Roll up your sleeves: Denver's old-school shop class with a modern, fun and social twist is firing up the blowtorches and power tools. Hands-on classes in the industrial arts, including woodworking and welding, are led by local artists and guides at MADE Wkshop in LoHi. All levels of ability are welcome to learn in a friendly environment that is not intimidating for beginners nor frustrating for those who have dabbled.
MADE Wkshop was founded by Diane Nagler, a seasoned public relations and marketing executive, and Christopher Oar, creative director and renowned artist, sculptor, painter, furniture maker and jewelry designer. Oar is working on commercial interior design builds and product lines and is now bringing his talents to the community as a teacher at MADE Wkshop. Nagler describes it as a place to “exercise your creative side and learn a new skill in an interactive, luxury experience.”
After two years in the planning stages, MADE Wkshop opened in February 2020, only 27 days before the first shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to pivot, MADE Wkshop started selling kits that clients could use to make items such as a lending library and a planter box, but soon realized that DIY was not a fit for the business model because the creative exploration experience is essential. In the downtime, a line of furniture from Oar was featured at Modern Nomad with a goal of offering unique pieces, geared to turn the home more comfortable and personal. When safely allowed to reopen, MADE Wkshop focused on private lessons for small groups geared toward those in the same household, and over the holidays offered parties for small, private groups.
Luckily, the format was inherently conducive to safety and social distancing with metal shop and wood shop stations already 6 feet apart.
Every client receives personal work gloves to take home and goggles that are sanitized between sessions, which ensures a safe experiential outing for families and small groups.
Many of the courses are geared for those aged 18 and up for safety reasons but there are courses designed for teens to participate in with their families. The class on making copper bowls, for example, involves a blowtorch, a tree stump, and lighting copper on fire, and the whole family can bang out anxiety together. “We are truly grateful. If we can bring a little joy and have someone forget their problems for three hours, it’s worth it,” Nagler said.
The most popular class, and pre-requisite to other classes, is Dice Dice Baby, part of the fundaMETALS series, which is an introduction to welding. Students make their own art in the form of dice. Other popular courses include Planter’s Paradise, in which attendees construct geometric tabletop planters of steel; and Red Red Wine (Rack), in which participants build a rack to hold six or 12 bottles of wine. In the woodMADE series, courses include options to create a biscuit box for your dog, a birdhouse, a carved bowl and more. In mixedMADE, course attendees work with not only wood and metal but also concrete, textiles, upcycled materials and more to create anything from chess sets and skee ball lanes to bar carts. Private groups and corporate offices also can work together in a private class to make a custom artifact for the home or office.
For those on board with the artistic spirit but vision beyond their current skill set, there is a Get it MADE option to have a custom design project created for residential or commercial spaces. Clients can select from a collection of fire pits, sculptures, light fixtures and more. Social responsibility is central to MADE Wkshop’s core values through giving back a portion of sales to charitable causes. Most recently, Urban Peak was the beneficiary in a mission to end youth homelessness. The cause- MADE series is an alternative to the make-and-take options, where course attendees learn a new skill while making items to donate to a local nonprofit. A new project is selected quarterly and courses are tailored
to the needs of the organization. Private courses also are available in which a group or corporation selects its own beneficiary cause and works with MADE Wkshop to develop a course to provide what the nonprofit of choice would find useful.
Each student feels a sense of accomplishment when he or she leaves, which Nagler likened to watching a kindergarten class because there is profound excitement in trying something for the first time.
“That look on every single student’s face when they leave with the project is the coolest thing to watch,” she said.
Nagler and Oar are people with true passion who are helping others to find their passion.
Nagler recounted a story of one student who took an introduction to welding class on a date night and eventually parlayed it into owning welding equipment and using it to build a deck at his home. New interests are being ignited in each class.
Despite the challenges that affected MADE Wkshop related to COVID-19, the company’s mission is not slowing down any time soon. Private courses are available for small groups and community offerings will expand as it becomes safe
to do so. Nagler is planning to have fun events and will introduce a membership model to turn clients’ creative outlets into a monthly habit.
If you are looking to unplug from the distractions of technology and learn to create something meaningful while connecting with your inner creativity and your community, visit MADE Wkshop. You might even surprise yourself.
Danielle Yuthas is a senior director of marketing for national franchise brand, SpeedPro. A Denver native, a creative and a millennial, she is an experiential art enthusiast and supports local businesses.
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