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Specialty Classes Make Great Gifts

Katie’s Clay Studio
Katie’s Clay Studio

The gift-giving season is upon us, and while it can be fun to shop at the mall or online, it can also be frustrating. After all, how many sweaters, candles, pajamas, slippers, gloves, bottles of perfume or scarves can we give without feeling like we’re on repeat? Or that we’re less than creative?

This is why gifting experiences to our friends and family, such as art classes or cooking classes, is a unique and thoughtful idea this holiday season.

At Katie’s Clay Studio in Gibsonia, customers can take year-round pottery wheel throwing classes along with painting pottery. “We also offer monthly drop-in workshops, featuring a seasonal type of project in different media, whether that be canvas painting, glass fusion, tie dye, clay sculpting, wheel throwing or painting pottery,” said Owner Katie Petrovich.

Petrovich said that gift givers can buy gift cards for either pottery painting or glass fusion classes. “Most people do pottery, as it is great for all ages,” she added.

Another crafty idea is giving gift cards for classes at Sweetwater Center for the Arts, located in Sewickley. “We offer around 400-450 classes every year; those classes range from four-to-six-year-olds for kindergarten readiness all the way up to master oil painting. We also do a master class series where we bring in artists from all over the country, and we have a wide range of art education,” said Christine Brondyke, the Center’s executive director.

Sweetwater offers both workshops and specialty classes that are one-time or short-term experiences or classes that run six-to-eight weeks in a certain medium. Examples include Metalsmithing; Ceramics; Culinary; Mixed Media; and Jewelry. There are also adult-oriented classes that can be gifted, such as Culinary Date Nights or Paint ‘n Sip Girls’ Nights Out.

Consumers can purchase gift cards at Sweetwater, which can then be used for a number of classes of the recipients’ choice. “We see a lot of grandparents gifting classes to their grandkids. On the flip side, families trying to find something for them to be engaged in will buy gift cards for retired people in their lives,” said Brondyke, adding that it is easy to purchase gift cards online, and the recipient can decide for themselves what type of experience they’d like to choose. Ceramic, watercolor and culinary classes are popular with children.

Whether or not cooking is your jam, cooking classes are a lot of fun and make a terrific gift. Eating is a very social activity, so cooking together in a group setting makes the process even more enjoyable. Another benefit to taking a cooking class is learning new skills as well as tasty new recipes to share with family and friends.

Nosh & Curd in downtown Mars is a specialty and artisan cheese shop that also does workshops, catering, charcuterie boards and lunch; gift cards are popular to give to people as young as 21 to retirees. “As far as workshops, we offer a few different options, from learning about cheeses and wines to all of the tips and tricks to building a charcuterie board,” said Owner Danielle Doebereiner. Nosh & Curd offers monthly classes. One class coming up in November, for example, is a cheese and wine-pairing class designed to pair perfectly with Thanksgiving dinner. This class is led by Doebereiner with The Indian Somm, a local wine expert.

When you’re choosing a cooking class to give as a gift, don’t worry about the recipient’s kitchen abilities, as Flour Power accommodates all skill sets, from kids to adults.

For the younger set, Flour Power Pittsburgh offers many cooking classes for children, perfect for preschoolers all the way up to teens. Amy Knight is the owner of the franchise, the only one in the area. “We do classes for all ages. Some are themed by a type of food, such as a cupcake class or a pasta making class. We do a little bit of everything; nothing is off the table except no nuts nor seafood,” she said.

Kids under the age of five experience the classes with an adult, but older kids can be dropped off. Other options are family classes.

Flour Power Pittsburgh offers classes for adults as well, such as a recent curry themed night, appropriately entitled Curry All the Way.

Knight said that gift cards for her cooking studio, which can be used for any type of class, are popular year-round, not just at the holiday season. “I would say the majority of the people who buy them are grandparents because they want to do something with their grandchildren and do not want to buy them another toy. Or, they recognize their grandchild, when they come to visit, wants to bake something together, so they want to take that to the next level,” she said.

Gifting classes and experiences are growing in popularity. For one thing, the likelihood of giving a duplicate gift is reduced. And participating in a class that was gifted to you will create a priceless memory. “We offer an experience like no other art studio. Our superior staff is not only knowledgeable about ceramics but are also skilled artists as well. Whether it is painting a mug for Grandma or a grilling platter for Dad, receiving these gifts is always special. Many treasure these homemade gifts for years to come,” said Petrovich.

At Nosh & Curd, people love the creating part of the charcuterie board as much as they love sampling what they’ve made; the business sees many repeat customers based on a class that they attended that was a gift. “It’s an experience that people can enjoy together while learning all about what we do,” said Doebereiner.

COVID also had something to do with the increase in popularity. “Overall, our classes have increased over 25% since Covid; people are wanting to get out more and want to do more experience-type activities. We’re all for it,” said Brondyke.

And, added Knight, along with the bonus of spending time with a loved one in a class, the recipient is learning something new. “I think it’s a wholesome thing that everybody can share together. I want that for my kids. I want to build positive, lasting memories and in cooking, the main ingredient is love.”

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