THERE ARE ONLY TWO RULES AT CRAFT:
1) paintbrushes go in water.
2) no judgment.
Story by Sophie Lidji
Photos by Reagan Roswell
Take one step into CRAFT’s sprawling east Austin studio, and you’ll see why it’s a happy place for so many people. Natural light pours in from the tall glass windows and cheery music spills from the speakers. Shelves are piled high with knick-knacks, tchotchkes and everything in between. The studio is organized chaos— there’s an entire wall covered in hundreds of rubber stamps, a stack of ‘70s Interview magazines, vintage encyclopedias, boxes of googly eyes, fake flowers and old board game pieces. To many Austinites, it’s a piece of heaven. CRAFT is a craft studio open to the public— artists pay by the hour to use supplies, free to make anything they can imagine for $10 an hour.
Eli Winkelman created CRAFT in the fall of 2013 with the hopes of it becoming “Austin’s craft room.” An avid home crafter, Winkelman got tired of going to the craft store for just a few drops of a specific shade of paint or glitter. “I just wanted to go somewhere and use everything without the burden of owning it,” Winkelman says.
In the airy, open space, people can either make a reservation to craft or choose walk-in crafting. CRAFT also offers dozens of different workshops: two upcoming ones are make-your-own-cocktail-bitters and DIY floral Thanksgiving centerpieces. The time spent working with one’s hands in such a positively-charged space is restorative.
Winkelman also encourages the use of CRAFT as a co-working space. “We aren’t quite set up for a big office to be here, but for an individual that’s working, there are so many benefits,” Winkelman says. “We provide the art supplies so when you’re stuck on a project, you can take a break and do something totally different—and often when you take your mind off something, that’s when the ideas come. Being in a messy environment actually encourages out-of-the-box thinking.”
One woman at CRAFT’s previous location worked for the CIA. “She would be on her non-classified CIA computer then switch off to work on her Halloween costume, back and forth like five times a day,” Winkelman says. Besides the benefits of a messy environment and brain breaks, the supplies in the studio can also be used for prototyping and expressing your thoughts in different ways, which can be very helpful in a work environment.
CRAFT thrives on creative freedom. Visitors are free to let their brain and hands run wild, making their imagination into a tangible object. An old vinyl record could be the base for a dream-catcher to one guest or smashed into shards to use in another’s collage. You can snack, sip, and craft with your family, your friends, or by yourself. Any way you craft will leave you in good spirits.
“I first went to CRAFT at their open house a few months ago,” says CRAFT attendee Taylor Gordenstein. “I thought it was such a cool new place to go with friends and make even more friends who share my love of crafting. The amount of things you can do with the creative supplies there are endless, and it’s pretty freeing to be able to spill glitter everywhere and not worry about the mess."
As for her goals for CRAFT, Winkelman says, “to play, to have fun, to learn to let go and not judge your art or your process. I think a lot of people get overwhelmed here, but it’s really about a fear of choosing the wrong thing. But it doesn’t matter. There’s no right or wrong answer.”