By John Dahlin, courtesy American Swedish Institute
Published March 01, 2017
What do you bring home from a trip?
Is it a magnet from a gift shop, a T-shirt or some other kitschy item you would probably never buy at home? You probably have one souvenir that stands out from the others: a piece of art you watched the artist bring to life in front of your eyes or a delicate glass figurine, after you saw how they were made in the studio you visited.
Experiencing the tradition and artistry of handcrafts can make an otherwise ordinary souvenir item seem exceptional. And playing a part in making that item yourself makes for remarkable travel memories.
The following five attractions offer workshops where your travelers can create their own special souvenirs.
Groups visiting Chickasaw Country in Oklahoma will be immersed in native culture, especially at the Chickasaw Cultural Center. Visitors to the cultural center will be able to learn about Chickasaw tribal history, take in a stomp-dancing performance and see other cultural demonstrations.
“Our goal is to share history and culture with our visitors and share who we are as a people,” said Valerie Walters, executive officer of the cultural center for the cultural division of the Chickasaw Nation.
Groups can take part in many different workshops at the cultural center, including beadwork, or making drums, pinch pots or sticks for stickball. The beadwork session is popular with many groups. During the class, participants will be able to see examples of different styles of beadwork like those used on dance regalia or in jewelry before learning how to make their own beadwork bracelets or necklaces.
Visitors to the area will also want to stop at the ARTesian Gallery and Studios and check out the current exhibit or the work of the artists in residence. The studio now has five artists in residence, including Margaret Wheeler, a weaver.
Groups can participate in workshops with these artists, including ceramics and jewelry-making, or they can work with Wheeler, who leads a workshop teaching groups different weaving techniques to create scarves, sashes, placemats and other fabric crafts. In the longer half-day classes, groups may learn about different natural dyes and how they are sourced and gathered, before dying and creating their own items.
Groups visiting Chickasaw Country will also enjoy stopping at one of the restaurants or shops at the Artesian Hotel, Casino and Spa, near the ARTesian Gallery; touring the Chickasaw capitol; or exploring the Chisholm Heritage Trail.
Beckley, West Virginia
Tamarack is great for groups seeking a handcrafting experience in the Beckley, West Virginia, area because a variety of craft workshops are offered year-round. Classes in almost every discipline are available, including jewelry-making, painting, glassblowing and more.
The glassblowing class with John DefMeules is popular with small groups. During the class, DefMeules teaches participants the process of glassblowing, including melting and shaping the glass. Then he helps each person create his or her own work of glass art. Amateur glassblowers can make small objects such as a whiskey glass, an ornament, a ring holder and a paperweight.
“People admire the lovely things that others create, but they get especially excited to learn the techniques,” said Norma Acord-Combs, marketing and creative education manager for Tamarack. “They seem really happy to make something and take it home and be proud of what they created.”
Groups visiting Tamarack may also be interested in the “almost heaven breakfast,” a buffet breakfast, before heading to their craft workshop. Classes rotate, but if your group is interested in a particular class, check with Tamarack staff when booking to set up a workshop or a demonstration tailored to the interests of your group.
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