Whether you are sliding a brush across a fresh canvas or digging your fingers into a wet piece of clay to create a plate all your own, few things are as satisfying as making your own art — and Michiana businesses have started to realize this.
From wine and canvas nights at several local wineries to board and brush nights at local businesses, making your own art is a certified trend.
To learn more about the trend, Michiana Life visited three different make-your-own art studios across Michiana.
Urban Garage Market
If one were driving down Main Street in Benton Harbor, they would likely fly right past Urban Garage Market, its sign tucked away to the side of a large yellow building.
However, the lucky few customers that see the store and decide to stop will be greeted with a one-of-a-kind space. Inside the aging building, vintage finds, handcrafted candles and locally designed furniture litter every inch of open space, ready to make a customer’s house into a home.
“It happens all the time,” says owner Kelly Arent, laughing as she closes the lid on a paint jar behind the store’s counter. “People tend to miss [the store]. But once they come in, they always say that they have to come back.”
Located in the heart of Benton Harbor, Urban Garage Market is a specialty store that offers furniture refurbishing and design services, in addition to selling all kinds of clothing, home goods and knickknacks for customers to decorate their homes. However, more than just selling products, the store offers classes for visitors to try their hand at creating a piece all their own.
Urban Garage Market offers a number of furniture painting classes, in addition to many other courses including wine glass etching, sign painting and jewelry stamping. The store typically offers one class a week, but Kelly says that the number and types of classes offered is often determined by customer demand.
“We have a variety of instructors, and we like to offer a little bit of everything,” Kelly says. “I listen to my customers, and I like to offer what they are asking for. If a customer asks me to host, say a painting class in May, I work to find someone and offer that class.”
Kelly, of St. Joseph, opened Urban Garage Market after years of working as an interior designer. She says she decided to offer classes because she wanted to provide customers with the same feeling she gets when designs a piece of furniture — the satisfaction of creating an item that fits their exact taste and needs.
“I like things to be the color I want, the finish I want,” she says. “You are able to make things custom and make something that doesn’t exist anywhere else.”
Though she acknowledges that many have their doubts when it comes to creating their own pieces — particularly painting furniture — Kelly says she would encourage anyone to try their hand at one of her classes and to put their own stamp on a piece all their own.
“So many people think they can’t do this, but you can. We make it easy,” she says. “People come out of here practically skipping because they are so proud that they did something themselves. And they did. They did it all themselves. We just offer a little guiding.”
Urban Garage Market is located at 408 W. Main St., Suite 120, Benton Harbor. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. For more information, or to learn more about upcoming classes, visit Urban Garage Market on Facebook.
The Pigeon & The Hen Pottery
When some think of ceramics and pottery, they might call to mind serious shapes, earthy tones and classic designs.
However, when visitors walk into South Bend’s The Pigeon and The Hen Pottery, they are met with a completely different environment — one filled with bright colors, fun fonts and figurines of glittery cardinals, friendly, green raptors and shiny glazed donuts.
“We believe in color,” says Diana Palomo as she sits in front of a gold working plate that has layers of dried pink, purple and orange paints. “I want people to feel like they are coming into my home, and my home is colorful and vibrant. We want that feeling to be reflected here.”
Named after owners Diana (the pigeon, as her last name means pigeon in Spanish) and Amy Klingler (the hen, as she used to raise chickens), The Pigeon and the Hen is a walk-in paint-your-own pottery studio in South Bend. With more than 500 ceramic items ranging from the functional — bowls and plates — to the eccentric — grapefruit-sized Death Stars and cupcakes — Diana and Amy say that there is an option for everyone to get creative and decorate with either acrylic paint or glaze.
“We provide people with everything they need to make their own masterpiece,” Amy says.
The studio also offers wheel throwing classes, which allow visitors to create their own bowls and pots, and several special classes and events, including Ladies’ Night once a month and birthday parties.
Diana and Amy met at a pottery class in 2012, and had only known each other a few months when they got the idea to open The Pigeon and The Hen. Despite the fast timeline of their friendship and journey toward opening a pottery studio, the pair said they have never once regretted the decision.
“We wanted to use our ceramics degrees, and we couldn’t realistically find jobs for that,” Diana says. “So, we decided to make our own.”
The studio itself got its start as a pop-up shop in 2013 with the help of a nonprofit organization, Downtown South Bend. According to Diana and Amy, The Pigeon and The Hen was well received by the community right out of the gate and has only continued to grow over the years once the shop opened permanently.
“There is nothing else like this in South Bend right now, so this is really popular,” Diana says. “It’s an activity that anyone can do.”
“This isn’t just something you can find at Michael’s,” Amy adds about why the studio has become so popular. “Each piece you make is unique. It is a personal experience. You are making memories with the people that you are with, and you have something to take home to remind you of that memory.”
Both Diana and Amy say they will continue to run their shop in South Bend with the objective of allowing people to tap into their creative sides.
“We just want to expose people to ceramics,” Diana says. “We want people to walk away from here feeling great pride that they have made something.”
The Pigeon and The Hen Pottery is located at 217 S. Michigan St., South Bend. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Ceramic pieces and classes vary in price. To learn more and see a calendar of special events, visit pigeonhenpottery.com.
Standing behind the counter in a gallery filled with colorful paintings and abstract sculptures, owners of Culturfx Art Gallery, Jeff Andres and Kandy Grady, say that there is nothing quite like art to bring people together.
“You can only express your feelings with so many words, but art takes you beyond that,” Kandy says as she sneaks a glance at Jeff, her boyfriend. “Art is just an endless way to express yourself and that bonds people together.”
Downtown Dowagiac’s Culturfx Art Gallery is a gallery that showcases and sells art from artists throughout the Michiana area. The storefront also offers a variety of art classes — at least one a week — all taught by local artists. Kandy and Jeff say that they provide classes for all types, from classes on acrylic paint pouring to fused glass to even how to paint with Q-Tips. The gallery also offers bring-your-own-wine and beer painting nights.
“We try to have something for everyone from children to adults,” Jeff says. “If an artist comes to us and wants to do a class, we try to find a way to make that happen. It gives local artists a chance to share their knowledge and their passion. … We get a lot of variety that way, which is kind of unique. People who come to our classes get to try a lot of new things.
As they are both artists themselves, both Jeff and Kandy say that they appreciate the creative aspect of make-your-own art classes. However, they say that their favorite part of the classes is the way that art brings people together — after all, art holds a special place in their relationship.
“Art is what brought us together, first as friends and then as a couple,” Kandy says. “Art becomes a part of you that you want to share with others.”
The couple can see the way art connects people in each one of their classes, but during a course they hosted on Valentine’s Day, they were able to see that connection in a whole new way.
“It was just fun to see the way the couples were working together,” Kandy says. “They were bonding and just enjoying themselves.”
“They each had their own pallette to work on, but there were some that were working together,” Jeff says, as he recalls the class with a smile. “That was really cool to see.”
Both Jeff and Kandy say that they would encourage anyone to try out one of Culturfx’s classes, saying that it will allow them to learn a new skill and can afford them a fun experience to have with a friend or loved one.
“It’s just a new, creative outlet,” Kandy says. “It really reduces a person’s level of stress, and there are a lot of laughs. I think people should be able to treat themselves for a couple of hours.”
“It is therapeutic. It is relaxing. It is just fun,” Jeff adds. “It is a good way to get out of your comfort zone and try something new and have fun with someone.”
Culturfx is located at 102 Commercial St., Dowagiac. The store is open from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, though classes are often hosted after hours and private classes can be scheduled outside of regular hours. Prices of classes vary. To learn more and to find class times and details, visit Culturfx on Facebook.
Photography by Emily Sobecki