Hands on Art–Door County Wisconsin’s place to play

Can’t draw a stick figure that’s recognizable as a human? All thumbs when it comes to painting anything with a brush? Think there’s not an artistic bone in your body?

Welcome to Hands on Art in Door County, Wisconsin

Hands on Art Studio in Fish Creek, Wisconsin will prove you wrong.  “This is a place to experiment and play,” says co-owner Karon Ohm.  How true: It’s a place to find your hidden creativity, a place where you can enjoy a tactile experience, and leave with a sense of accomplishment.

That’s why families come and spend several days creating personal and beautiful art for their home.  “Parents and children can work together on projects very successfully. In fact, we’ve grown during the recession because this type of activity lets people control their vacation budgets,” Ohm says.

Cy and Karon love working at their place

Cy and Karon love working at their place

“We are absolutely one-of-a-kind destination. Once people come in, they want to come back—and that’s my mission,” says Cy Turnbladh, owner and husband of Ohm, about the family-run business.  The 30,000 people who come here each year prove Hands on Art has developed a successful concept.

This isn’t just a place for children’s art; it challenges adults, too—and adults have so much fun that the Turnbladhs started offering Friday night events for grown-ups only. They come to socialize (it makes a great date), listen to live music, and play with art—sans kids.

What can you make at Hands on Art?  Jewelry using glass pieces, beads, and precious metals like silver.  Metal sculpture you bend, cut, weld, and paint yourself.  Fused glass artistically crafted into decorative items (my favorite). Spin-painted canvas or T-shirts. Mosiacs. Birdhouses. Lamps. Pottery. There’s also a silo, decorated with painted tiles, used as a fundraiser for a local animal shelter.

Jewelry making is popular at Hands on Art

Jewelry making is popular at Hands on Art

Here’s the story: Turnbladh was a potter with a gallery on Hwy 42, a major thoroughfare on the Door County peninsula.  Not content with creating his own pieces, Turnbladh wanted a space where families and folks of all ages could come and experience the joy of creating and playing.  He bought an abandoned 65-acre farm on a rural road in 1996 and started renovating the buildings himself, adding new structures and art mediums over time.  Future plans include adding accommodations, so visitors can stay on premises. “This whole place is like Cy’s stream of consciousness,” Ohm says.

Creating our 3-foot long totem decoration

Summer days often see 200-300 people exploring different buildings trying to decide which art form is calling their names. “People can create a true work of art, even extraordinary pieces, with a bit of practice,” says Ohm, whose perpetual smile reveals her joy at being in such a happy environment.

Jewelry-maker Angie Elliot has come four times with her family. “This facility sets you up to be creative,” she says while setting a stone in her pendant. Daughter Rachel agrees: “After we pick up our pieces we want to make more.”

My husband and I created a fused glass totem that can be displayed indoors or out. We chose different pieces of colored glass, learned how to cut them into our desired shapes, and placed them in a pleasing arrangement—all to be fused at high heat into one original piece of art.

Fused glass totem in iron stand

We found that everyone can be artistic with a little guidance and encouragement—and there’s an abundance of that on the Hands on Art campus.  It provides a great confidence-building experience regardless of your innate ability level.




Photos by Beverly Burmeier  www.goingonadventures http://tinyurl.com/bevtrvl