Most of us need some dedicated relaxation time — and sitting in front of Facebook doesn’t really count. Afternoons at Beadworks and the Expressive Hand will leave you with a souvenir to take along.
619 E. Passyunk Ave.
Sunday — Wednesday & Friday: 12:00 p.m. — 6:00 p.m., Thursday & Saturday: 12:00 p.m. —7:30 p.m.
If you ever attended sleep-away camp, you know that the look of an adolescent summer is best characterized by tanned, peeling skin, chlorine-damaged hair and wearing so many lanyard and beaded bracelets that your knuckles practically drag on the floor under their weight. Beadworks Philadelphia understands that even though you may have traded in awkward camp socials for awkward frat-house hookups, basic jewelry-making can be a lot of fun.
If the rows and rows of sparkly, candy-colored beads prove to be a sensory overload, the Beadworks staff offers an array of classes for all skill levels including a basic bead-stringing class for twenty dollars, where you and up to six friends can learn about several types of stringing and how to attach clasps to create necklaces and bracelets. More ambitious or experienced beaders can ask the knowledgeable staff to start them on a more complicated, multi-strand necklace or memory wire bracelet. Both the trek to the Passyunk Avenue studio and the fact that beads are priced per piece can pose as obstacles for budding jewelry designers attempting to take their hobby to the next level. However, Beadworks allows hardcore customers to order thousands of beads and jewelry-making supplies in bulk from their website.
With a selection of beads in a range of nontraditional colors and materials like hand-blown glass, precious stones, plated metallics and one-off specialty pieces, it’s clear that a short trip to this DIY-jewelry outpost is not possible. Instead, plan to spend a few hours on a lazy Saturday styling handmade pieces for friends — with a little vision, anyone is capable of making a piece that looks suspiciously like those in the overpriced jewelry counter at the Barney’s CO-OP.
The Expressive Hand
622 S. 9th St.
Wednesday: 12:00 p.m. — 8:00 p.m., Thursday — Saturday: 10:30 a.m. — 9:00 p.m., Sunday: 12:00 p.m. — 5:00 p.m., Monday — Tuesday: Closed
Best birthday parties growing up: Discovery Zone. Laser Tag. Pottery Painting.
The Expressive Hand, located just off South Street, will bring you right back to those pre-teen glory days. Ten years later, not much has changed: your piece will never look as good as you think it will, you’ll invariably mess it up in the last five minutes and it’s still a hell of a lot of fun.
The Expressive Hand throws in a little twist — the studio also doubles as an American Sign Language studio, offering classes in ASL as well as weekly “Read, Sign and Paint” gatherings every Thurdsay morning which teach pre-schoolers basic signs and allow them to go crazy with the art supplies at hand.
The owner, Marcie Ziskind, is not Deaf. Motivated by a lifelong interest in art and a budding interest in American Sign Language, she took over the studio from its former Deaf owner last year. Her three sons and husband work alongside her in the shop, which is just blocks from their South Philadelphia home. In the past year, Ziskind has made an effort to integrate the shop into both her neighborhood and the Deaf community, developing partnerships with the Chapterhouse coffee shop (get a free coffee every time you paint!) and the acclaimed small plates restaurant, Supper, located just around the corner.
First-timers should try out their “Thirsty Thursdays” — they provide the snacks, you bring your favorite drinks, everyone has a good time. While prices can initially seem a bit high, keep in mind that they include unlimited paint and studio time, as well as glazing and firing. Ziskind also isn’t afraid to offer discounts for everything from snow days to Elvis’ birthday, so call ahead to check and see if there’s a special. Chances are, there will be.