Crafting Socially: Denver Workshops Mix Conversation and Creativity

Denver's gotten increasingly crafty in recent years, with an uptick in everything from crocheting to screenprinting. The most sociable places in the city to learn new skills -- or polish old ones -- are Share Denver, Lowbrow, Upstairs Circus and Ink Lounge.
DIY (do-it-yourself) doesn't have to be done all by yourself. 

Whether you are a veteran DIYer or an unskilled newbie looking to socialize with the artsy, Denver has several places where socializing and crafting come together. These four spots make crafts a little more approachable and a lot less solo.  

Share DenverLowbrow is the place to go to dabble in the underground art scene.
2829 Fairfax St. /

Share Denver is the place for the newbie crafter looking to socialize. "A lot of the people that come to Share Denver have wanted to learn a skill but put off doing it, or they learned from their mom, lost the skill and are looking to revisit it," says owner Becky Hensley. 

The simple philosophy, "If you know how to do something, chances are I want to know how to do that thing," is accomplished by welcoming local crafters to teach workshops in a dedicated, 1,600-square-foot space. Hensley aims to include all skill types at Share Denver, so she makes sure the space in the Park Hill neighborhood is relaxed and welcoming.

"My focus is really about inclusivity, and feeling like they are part of something even if you don't know anyone," she says. "I like to think this space has a vibe to it. It belongs to the teachers." 

The workshops are reasonably priced from $20 to $60, and usually include all materials. The workshop schedule is always rotating based on who wants to teach. Hensley says she never knows what's coming from month to month, but there's always a good selection of classes -- from knitting and sketch art to canning and kombucha brewing. 

Share Denver also caters to the business side of crafting, with occasional classes covering pricing items and using Etsy effectively. 

Upstairs Circus
1500 Wynkoop St. #100 /

Denver's craft scene can be intimidating, but not at Upstairs Circus. Located in LoDo, it's more like a bar with a side of crafting. There's no teacher, although assistants are available to help patrons. The projects, which range from a feather necklace to a wine cork monogram to a lacy eye mask, are listed on a menu with degree of difficulty and the estimated time it will take to complete. It's up to the patrons to choose an item that fits their skill level.

"Upstairs Circus is designed to be a social experience rather than a classroom environment, so it's really up to our customers to let us know if they want help or if they've got it under control," says Matt Johannsen, who owns Upstairs Circus with his wife, Kelly. (Their respective titles: Lion Tamer and Ringmaster.)

While most patrons are crafting, not-so-crafty friends are welcome at Upstairs Circus. They don't have to do a project, but they'll probably have to stay at the bar since the work table seats typically fill up with paying crafters. For many patrons, Upstairs Circus offers "an alternative to the traditional 'girls night out,'" says Matt. 

Most projects cost $35 and include all supplies, but drinks are separate unless you go to weekend brunch, when crafters get bottomless mimosas with their project. And Upstairs Circus has a Friday happy hour, with a limited menu of $25 projects. 

LowbrowLowbrow is the place to go to dabble in the underground art scene.
250 Broadway /

Lowbrow is, as it name implies, the place to go to dabble in the underground art scene. It's less a studio and more a craft supply store, but it hosts a smattering of workshops. "We're an urban art store with a side of glitter," describes owner Tymla Welch.

Lowbrow hosts only one workshop a month: this summer has included screenprinting, block printing (creating stamps out of linoleum blocks), and Nailz. That was not spelled wrong -- Nailz was a nail art class that taught things like making "newspaper nails" and "ombré" to give students "the prettiest fingers this side of the Louvre." 

Most of the classes are taught by owners Welch and Lauren Seip or their friends, and the fee, which ranges from $35 to $50, includes all art supplies. Their screenprinting class caters to the newbies with a "DIY approach" without press or chemicals, says Welch. "We use household items to make screenprinting an approachable and relatable way to get started. Screenprinting can be intimidating, we wanted to simplify it." 

Lowbrow is also the go-to place on Broadway for zines, which they distribute via a partnership with the Denver Zine Library
Ink Lounge Creative
29 S. Fox St. /

Ink Lounge is the choice for artists who want to socialize and perfect their screenprinting skills. Owners Stu and Nicky Alden have been graphic designers for more than 20 years, and opened Ink Lounge in 2007 to "get off the computer and work with our hands." 

Located in the Baker neighborhood, the shop offers monthly classes, open studio hours and private lessons. "Ink Lounge gave us a chance to work on more textile things. This gave us a different path," says Nicky, although the couple still does graphic design for clients like the Denver Art Museum and Colorado School of Mines Foundation.

The Aldens hold two public workshops each month, and they also offer private workshops and custom group classes. They also go out in the community to teach, visiting schools and work places when requested. 

Their classic workshop is held on Tuesdays, dubbed Sweet T Tuesdays. For $25, Ink Lounge supplies the press, ink and knowledge, while students bring something to print on, or they can buy an item at the studio. Ink Lounge will teach how to print on bags, T-shirts, cards, aprons and more. As Nicky says, "If it's flat, and doesn't move, you can print on it." 

Students can bring their own artwork, or selected from Ink Lounge's catalog of art, including vintage and contemporary images. The other monthly class, Beginning Ink ($85), is the prerequisite for using Ink Lounge's open studio space. Newbies take this to learn the entire screenprinting process, and veterans can take Refresh Ink to qualify for open studio use. 

Last year, Ink Lounge hosted almost 100 workshops, and have held 65 so far this year. The studio just moved to its current Baker location because the Aldens wanted a storefront, and they also needed more space for their workshops.
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Read more articles by Kristin Pazulski.

Kristin Pazulski is a Philadelphia native, a Los Angeles escapee and a Colorado transplant. Professionally, she's been a writer, marketer, editor, manager, espresso slinger, ice cream sandwich maker, event planner and more.
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