Everyone can be artistic at Hands on Art in Door County, WI

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?

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 as well as a unique piece of art.

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, owners of Hands on Art

“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.

Make no mistake: This isn’t just a place for children’s art; it challenges adults, too—and they have so much fun that Friday nights are for grown-ups only. They come to socialize, 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. A silo decorated with painted tiles is a fundraiser for a local animal shelter.

Making jewelry

Here’s the back 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 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.

Summer days often see 200-300 people exploring different buildings on the campus, 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.

Our totem in the making--we learned to cut glass pieces and arrange in a pleasing design

She was right. For our project, 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 different shapes, and placed them in a pleasing arrangement—all to be fused at high heat into a unique piece of art.

Photos by Beverly Burmeier

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