I have a confession to make: wine and paint nights give me massive anxiety. I’m a writer, not an artist. Not even a little bit. While I think it’s an awesome concept in general, paying to sit down and create “art” that will never be good enough to hang up is not my idea of fun. So when a friend invited me to her birthday celebration at a place where we would be making our own wood signs while sipping wine, I was sure I was about to have another paint night disaster. But AR Workshop in Fresno is SO much different than that. I had so much fun that I’m here to tell you anybody can do this, and everybody should try it!
I should start by saying that wood signs are only one of many, many things you can create at AR Workshop, a nationwide chain of studios that specializes in DIY home décor. The local franchise was opened just a couple months ago by cousins and Central Valley natives Leigh Champlin and Michelle Bentzen. Each workshop is about 2 ½ hours long, and each person in your group can pick a different project within a theme and personalize the words and art on it, so everyone goes home with something they will be happy to display in their space.
Projects for every personality
My friends and I went on a night where we could create a wood sign, lazy susan, wood tray or wood photo frame, and every project choice was represented in our group. When you register on AR Workshop’s website, you can peruse the available projects and request your customizations. I found a photo board that said “Football is My Favorite Season” and, naturally, asked that the ladies prepare a stencil for me that said “Baseball is My Favorite Season” instead. AR Workshop is a great place to create something with your family’s last name or your child’s name. They even offer wood photo frames for pets!
On the night we went, there were two birthday parties that had booked the studio. We were given space to put out some snacks, alcohol, and cake. Our custom project materials were laid out around a space with our name written on it. This is when I started hyperventilating a little inside, because there were literally individual planks of wood stacks at my station, along with hardware, and I started panicking at the thought that I was really going to have to put this sign together piece by piece!
But the employees at AR Workshop were so patient and great at explaining the steps that I soon found myself holding a nail gun with glee. That’s the thing that ended up being so cool about the experience: I really built this photo board and designed it myself from start to finish. I sanded wood, picked a stain, debated paint colors, stenciled—all of it. The stencil is a key part of the process. Because I had a guide, I avoided the art disasters of paint nights past.
Holiday gifts handmade by you!
This is a great time of year to try out AR Workshop so you can create custom holiday décor and gifts instead of buying generic versions at the store. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas… they’ve got you covered! Other workshop themes include wall hangings, pillows, and canvas totes; centerpiece boxes for your table; and even guest appearances by chefs who will teach you how to decorate cookies or lay out a charcuterie board while you create a custom wood tray. There are also youth-themed events where you can drop off your kids for a few hours to make a project while you go on a date night!
Whether it’s for girls’ night, date night or a celebration, AR Workshop is a great place to do something really different with your friends and family, and leave with something that will make you happy for a long time to come. Couples who like to work with power tools will enjoy this far more than painting two of the same canvases together, too!
AR Workshop is located next to Young Chef’s Academy at Champlain and Perrin in Fresno. Follow AR Workshop Fresno on Facebook so you can find out about special events right away, like their Chunky Knit Blanket Workshop that sold out in just hours. Go to their website to find a full schedule and photos of hundreds of project ideas. Then shoot me a message, because I’m dying to find someone to go back with me!
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