and other sites around Chattanooga since its founding in 2014. Classes cover everything from business practices to self-improvement to arts and crafts.
Mason says The Chattery has been “one of the first art centers to move [toward online learning].” She signed on as an instructor at the beginning of the year to lead classes in modern quilting techniques.
“I was recognizing that a lot of people bought sewing machines for face masks and now were wondering what to do with them,” she says.
Mason says she taught quilt classes for a number of years, “mostly in person,” shifting online last year as a pandemic outlet.
“I miss the hands-on instruction,” she says, “but online is great because we can draw people from all over the place.”
Plus there’s the benefit of convenience, thanks to recordings of the classes.
“Having the videos lets you work on your own time,” Mason says. “You can go back and play it later. You don’t feel stressed to keep up. It’s helpful for people just starting out.”
Even online, Mason says she has developed relationships with class participants, who may reach out later with follow-up questions or to show her their completed projects. She plans to continue the courses, with variations each month.
“I’m always thinking about who’s out there and what they might want to learn,” she says. “I like to make it bite-size and appealing, useful but not overwhelming.
“They’re learning new tools, new techniques, new vocabulary, so I like to do small projects that are fun and they’re able to complete them, which is the whole point.
“It’s a powerful thing to be able to make something beautiful.”
Contact Lisa Denton at [email protected] or 423-757-6281.
PLACES TO TRY
Here are some of the Chattanooga area’s make-and-take art places. Most can accommodate group events such as girls nights out, children’s birthday parties and corporate team-building. Also, businesses such as Hobby Lobby, Michaels and JoAnn Fabric & Craft Stores offer classes to help consumers sharpen their skills with supplies and projects they have for purchase.
* 6th Cavalry Museum: 6 Barnhardt Circle, Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia
Painting for a Purpose classes, which raise funds for the museum, are held 5:30-8 p.m. fourth Thursdays with a different theme each month. Guided, professional instruction and all materials, plus a light dinner, are included in the cost.
* Alydots: 7767 Nashville St., Ringgold, Georgia
Painting parties for door hangers and farmhouse-style signs.
* Board & Brush: 6011 Chesterton Way, Suite 111, Ooltewah
Hands-on, wood-based home, garden and family decor (signs, pictures, storage boxes) combined with the latest design trends and custom graphics. Choose from scheduled events and pick-your-project workshops available in person and virtually.
* Chattanooga Public Library: 1001 Broad St. (main branch)
Crafting With Craft Bevvies is a monthly offering, at 6 p.m. every third Sunday, that focuses on a seasonal craft and craft beverage. Check Facebook for the link to reserve each month’s themed take-and-make supply kit. Then join fellow participants and a guest bartender on Zoom.
* The Chattery: 1800 Rossville Ave., Suite 108
Online and in-person classes on a variety of topics, including canvas painting and textile arts.
* The Clayful Artist: Cleveland, Tennessee
This pottery and canvas painting studio has closed after almost seven years because of the pandemic, but artist Nikki DeLong offers private lessons.
* Craft House Studios: 5036 Highway 58
Arts, crafts and DIY projects, plus a Makers Market gift boutique stocked by local artists, crafters and authors.
* Good Fortune Soap & Spa: 2644 Broad St.
Make-your-own candles, soaps, lotions or bath bombs, with customized colors, scents and additives.
* Happy Little Paint Brushes: Chattanooga and beyond
Certified instructor Gary Grider leads four-hour painting classes in the official Bob Ross technique. Grider travels to locations in Chattanooga and surrounding towns in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama.
* Ignis Glass Studio: 401 Broad St., Suite 105
Blow your own heirloom glass ornament or paperweight from molten form using a 2,000-degree furnace. Once the piece cools overnight, it’s yours to pick up to take home (or can be mailed).
* Painting With a Twist: 1309 Panorama Drive, Suite 111
Painting classes for canvases and wooden porch leaners available as monthly themed classes, pick-your-own private parties and at-home kits.
* Paint It Yours: 8959 Dayton Pike, Soddy-Daisy
Painting parties to create wood door hangers featuring die-cut monograms, messages and seasonal designs. Take-home kits available for most designs.
* Palette 2 Palate Paint Studio & Gift Shop: 6724 Hixson Pike
Paint your own canvas, or find gifts to purchase.
* Pinspiration Chattanooga: 2275 Gunbarrel Road, Suite 105
Select a project from dozens of options including art, decor, gifts and accessories to complete and take home, plus Splatter Room painting experiences.
* The Pottery Place of Chattanooga: 103 Cherokee Blvd., Suite B
Choose a pottery project from an online selection that includes dinnerware, home and garden decor, pet merchandise, seasonal items and children’s banks and figurines. Pick up the project and supplies to paint at home. Bring pieces back for clear glazing and firing. Mosaic projects and clay hand-building events also offered.
* River City Pottery: 6413 Lee Highway, Suite 135
Paint-your-own pottery studio hosts birthday parties, canvas painting parties, art camps, kids classes, team-building events.
* Scenic City Clay Arts: 301 E. 11th St.
This nonprofit ceramics studio offers classes and workshops for all ages and skill levels, plus memberships for continuing work. Start with a Get Your Hands Dirty introductory workshop, held 6-8 p.m. every Saturday.
MORE TO TRY
Want a deeper dive? These art galleries regularly offer classes focusing on building skills.
* Reflections Gallery: 1635 Rossville Ave.
Recent classes have included acrylic painting, stained glass, silversmithing and jewelry techniques.
* Townsend Atelier: 301 E. 11th St.
Rotating series include beginner and advanced watercolor, oil, still life, figure drawing, portraits, hand-stitching, hand-piecing quilts.