With a Little Help from Hands On, Adults Let Their Inner Child Loose

Getting in touch with the kid inside isn’t always easy. There are a whole slew of stories out there dedicated to warning adults of the danger behind forgetting their inner child. Growing up: the conflict around which movies like Peter Pan are built. It means losing the desire for adventure and the flair of fantasy. Mostly, though, the very thought of growing up signifies forgetting what it means to play.

As the winter months approach with increasing speed, finding time to play becomes ever more important. But you don’t need to fly as far as Never Never Land to find a place to let loose.

It may be getting dark early in the county these days, but the lights stay on late Friday nights at Hands On Art Studio. Inside the brightly lit, cozy Art Barn, projects abound and live music adds to the ambiance. The options are endless: fuse glass beads, make a necklace or bracelet out of precious metal clay, create ceramic mosaic, mug or plate, you can even weld a sculpture.

Cy Turnbladh and Karon Ohm, owners of Hands On Art Studio, make it their mission to help adults re-learn to play.

“We like to call ourselves ‘play coaches,’” Ohm said.

During the day, families fill the art studio and parents spend much of their energy supervising children’s projects and worrying about their whereabouts. As a result, there’s no time left to delve into a project of their own. Adults can easily become overwhelmed with all the options and get confused. Turnbladh said, kids come in and the first thing they see that interests them, they do it.

Ohm said, “Kids have a much easier time coming to the studio because they don’t have all the barriers. Adults need to let go.”

Since 1995 Hands On has provided Door County residents and visitors the chance to take a break from viewing art and make some of their own. Turnbladh said that the impetus behind creating adult night was simple and straightforward: to help people unwind and find their place in the creative world.

“In season we’re open 56 hours a week for families, you know? And that’s kids and everybody. I felt that adults, through the course of their working and family lives, tend to adopt a feeling that they’re not creative. So I thought that it was important to have a safe and fun environment specifically for them,” Turnbladh said.

Adult Night essentially operates the same as Hands On during the day – except that it’s 21 and older. During the winter season they offer free pizza, in addition to beer and non-alcoholic beverages for purchase. Guests can also bring their own wine and snacks.

“We call it creative lubrication – with a little wine or beer [adults] can really relax and learn how to play,” Ohm said. “Some people bring their own appetizers, and others bring a whole cooler full of snacks.”

All the studio spaces are open, and Turnbladh, Ohm and staff are available to teach people how to use the tools, give direction, and answer questions.

Ohm said, “We really want people to experience their own creativity. We’ll help people through creative blocks, answer questions, or help to get you started and let you run from there.”

Live music adds another bonus to Adult Night, with a variety of local musicians on the winter roster. Friday, November 27, Hands On Art Studio will host artist Michael Raye, who plays a diverse mix of ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s cover tunes. Ohm said that typically the musicians play in the Art Barn, and people often take a break from their project to come and listen, or finish up the project early to enjoy the tunes.

“It’s a great alternative to going out to a full dinner or to the bar scene,” Ohm said.

And, as the holidays approach, Hands On becomes the perfect place to make an especially thoughtful gift while rocking out at Adult Night. More and more, people are opting out of the stressful experience of holiday shopping in favor of making something in the company of someone they care about, Turnbladh said.

“In the winter season, we have people coming in to make Christmas presents. We had a couple come in three days in a row and drink wine and eat cheese while they made presents for their families,” Ohm said.

So as that blustery wind kicks up in the county, and the longed-for weekends seem to offer less and less, remember that the Art Barn provides a warm contrast to the cool outdoors.

“Our place is choc full of things made from Friday nights at Hands On,” said William Beller, a Sturgeon Bay resident and frequent visitor to Hands On. “Almost every light switch plate in the house we made there, plus bowls and mugs. My wife also makes it an annual event to take family and friends there during the Holidays.”

On my Friday night visit to Hands On, the glass studio was the place to be. A group of women sat around a large table, chatting and drinking wine while they made bracelets and earrings from precious metal clay. Someone else learned how to fuse glass, experimenting with the thin rods and pieces of glass “confetti” to make beads.

“It’s about making something unique, and the experience [adults] have doing it,” Ohm said, “There’s not a lot else to do in the county, and the studio is cozy. We have a lot of fun, and there’s live music.”

Hands On Art Studio provides Door County adults with a Never Never Land that’s just a short car ride away on Friday night. Food and drink flows freely and live music provides the perfect soundtrack to an evening out – so tap into the imagination station that was so frequently used in childhood and create something cool to take home. Growing up may be a fact of life, but that does not mean we have to forget how to play.

Hands on Art Studio is located at 3655 Peninsula Players Rd. in Fish Creek. For more information, or to find a line-up of Friday night musicians, call 920.868.9311 or visit