DIY studios across the Westside invite you to get messy, crafty and creative

These Hands Maker’s Collective hosts workshops on block printing, macramé, jewelry making and even succulent arranging; Good Dirt LA founder Lina Alvarez (middle right) offers group ceramics classes for adults and kids, including an autumn pottery boot camp. Alvarez photo by Shilah Montiel.

By Christina Campodonico

Whether you’re a digital nomad or a cubicle-bound nine-to-fiver, much of today’s modern clerical and creative work takes place behind computer screens, with fingers flying across keyboards or scrolling across glassy smartphone screens for hours at a time. A cursory Google search will tell you that a typist’s fingers travel about 12.6 miles in an average work day; a study by Google’s Empathy Lab discovered that the thumb of a heavy smartphone user (someone who touches their phone around 10,000 times a day) will travel the distance from San Francisco to Big Sur in a year’s time.

Our hands are certainly getting a workout, but what if you want to treat them to a different sort of exercise? That’s where places like the These Hands Maker’s Collective step in. Founded by Marina del Rey jewelry designer Denise Ambrosi this past January, These Hands began as a roving craft workshop experience that Ambrosi created to connect with Instagram artists she admired and to bring fellow crafters together on the Westside. She’d rent out chic collaborative work spaces, homes or retail spaces such as homegrown Venice boutique Amiga Wild, charge just enough to cover the costs of the workshop, and offer the visiting artist an honorarium as well as put him or her up in her family’s studio apartment rental — kind of like an artist’s residency.

Now Ambrosi has established a dedicated brick-and-mortar crafting space for These Hands at 1629 Abbot Kinney Blvd., a semi-hidden oasis tucked behind fashion boutique The Piece Collective and zero waste refill store Recontained. In this cozy pink pastel studio, Ambrosi plans not only to host regularly scheduled workshops — these range from $100 weaving sessions to $35 block printing crash courses — but also to stage collaborations with next-door neighbor Sweetheart Ceramics, offer memberships, and create opportunities for pop-in creative experiences whenever the doors are open (like taking an hour to make a pair of leather earrings with a friend visiting from out of town).

Ultimately, Ambrosi hopes that These Hands helps people of all skill levels get in touch with their creative sides through easy-to-join workshops among like-minded people and, of course, plenty of refreshments to keep your creative juices flowing.

“I really feel that the majority of people want to be creative. They have that within them,” Ambrosi says. “I think when someone really makes something that they’re proud of, it feeds their soul.” |

Some more local destinations for getting into the creative zone:

Good Dirt LA founder Lina Alvarez shows
us how it’s done at her studio on Centinela Avenue.
Photo by Shilah Montiel.

Pottery Paradises

If you’re already at These Hands, you may want to check out adjacent ceramics studio Sweetheart Ceramics (1629 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice). Run by entertainment industry pro-turned-professional potter Susan Clark, this tiny studio with just two potter’s wheels and a mini kiln offers private lessons by appointment. It’s perfect for one-on-one instruction or an intimate date night. |

Prefer to learn in a group? Good Dirt LA (4505 S. Centinela Ave., Del Rey), featured on this week’s cover, offers mixed-level classes for adults and kids and is kicking off the fall with a six-week boot camp in the basics of pottery making (Sept. 12 to Oct. 17). On Oct. 6 the studio hosts “Empty Bowls,” a pottery and food fundraiser benefitting Women for Women International. |

You can also take your turn at the potter’s wheel at The Clayhouse in Santa Monica (2909 Santa Monica Blvd.), or Full-Circle Pottery (12023 Venice Blvd.) and Peach Tree Pottery (3795 Boise Ave.), both in Mar Vista. |;;

Literary Outlets

Yearning to scratch a writerly itch? The Writing Pad – West in Culver City (10200 Venice Blvd.) offers salon-style crash courses (usually five weeks) and one-off writing seminars in screenwriting, fiction, memoir, personal essay writing, freelancing, blogging, copywriting, podcasting and even live storytelling taught by pros in all these genres. Think of them like mini writing bootcamps or encouraging MFA critique sessions to help you get your personal essay idea off the ground or perfect your screenplay. Writing Pad alumni have gone on to sell pilots, publish their work in The New York Times and become Moth StorySLAM winners. Hobbyists, aspiring writers and seasoned veterans are all welcome in this zen and cozy space with a nurturing community and lots of snacks. |

Want to put an extra literary stamp on your prose? Book ArtsLA (11720 Washington Pl.) is a not-for-profit art studio in Mar Vista that holds workshops in bookbinding, papermaking, letterpress printing and paper decoration. The organization’s Type Slams are fun introductory classes to the basics of letterpress printing where students can play with vintage wooden typefaces and enjoy plenty of refreshments. The next one is Friday, Sept. 13, from 6 to 10 p.m. But sign up soon! Slams are limited to six. |

Sing or Dance Your Heart Out

Whether you’re 3 or 63, it’s never too early or too late to be in a band, at least at The School of Rock. Two locations on the Westside (12300 Venice Blvd. and 12020 Wilshire Blvd.) offer performance-driven programming, grouped by age, for honing your hand at guitar, drums, keys or bass guitar through private lessons, group jam sessions and real gigs. (They also offer singing lessons, too.) |

You can also get your groove on at Artistico School of Dance in Westchester (8939 S. Sepulveda Blvd.), which not only offers a variety of dance classes for kids and teens, including rhythmic gymnastics, but also ballet, salsa, tap, barre fitness and dance cardio classes for adults. An African dance class with live drums starts Sept. 7.

Former bunheads may enjoy taking adult ballet classes in Santa Monica from the highly respected Westside School of Ballet, founded by Royal
Ballet and New York City Ballet alumnae. |

If you dream about dancing like you’re in a music video, check out the hip-hop or contemporary dance classes at Diaz Studio of Dance (3816 Culver Center Drive) in Culver City. |

The Brasil Brasil Cultural Center in the Culver City panhandle (12453 Washington Blvd.) also offers capoeira, samba, Afro-Brazilian and Zumba dance classes for adults. |

Creativity on Canvas

Pick up a paintbrush and express yourself at Paint: Lab (1453 14th St., Santa Monica), which offers daily art classes for adults and kids and an open paint lab for the whole family on Sundays. |

Learn how to use acrylics, oils, charcoals, pencils or pastels in group or private lessons at Raminfard School of Arts (10604 W. Pico Blvd.) in Rancho Park. |

Or take one-off workshops in mediums such as collage, animal portraiture, watercolors or life drawing at Brentwood Art Center (13021 Montana Ave., Brentwood). |

You can get an MFA or BFA-style education at Otis College of Art and Design (9045 Lincoln Blvd., Westchester) through its extension program, which offers adult education courses and certificates in everything from interior and fashion design to graphic design and photography. Courses at Otis come with access to university-grade facilities like a photo lab, printmaking workshop or professional-style photo studio. |

You can also be a lifelong learner with art classes at Santa Monica College or West L.A. College. |;

Get Creative in the Kitchen

Live out your “Top Chef” or “Great British Bake Off” dreams at The Gourmandise School in Santa Monica (395 Santa Monica Place). Learn how to bake pie like a pro or immerse yourself in in-depth talks by culinary experts on artisan bread or the history of sugar and spices. Beginners and serious cooks welcome. |

Even more exotic culinary classes await at Hip Cooks’ West L.A. location (2833 S. Robertson Blvd.), which offers meaty and humorously monikered courses like “My Big Fat Greek Cooking Class” or “Dim Sum and then Some” that will help you have a whole lot of fun with your food, whether you choose to dive into “Ragin’ Cajun” cooking or learn how to make your own cheese like a “cheese whiz.” |

The New School of Cooking in Culver City (8690 Washington Blvd.) offers diplomas in the culinary and pastry arts, but if you’re more of a serious hobbyist there are plenty of multi-week recreational and one-day workshops to choose from. Go intense with a 20-week baking course, or learn how to recreate the perfect date night at home with a one-night workshop on steak, wine and chocolate. |

Marina del Rey’s Cookdrop Kitchen also offers tailored cooking classes for friends or co-workers; they’ve hosted private cooking classes for groups from Facebook, Google, Netflix and more. Every class makes a wholesome meal that may be paired with wine or cocktails and features local ingredients from a nearby farmers market. |

Prefer to cook in your own home? Westside-based Elle A Cooking will come to you with a recipe for a prix-fixe menu or pretty much anything you’d like to make. |