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Get Crafty

You can blame Pinterest. Everyone from your BFF to your grandmother has gone gaga for perfect party invitations, gallery walls, craft and food blogs, upcycled fashion, scrapbooking, and DIY everything.


Photography by Norma Cordova


You can blame Pinterest. Everyone from your BFF to your grandmother has gone gaga for perfect party invitations, gallery walls, craft and food blogs, upcycled fashion, scrapbooking, and DIY everything. It can become overwhelming, if you let it. But it can also be really fun.

Let go of perfection and don’t take your skills too seriously: Anyone can get crafty.

Paper & Glue / Ink & Paint / Clay & Glass & Metal / Fabric & Yarn


Leeanne Jones

Paper & Glue

Scrapbooking, card making, paper quilling, letterpress, Papier-mâché.

Class: Adorable Cards

Scrapbook Territory // Berkeley

In the center of Scrapbook Territory’s bright, high-ceilinged shop, my classmates settle around a table, discussing their favorite stamp designers and spray ink brands. Despite being a lifelong scrapbooker, I can barely follow their card-making jargon.

Our instructor, Georgia Summers, demonstrates “tip-to-tip” blending with Copic markers, which we’ll be using to color pre-stamped images of ballerinas and fairies. Georgia fills in an area with a light shade and makes shadow lines with a medium shade. Then, she touches the tip of the lighter marker to the darker and uses it to blend the colors together on the paper with small circles. As the ink dries, the shadows soften and look natural.

We pair off and share a supply boxes for each of the four card designs. My partner works quickly but sighs a lot. She exhales and exclaims, “This hair is going to be the death of me!” But I notice she’s halfway done before I’ve even started.

The markers feel like paintbrushes in my hand, as I slowly make circular blending strokes, the depth of color building on each layer like oil paint. Across the table from me, a young, aspiring anime artist puts her own creative spin on the designs while I glitter a tutu in precisely the same fashion as the class sample. I glue my ballerina to patterned paper and then a prefolded card, embellishing with a tulle bow.

With 45 minutes of the three-hour class remaining, my classmates begin leaving. With 30 minutes left, I’m all alone. I’m finally getting the hang of the tip-to-tip technique on my third card, as Georgia cleans up around me. “You’re doing really well,” she says over my shoulder. I suddenly feel OK about my slow, methodical approach—my ballerina’s bouncy curls casting a convincing shadow across her brow.

Scrapbook Territory offers classes in card making, scrapbooking, and other paper crafts. Berkeley, (510) 559-9929, scrapbookterritory.com.

—LeeAnne Jones


Expert: Bindu Vijay

Paper Flower Maker // San Ramon

Portrait styling: hair, NMC; makeup, Ashley BiasBindu Vijay learned how to make fabric flowers from a friend 15 years ago, when she lived in India, and soon began experimenting with paper. When she moved to the United States in 2001, she decorated her San Ramon home with paper flowers, and today, she sells those intricate, lifelike crepe paper poppies, orchids, and daffodils online, mostly to brides-to-be and event planners.

Q: What was your very first project, and how did it turn out?
A: My first project was a white daisy. It was so simple that it turned out OK.

Q: What is your favorite thing you’ve made?
A: I really like hibiscus flowers, which are pretty common in India. But each time I make a new flower, I get excited, and that one becomes my favorite for a short period. Right now, it is a giant paper rose measuring about 14 inches across.

Q: Describe your workspace.
A: My living room is like a craft studio to showcase several of my paper and clay flowers. My dining table is a makeshift craft table. My craft supplies are stored in cabinets in the garage.

"Each time I make a new flower, I get excited, and that one becomes my favorite."

Q: What is your most unique, surprising, or unusual crafting tool?
A: I use a wooden barbecue skewer for curling the petals of some flowers.

Q: How do you push through creative blocks?
A: Besides paper flowers, I also work on clay flowers and paint. Occasionally, I teach craft classes for kids, too. Working with different mediums helps me keep up my enthusiasm.

Q: If someone is interested in paper crafting, where should they start?
A: There are a lot of books and YouTube videos teaching the basics of making paper flowers. Once you know the basics, you can start experimenting with various techniques. And nature can provide a good deal of inspiration.

View or purchase Vijay’s work at her website, flowerbazaar.net, or Etsy shop, etsy.com/shop/flowerbazaar.

—LeeAnne Jones



Resource Guide

DIY Paper Crafting

Classes to try:
Paper Source offers monthly workshops on card making and party favors, often with a seasonal twist. Get on the shop’s mailing list; classes fill up quickly. Berkeley, (510) 665-7800; Walnut Creek, (925) 357-6200, paper-source.com.

Cut, fold, and glue life-size flowers made with fancy European crepe paper at Castle in the Air. You’ll walk away with several different types of blooms and enough paper to test your new skills at home. Berkeley, (510) 204-9801, castleintheair.biz.

Shops to browse:
Explore handmade paper, screen-printed washi, and more at Miki’s Paper, which specializes in Japanese paper and crafts, and also sells journals and photo albums. Berkeley, (510) 845-9530, mikispaper.com.

Richard’s Arts and Crafts is packed with paper, craft scissors, and stickers, plus an entire section that’s devoted to glues and adhesives. Alamo, (925) 820-4731; Livermore, (925) 447-0471, shoprichards.com.

Group to join:
Volunteer at the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, a nonprofit that sells art and craft materials and vintage goods to divert waste from landfills. Oakland, (510) 547-6470, creativereuse.org.

—Stacey Kennelly



Gina Gotsill

Ink & Paint

Watercolors, oil paint, calligraphy, illustration, acrylics, oil pastels.

Class: Have a Splash

Canvas and Cabernet // Walnut Creek

It’s Friday night: Time for diversion, levity, and maybe a drink. Canvas and Cabernet, Walnut Creek’s new art/wine studio, beckons from downtown. Rumor has it I’ll leave the three-hour class with something good enough to hang on my wall.

I get there early and scope it out. It’s a visual paradise with paintings hanging on every wall, jugs of paint lining the shelves behind the bar, and long tables with white canvases in neat rows. Then, I see the displays of one-of-a-kind jewelry, scarves, and handbags. Art, wine, and shopping? This could be better than I thought.

It’s going to be a full house tonight, a friendly staff person tells me as he hands me brushes and a paint-stained apron. I order a glass of red wine and squirt puddles of tonight’s colors on my paper-plate palette. I settle into my spot, and students begin to arrive, mostly groups of women and a few couples.

Our charismatic teacher, Julee Herr-mann, puts on a mic and guides us step by step through our project. We’re painting a red bridge with a twinkling metropolis behind it, and while her instructions are clear, Julee is quick to introduce us to “artist’s choice.” Basically, we are free to do exactly as she says or anything we want: It’s your painting, and if you want to add a little more red to your sunset, you go right ahead, she says. I add on Van Gogh–influenced swirls of paint and texture to my sky. It’s mostly easy wide brushstrokes until we get to the bridge. I’m a little nervous about painting a long red line across my beautiful sky. Julee is there to help, moving from artist to artist. She shows us simple techniques to add depth and detail, using a fine brush and white paint mixed with a few drops of paint water.

Three hours fly by, and we mill around, complimenting each other’s work. It’s true: We’re talented. I like my painting. It resembles Julee’s but has the swirly sky and pyramid Transamerica building. I know exactly the wall in my office where it will go. Give your creative spirit some space—and a little wine—and the results may surprise you.

Canvas and Cabernet offers classes on Wednesday through Saturday evenings. Walnut Creek, (925) 287-1614, canvascabernet.com.

—Gina Gotsill



Portrait styling: Hair and makeup, Nikol Dedischew

Expert: Diva Pyari

Calligrapher // Berkeley

Inspired by the hand-lettered price tags at Berkeley’s Tail of the Yak, Diva Pyari took a calligraphy class at the shop. She began selling hand-printed cards in 2007, expanded to screen-printed linens, and today, her designs can be found at stores like Anthropologie.

Q: What was your very first project, and how did it turn out?
A: In my class, there was a bride-to-be who wanted to learn calligraphy to make her own invitations and address the envelopes. I picked it up pretty fast, and she hired me for her project. It turned out so well and I enjoyed it so much that when word got out, I continued to take more and more custom calligraphy and lettering work.

Q: How would you describe your style?
A: Cheerful and pretty, with a side of playfulness, au naturel.

Q: Describe your workspace.
A: I have a couple big work tables, and on the wall by my computer is a huge corkboard where I post things that make me smile: bright pink ribbon, a photo of my friend’s daughter wearing a cape she made of all her stuffed animals, a quick sketch of my dog, paper-cut feathers…

"I'm such a visual person, so Pinterest is a fun place to get inspired."

Q: What is your most frequently used tool?
A: My pen and nib, gocco (Japanese screen printer), and computer.

Q: How do you push through creative blocks?
A: For me, I find it’s so important to keep active and spend time in nature. I hike with my adorable dogs every day, do yoga and ballet throughout the week, and although sometimes it’s just for five minutes, I meditate to start the day.

Q: What do you think of Pinterest and the rise of DIY culture?
A: I think it’s great. I’m such a visual person, so Pinterest is a fun place to get inspired. And I’m thankful so many people are into DIY: The Calligraphy Starter Kit is my best-seller.

Pyari teaches calligraphy around the Bay Area. View or purchase her work at linea-carta.com.

—LeeAnne Jones



Resource Guide

DIY Drawing and Painting

Classes to try:
Similar to Canvas and Cabernet, Pinot’s Palette instructs painting re-creations, from amber sunsets and beach dunes to Italian marketplaces and waterfronts. Try it solo, or bring your girlfriends. Danville, (925) 743-9900, pinotspalette.com/danville.

You can paint your own pottery any day of the week at Café Art. Plates, mugs, and picture frames start at $5, and staff members will help you get started. Dublin, (925) 829-7778; Livermore, (925) 373-0222, ceramic-cafeart.com.

Shops to browse:
Utrecht Art Supplies has a huge selection of paint and canvases, and is good for artists on a budget. Berkeley, (510) 649-0808, utrechtart.com.

Blick Art Materials has been around for more than 100 years, and is a go-to spot for professional-quality artist’s paints, brushes, and canvases. Oakland, (510) 658-2787; Berkeley, (510) 486-2600, dickblick.com.

Group to join:
Bond with other artists in the East Bay Landscape Painters Group, a collaborative network that celebrates oils, watercolors, and pastels. eblandscape.blogspot.com.

—Stacey Kennelly



Linda Lenhoff

Clay & Glass & Metal

Pottery, jewelry making, glass blowing, beading, sculpting, welding.

Class: Shiny Pretty Things

Art Glass Studio // Livermore

When I enter Livermore’s Art Glass Studio, I find myself in a wonderland of sparkly stained glass, from windows and ornaments to wind chimes, all of which you can make in the studio’s spacious workshop.

While my artistic skills are seriously limited, I’ve enrolled in a beginning mosaic class in search of a craft I might like and to create something I can be proud of, or at least something I can give away to the thrift store if it turns out like my painting/knitting/beading/felting attempts.

“You can mosaic anything,” owner Roberta Jones says encouragingly, so I choose a heart mold from a variety of shapes and letters she has on hand. Jones presents me with platters of stained-glass pieces the colors of your favorite Crayolas, along with a familiar bottle of Tacky glue. She says creating a mosaic “takes you away from reality,” so I try to ignore the questions that have nagged at me since kindergarten: Am I doing this right? Should I start over? Would a more creative person do it a different way?

After about 20 minutes, I find the richly colored glass bits start to absorb my thoughts. I begin to breathe more deeply as I arrange the purples and pinks, throwing in a little sky blue here, a touch of white, a rich lavender. I get a little thrill when a swirly oval piece fits just right. I begin to find it all (dare I say it?) actually meditative. I don’t say om or anything, but I don’t need to.

“You can’t rush stained glass,” the patient Jones reminds even her advanced glass-cutting students in the back of the workspace, so I relax into my cushy chair and contemplate my shimmering jigsaw puzzle, music playing softly on the stereo. I am at last really enjoying making something, and my fingers aren’t even that gluey. I’ll be placing my mosaic heart in the window by my desk so the sun can cast raspberry hues over my work. I’ve got plenty of other stuff I can give to the thrift store anyway.

Art Glass Studio offers classes in stained-glass cutting, mosaics, and glass fusing. Livermore, (925) 447-1962, artglassstudio.weebly.com.

—Linda Lenhoff



Portrait styling: Assistant, Claudia SolisExpert: Cheryl Wolff

Potter // Walnut Creek

The Internet opened up new possibilities for Cheryl Wolff, who took her first pottery class 30 years ago. The Walnut Creek artist sold to galleries and entered juried shows, and now also maintains a thriving online shop selling tableware and birdhouses.

Q: What was your very first project, and how did it turn out?
A: I took my first class because I wanted to make a dinnerware set. I had no idea how ambitious a task that would be: I spent countless hours learning to throw on the potter’s wheel. The early pieces were precious to me but disappointing representations of bowls and cups. I just kept at it, and eventually, I was making work I could really be proud of.

Q: How would you describe your style?
A: It is simple and refined, sort of quiet and elegant. People have described it as calming, having a Zen quality about it.

Q: Describe your workspace.
A: My studio is at my home in a large converted garage. It is really rustic, overflowing with work in progress, equipment, tools, and ideas for future projects. There are big barn doors that slide open to a view of redwood trees and the occasional deer.

"Kilns and glazes have a way of teaching us that we are not always in control."

Q: What inspires or influences your work?
A: I love making functional work, knowing that someone is going to enjoy using my pieces. When I’m making tableware, I see that piece sitting on a table surrounded by someone’s family and friends. When I’m making garden pieces, I’m thinking about how they are going to look tucked into a natural environment.

Q: Does ceramics require a certain personality trait or skill set?
A: You have to be OK with dirty hands and clothes. It requires patience because creating with clay is a process that can’t be rushed. Kilns and glazes have a way of teaching us that we are not always in control.

View or purchase Wolff’s work at cherylwolff.com, or Walnut Creek’s Kitchen Table and Valley Art Gallery.

—LeeAnne Jones



Resource Guide

DIY Mixed Media

Classes to try:
Try your hand at fusing and slumping, bead making, or mosaics in one of Civic Arts Education’s beginner’s glass classes. If you can take the heat, move on to more advanced projects, like jewelry casting and fabrication. Walnut Creek, (925) 943-5846, arts-ed.org.

Slow Burn Glass offers glass-blowing classes up to three times a week to teach beginners how to create a paperweight and cup. No previous experience is required. Oakland, (510) 832-2007, slowburnglass.com.

Shops to browse:
House of Beads has been selling beads from around the world for nearly 20 years. Choose from standard beads like glass and wood, or more unusual ones, like bone, gold, or clay. Walnut Creek, (925) 934-5940, houseofbeadsonline.com.

The Crucible offers free tours of its industrial arts facility (think blacksmithing and stone carving) and gallery throughout the fall. Oakland, (510) 444-0919, thecrucible.org.

Group to join:
The Potters’ Studio offers “24/7” memberships for those needing a place to cast, glaze, and blaze their artwork on their own schedule. Berkeley, (510) 528-3286, berkeleypottersstudio.com.

—Stacey Kennelly



Amanda Morris

Fabric & Yarn

Quilting, knitting, embroidery, crochet, cross-stitch, sewing, macramé.

Class: Cats Gone Wild

In Between Stitches // Livermore

As my teacher, Nancy Brown, discusses colors typically used for sewing fabric cats, I stare at my newly purchased materials and realize I have no idea what I am doing. With fabric ranging from blue swirls to solid pink to bright green stripes, my finished piece of cat appliqué will look anything but natural. Despite my disappointment, Nancy and my three classmates have not given up hope. They scan my quirky options and help me choose colors that, surprisingly, don’t look too bad together.

I have never done appliqué, a needlework technique that uses fabric and embroidery to sew together patterns and designs that are commonly used on quilts. But I find myself among experienced sewers in a class at Livermore’s In Between Stitches, a bright shop on First Street filled with colorful bolts of fabric and intricate quilts hanging on the walls. While I enjoy arts and crafts, I have tried to avoid anything that involves working with a needle. There seems to be little room for error in the craft of sewing—a frightening idea to my inner perfectionist. However, the challenge of learning appliqué appealed to the crafter within me. After all, how hard can it be to make a little cat?

There is no time to regret my decision, as Nancy takes the class through step-by-step instructions. We begin to sew one piece of fabric onto another, and my classmates and teacher encourage me through every minute of the six hours we spend together. “Oh look, Amanda has sewn on her first eye,” remarks Nancy, after I have managed to attach the right eye of my psychedelic kitten’s cutout face. By the time class is finished, I leave with one nearly finished kitten (the class promised three), but a large amount of newfound confidence and appreciation for the art of sewing and quilting.

I now find myself eager to apply what I have learned and begin a project of my own. Maybe I’ll turn my old athletic tournament tees into a quilt or add some flowers to a tote bag? At least now I know how to choose fabric colors.

In Between Stitches offers classes in appliqué, sewing, quilting, and embroidery. Livermore, (925) 371-7064, inbetweenstitches.com.

—Amanda Morris



Marissa Maharaj; Eva KolenkoExpert: Emma Robertson

Designer and Knitter // Oakland

Emma Robertson grew up watching her grandmother knit and eventually asked for some lessons. A graphic designer by trade, the Oakland-based knitter is about to take her hobby to the next level by releasing a book of fashion-forward knitting patterns.

Q: What was your very first project, and how did it turn out?
A: I think it was a simple scarf, and I remember it had tons of dropped stitches. It was a mess, but I was so proud of it.

Q: What is your favorite thing you’ve made?
A: This really great vest featured in my book. It has a leather pocket and a big collar that folds over in the front. I have worn it a dozen times. I love it because you can layer it with just about anything.

Q: What inspires or influences your work?
A: Designing garments and patterns is new to me, so I enjoy seeing what other young knitters are doing. Also, because I am a graphic designer, my knowledge in this area pours over into my knitting. It’s only natural to draw inspiration from the craft I spend the majority of my time doing!

"Start out with the basics: cast on; knit, knit, knit; cast off. Boom, you just learned!"

Q: How do you push through creative blocks?
A: I go for a bike ride or a walk—that usually does the trick—or I make a phone call to someone I haven’t talked to in a long time. These allow me to step back from my concerns or negativity and recalibrate.

Q: How would you suggest someone get started with knitting?
A: I have had many friends who want to learn to knit but seem to be too intimidated to dive in. I encourage people to start out with the very, very basics: Cast on; knit, knit, knit; cast off. Boom, you basically just learned! From there, learn a few new stitches, and see how you do. See if your local knitting shop has classes: Sometimes it takes another person physically showing you to make it click.

Robertson’s book, Knitting by Design, will be available in stores on October 22. View more of her work online at emmadimeknitted.com.

—LeeAnne Jones



Resource Guide

DIY Needle Arts

Classes to try:
Learn to spin your own yarn at The Yarn Boutique’s fiber-exploration workshops. Previous classes have focused on silk and alpaca fleece. Lafayette, (925) 283-7377, yarnboutique.us.

Civic Arts Education hosts beginner’s weaving classes at Heather Farm. Once you get the hang of things, check out the advanced loom-weaving workshops to create rugs and tapestries. Walnut Creek, (925) 943-5846, arts-ed.org.

Shops to browse:

A Yarn Less Raveled, a spacious and bright shop in Danville, is a one-stop-shop for knitters and crocheters, and offers classes for beginning to advanced students. Danville, (925) 263-2661, ayarnlessraveled.com.

Article Pract, just off hip Temescal Alley, is chock-full of knitting patterns, supplies, and yarn, plus there’s a sale section in the back. Oakland, (510) 595-7875, articlepract.com.

The Cotton Patch carries fabrics from basics to batiks and Japanese prints, as well as sewing machines and quilting DVDs to get you started. Lafayette, (925) 284-1177, quiltusa.com.

Group to join:
Stop by Fashion Knit for free knit night, or take a workshop with the East Bay fiber-crazy group that meets there to relax and get creative. Walnut Creek, (925) 943-3994, meetup.com/fashionknit.

—Stacey Kennelly


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