The do-it-yourself art studio scene in Missoula is thriving, as several of the crafty, group-focused businesses are popping up downtown to add to the handful already established.
Ashley Fancher is the owner/operator of Pine and Company at 131 E. Main St. They host birthday parties, wedding celebrations and business team-building events to participate in sign-making workshops.
Essentially, everyone who signs up gets to make a custom sign or choose from one of the many designs they already have.
“They get the whole studio to themselves, and we teach them step-by-step from painting the background to applying the stencils to doing the lettering,” Fancher explained. “Or we have open workshops where anybody can sign up and they don’t have to have a minimum group size.”
Fancher and her husband cut custom stencils beforehand, so the signs can say whatever you want, then everyone gathers for the three-hour workshop in the evenings to paint the signs.
“We do allow people to bring in their own beer and wine, so that’s how we get husbands and boyfriends in,” Fancher explained. Birthday parties for kids are $25 per child, toddler storytime is $15, and adult classes start at $30 depending on group size. All supplies are included and you get to keep the fancy sign when you’re done. Fancher says that because her business isn’t a chain, they offer customers more flexibility and a unique experience.
“We’re the only Pine and Company,” she said.
Paisley Taylor is just starting the build-out on the CREATE art bar in the ground floor of the new Marriott Hotel on Front Street. When it opens in September, they’ll be located between the new Zoo Thai restaurant and the Skin Chic salon.
“We’ll offer a menu of 15 different projects, and then you get to pick your project and you get all the materials and tools and instructions and go at your own pace and complete the project,” Taylor said. “We’ll offer assistance to help along the way if you need it or if you don’t, you’re on your own. We don’t have an instructor or classes; it’s a little bit more self-guided. But we’re there to help along the way.”
She said that means a party of 10 people, for example, can come in and everyone can do different projects.
“We’ll have leather wallets, string art, concrete coasters, leather wristlets and coozies,” she said.
Since the hotel has a liquor license, the Create Art Bar will have a bar offering craft cocktails and a section with beer and wine as well.
“I’ve always wanted to have my own art studio,” Taylor explained. “I was an art teacher before having children, so this has been about a four-year dream of mine to have some kind of do-it-yourself workshop here. And we can offer it with a bar so people can have a fun night out and be creative and walk away with something they like.”
Just down the street, at 121 S. Higgins Avenue, Janis Heinrich Yoswa opened AR (Anders Ruff) Workshop in early May. They offer do-it-yourself home furnishing and décor projects like lazy Susans, custom wood signs, canvas pillows, centerpiece boxes and other projects.
Heinrich Yoswa said they’ll be offering jewelry stamping and hand-knitting in the future.
“We also have retail,” she said. “Cute little gift ideas.”
She said she’s still “working on the alcohol thing” because she can’t sell beer or wine or liquor, but on the Wine Down Wednesday Workshop on June 12, for example, the registration might come with free drinks and she may have a bring-your-own policy in the future.
“We’re still trying to figure out the whole vibe of downtown,” she said. “We’ll have open houses where people can do smaller projects where they won’t have to register in advance, and we’ll be doing fundraisers with different organizations. We can also do off-site workshops, say, if a brewery wanted us to go there.”
Heinrich Yoswa’s parents actually owned a jewelry store in the same location when she was growing up, but she left Missoula for 30 years and jumped at the opportunity when the location came available.
“We’re the only one in Montana,” she said.
The Hearts Afire Pottery studio at 2426 W. Central Ave. offers a different twist, according to owner Caren Clarke.
“Our main thing is paint-your-own pottery,” she said. “We also do glass-fusing an do-it-yourself canvas painting.”
Customers pick out their own pottery, from mugs to platters to bowls to planter pots to piggy-banks. Then, after they get done painting it in a group setting, Clarke glazes and fires the pottery and gives it back to the customer after about a week.
“I have a private party room that holds 14 people,” she said. “We do birthday parties, family gatherings and corporate events. We do team-bonding or Christmas parties or whatever. I do some classes and special events. Things run from between $10 and $100.”
She said there’s more than 200 patterns that people can choose from.
“It’s a trace patter, so they follow step-by-step instructions,” she said. “It’s a bright, colorful place to hang out. I have good windows. And we’re offering summer camps for kids this year.”
The Missoula Fine Art Studio offers instructed drawing and painting classes on weekends. Owners Terra Chapman and her husband Maurilio Milone welcome any skill level.
“It’s essentially a painting program which starts with drawing,” Chapman said. “Everybody, regardless of level because we have beginners to professionals, everybody starts with drawing. And eventually we get into painting. We have figure, portrait, still-life and some landscape.”
They also offer master studies programs. It’s located at 1205 Defoe St. Unit 1 in Missoula, and they have a website and social media pages.
Even the small community of Lolo is getting in on the act.
Stacie Warhurst owns and operates Give Me A Sign Crafthouse and Boutique at 11725 Hwy 93 S. in Lolo.
“We offer DIY workshops,” Warhurst said. “We do signs, different wood things and offer space to other makers to perhaps teach.”
In 2016, the Missoulian profiled Painting With A Twist, a do-it-yourself art studio at 2100 Stephens Ave. Suite 108 in the Stephens Center. The company is a nationwide franchise, and the Missoula location employs local artists who teach do-it-yourself painting classes.