In a city where we’re constantly commuting, working, and repeating our hectic schedules day after day, it’s easy to forget that we all have a creative side, even if we haven’t used it in years (or ever).
With a mission to help people relax, create, and be happy, Nora Abousteit, Founder and CEO of CraftJam, believes that making time to create things is essential for mental wellness. “We were born to create; otherwise, we’d still be naked in caves,” she says.
Her New York City-based arts and crafts school has been a popular destination for DIY workshops, like knitting and watercolor painting, since opening in 2016. The school offers beginner-friendly, BYOB classes that are each about two hours long.
Nora hopes, besides being able to take home a work of art at the end of each class, that students will have a chance to connect with themselves, others, and the world as a whole. “Our making muscles [have] atrophied, and reactivating them reconnects us to something deeper and makes us feel whole,” she explains.
Before making a space for New Yorkers to explore their creative sides, Nora founded the craft publishing platform Kollabora, a marketplace and community that connects millions of makers and brands, as well as BurdaStyle, the world’s largest online sewing community.
The experienced entrepreneur, who counts calligraphy, sewing, and knitting as her favorite crafts, encourages people to see CraftJam as a place to connect with friends, create new projects, and learn craft skills.
If you’re brand-spanking new to a certain craft and have any reservations, fear not! Nora says to come as you are, be open, and follow your JamMaster’s instructions. “We believe in positive reinforcement and welcome all questions,” Nora imparts. “We love sharing our passion and want the whole world to make things. We believe that crafting literally makes a better world.”
We chatted with Nora about which CraftJam classes she recommends based on who you’re going with. Have a look at what she has to say, and start making plans to channel your inner artist.
Best class to take solo: Macramé
Because it requires quite a bit of concentration, Nora says that macramé is a fabulous class to take if you’re a party of one (and the same thing goes for calligraphy!). A craft that was big in the 1970s and is now back in a big way, macramé involves making knots to create a pattern, and, in a CraftJam class, eventually a wall hanging. In this workshop, you’ll learn what materials to use, the techniques behind macramé, and how to design a chic conversation piece for your home.
Best class to take on a date: Glass Etching
If you and your other half are looking for an activity outside the norm, Nora recommends giving CraftJam’s Glass Etching workshop a try—it encourages collaboration since the two of you have a chance to design a set of glasses together. Learn how to make cool designs and stencils, and then transfer your creation onto what will soon be your new favorite drinkware. Be sure to have a bottle of something at home ready and waiting so you can admire your work right away.
Best class to take with your bestie: Embroidery Wall Art
Spend some quality time with your best friend while stitching cute sayings at this class that Nora says is the ideal gal pal activity. This CraftJam workshop teaches all of the embroidery fundamentals, including the running stitch, back stitch, and chain stitch. You can also choose from a colorful selection of threads to create something you’ll be proud of. All attendees leave with a finished piece ready to exchange with your bestie.
Best class to take with your mom: Floral Watercolor
The next time your mom visits NYC, show her there’s more to this city than brunch and museums by signing you both up for this watercolor painting class, where Nora says you can make everlasting flowers for one another. Students get hands-on practice utilizing basic color theory and beginner’s painting techniques before working on their own masterpiece. You’ll each walk away with a finished floral painting ready to be framed and displayed in each of your homes.
Best class to take with a group: Paint and Pot Cute Succulents
For a laid-back get-together with friends, Nora suggests signing up for this CraftJam class, where you’ll all be painting a set of terracotta pots to house adorable mini succulents. Together, you’ll learn how to make fun designs on the pots, along with how to plant your new little succulents. If you’ve never taken care of a plant before, no worries—succulents are simple to care for and will serve as a fun memento of bonding time with your squad.
If any of those classes sound like your jam, sign up and let us know what you think! For the full list of CraftJam classes, check out their complete calendar.