Craft workshop space Makers Mess has created shippable craft kits as a companion to their new online workshops.
Photo courtesy of Makers Mess
With countless craft events cancelled since March, some craft workshop spaces are finding new ways to reach their customers.
Online Workshops and Virtual Events
Before the pandemic, Makers Mess offered near-daily craft classes in their two Los Angeles workshop spaces. Faced with a virus that spreads through close contact, owner Brandy Lewis had tough choices to make. “One clear decision I made in our new world was to close the door for good on my non-socially-distancable tiny studio in Silver Lake,” Lewis said. Her downtown Los Angeles workshop is now Makers Mess headquarters, where Lewis has pivoted to a safer option: online workshops.
Lewis offers six pre-recorded online craft workshops, with corresponding craft kits and supplies. Drawing from their usual range of creative project options like tie-dye and macrame, Makers Mess also offers virtual craft events, where customers can gather via Zoom to craft together for around 90 minutes.
“We found that guests wanted to engage in any way they could,” said Lewis. “For one instructor that meant a student happy to just listen in on a watercolor workshop with no supplies at hand.”
Lewis is keenly aware of the need for community and creative engagement, especially for young people. Her new virtual summer camp offers a week of creative projects and online workshops suitable for children ages 5-10.
Shippable Kits to Craft From Home
Some craft workshops are tricky to convert to a shippable kit. Fired Up ceramic studio in Victoria B.C. normally offers drop-in painting on pottery or canvas, but has been closed to the public since March. To accommodate their students, the Fired Up team created new Pottery Kits for delivery or curbside pickup. Customers can select their blank bisque pottery online, choose glaze colors, and have their custom kit delivered to their door. Each kit comes with instructions, and customers can have their painted ceramic project picked up and finished in the Fired Up kiln.
Part trendy bar, part craft workshop, Upstairs Circus has locations in Austin, Dallas, Denver, and Minneapolis. The creative space offers 30+ craft projects, most of which are meant to be completed during happy hour with minimal assistance. Upstairs Circus recently reopened, with new Covid-19 procedures in place, including temperature checks and sanitizing protocols. However, some patrons remain uncertain about venturing out. With those customers in mind, Upstairs Circus will now ship “Make-at-Home” DIY kits, to intrepid crafters who want to create nail and string art, a modern jewelry hanger, or distressed wood art from home.
Paddywax Candle Bar also developed At-Home Kits for customers who requested an at-home version of their workshop experience during quarantine. Paddywax is exploring further refinements to their craft kits. “We created a variety of premade kits, but now are ready to expand to a more customized model with virtual candle making kits,” says Brand Director Whitney Hall. “Groups can utilize the optional 30-minute virtual Q + A with one of our professional candle makers or just keep it intimate by using our step by step instructions included with each kit.”
Paddywax Candle Bar offers “At-Home” candle craft kits, as well as socially-distanced in-person candle pouring workshops.
Photo courtesy of Paddywax
Adapting In-Person Classes
Paddywax Candle Bar recently reopened their craft workshops with new health and safety measures in place, including mandatory face coverings. Attendees now use single-use craft supplies, and an instructor leads socially-distanced students through the candle pouring process in a one-hour workshop. “Our team members and guests are at the root of what we do, thus their health is of utmost importance,” says Brand Director Whitney Hall. Paddywax reduced their class sizes by 50% to lower the risk for students.
“We are working diligently to keep up with the ever-changing guidelines and recommendations put in place by the CDC in an effort to keep our staff and patrons as safe, happy, and healthy as possible,” says Hall.
Creating a safety plan is key, whether in-person workshops are resuming, or not. J. Craig Shearman, VP of government affairs and public relations at the National Retail Federation told Retail Dive it’s up to each individual proprietor to take steps “to ensure the safety of their workers and customers, including cleaning, masks, Plexiglas shields, testing or asking employees whether they have exposure to COVID-19, and other steps.”
With varied local restrictions on reopening, craft workshop owners will need to research current safety regulations in their state, and assess what’s possible for their creative business. The CDC continues to advise caution for in-person events. According to CDC officials, “The higher the level of community transmission in the area that the gathering is being held, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spreading during a gathering.” The CDC provides safety guidelines for events to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 at events and gatherings.
Erin is the textile designer and artist behind the home décor company, Cotton & Flax. She licenses her surface designs for fabric, home décor, stationery, and other clients. She’s also a teacher, writer, and enthusiastic advocate for small creative business owners. She lives in San Diego, California.