Higher Learning

Up Your Gift-Giving Game with These Dynamic DIY Classes

Why buy something when you can learn how to make it yourself?

By Adam Doster February 20, 2017 Published in the March 2017 issue of Houstonia Magazine

0317 higher learning crafting craft woodworking npahrs

Making a cutting board at TxRx

Image: Troy Fields

Work Wood at TxRx Labs

Our task is to make a cutting board, simple and clean. It’s a poetic prompt; at this introductory woodworking class, Houstonians learn how to cut wood so they can bring home a piece of it on which to cut.

Nestled on an industrial East End side street, TxRx is the type of place where handy people congregate, and where those who’d like to become handier (or watch too much HGTV) seek out expertise. Deep in the bowels of the 30,000-square-foot “hackerspace,” there’s a fully-stocked wood shop waiting for us.

Soft-spoken and sure-handed Mike, our instructor, directs 12 would-be carpenters to a pile of rough lumber on a table, which we proceed to slice (with a miter saw), flatten (using a planer), smooth (jointer) and carve (table saw). The directions are clear, the advice no-nonsense. I watch with horror as a woman sticks her hand way too close to a spinning blade, but pulls it away just in time.

The hours slip by, sawdust covers our pants, and the object in my hand starts to transform. What was once merely latent possibility has become something tangible, meaningful even. TxRx calls itself an “incubator for imaginative solutions for everyday problems.” Under the fluorescent shop lights, I begin to dream of new projects, new pieces, new ideas to saw or sand on my own.

Fire Up the Kiln at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft

It’s a little-known fact that coffee tastes better in a homemade mug. Fire your own at a workshop here, where local artists teach novice potters how to hand-build with clay and glaze their wares in a kiln. When you’re finished, look for more inspiration in the center’s artist studios or its retail space, Asher Gallery.

Comprehend Calligraphy at Nib and Pixel

Don’t spend a fortune on elaborate wedding invitations. Take a beginner’s calligraphy class at this Houston-based graphic-design studio, and learn how to draw your own expressive swirls. For those already practiced in the art of lettering, watercolor classes are also available.

Knit Something at the Social Knitwork

That sweater isn’t going to knit itself. Grab your needles and head up to Spring, where members of the Knitwork guide newbies through the basics, covering techniques including Fair Isle (multi-color knitting) and knitting in the round (hats).

Make Jewelry at Art League Houston

The Art League's school has been around for nearly 50 years, offering quarterly courses on everything from classical figure drawing to landscape painting. Jewelry construction, a perennial favorite, fills up fast each quarter, as students learn to assemble, drill, and rivet their dream pieces into reality.

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