“The passion that I live through CRAFT is helping people be creative and let go of the fear of “doing it wrong,” which we pick up as we grow out of childhood.”
From smuggling a foil-wrapped loaf of Challah pass the security to the former president, Bill Clinton, to starting an all-you-can-make buffet for craft activities – Eli has always been true to her passion and explored new paths in her life by following her heart’s calling. When she was feeling homesick, Eli recalled the time she spent with her Mum baking and started making Challah with her friends. And that was when she started Challah for Hunger, a nationwide, non-profit organization for social justice through baking and selling challah.
When she felt like the whole world came crashing down after a devasting loss, Eli turned to craft to heal the broken pieces in her heart. At that point of time, all she wanted to do was to make stuff – and so she did. And it was glitter, green glitter to be exact. However, Eli soon realized that it was getting tedious to get the materials that she needs to fuel her crafting desires as she had to keep replenishing her stock of crafting materials and finding a place to keep them (most of them ended under her bed). And some time later, CRAFT was born.
In this week’s Host Spotlight, meet Eli Winkelman, and avid crafter and founder of CRAFT, a craft room designed for adults. Whether it’s kneading dough for charity, being commended for her work by a former president or simply being herself and doing what she love – crafting, Eli’s passion has been an inspiration for many. Read on to learn more about her story, and how she is making crafting to be easily accessible for the community in her classes today!
Hi Eli, can you introduce yourself and tell us more about the experiences that you offer through Verlocal?
CRAFT is Austin’s craft room for grown-ups. We’re open six days a week, for walk-in crafting, which is basically a giant, all-you-can-make buffet of arts and crafts supplies. For people who want more guidance or to learn a specific skill, we partner with local artists to offer workshops through Verlocal.
Tell us about your background: When did you first become inspired to do what you love?
I’ve always loved making things, although I never pursued a formal arts education or career. I opened CRAFT after a devastating loss when all I wanted to do was paint and express myself visually. I started teaching screenprinting because I love the puzzle solving that comes with creating a paper stencil and depicting your idea in one color.
What does your passion mean to you?
The passion that I live through CRAFT is helping people be creative and let go of the fear of “doing it wrong,” which we pick up as we grow out of childhood. I relish offering our guests a meaningful and uplifting experience, one which doesn’t require buying more stuff.
What made you want to pursue your passion and become a host?
When I enjoy something, I want to share it with everyone! The first workshop I started teaching was DIY screenprinting, which is still my favorite. Most of the people who take that class are not professional artists, but the art they make is wonderful! People leave happy, which is great to see, and many return to print again.
How would you describe the link between your classes and the community around you?
My classes are out-of-the-box. Some people design and print depictions of cats, others make pineapples, furniture pieces, geometric patterns, plants, clothing and accessories, and more. By not telling people what to draw, I often force people out of their comfort zone. Watching them build up from there and make something they didn’t know they could do is awesome.
The CRAFT studio is very friendly and easy-going. We like everyone to feel at home. Remember, our purpose is to be everyone’s craft room. We want people to feel community here. We like to give back to the community in this space, by welcoming non-profits that are working on decorations or other items for special events. We’ve had groups come in to make table centerpieces, flower crowns for party guests, swag bags, and more.
How long have you been living in Austin? What would you recommend to someone who just moved to this city?
I grew up here! Austin classics definitely include Barton Springs and the hike and bike trail. I love Redbud Isle. For something inside (in the AC!), Alamo Drafthouse for a movie and a meal. Get there early! For a nice coffee shop experience, Alta’s and Mozart’s are both on the lake. Mozart’s feels like you’re in a treehouse. BookPeople is one of my favorite Austin destinations, for when I need inspiration or gifts.
Tell us about your favorite moment/ biggest achievement since you started teaching your classes.
I enjoy all the classes I teach, but especially screenprinting, because nearly every screenprinting workshop has a gratifying moment when someone who didn’t know they could do art makes something wonderful! When they see their work printed on a towel or tote bag, their faces light up.
What is your favorite piece of work & story behind it?
I have a giant canvas that says Austin in rhinestones. I painted the background a light blue with white highlights (like clouds) and drew out the letters. Friends helped me paint each letter a different color, and then random people who stopped by the studio added corresponding rhinestones to each letter.
Share with us a favorite moment/story you’ve had between you and your students when you were hosting your classes.
I’ve had more than one person say at the end of a workshop that they want to record a studio to say that my suggestions sound dumb, but that I know what I’m talking about and everyone should listen!
If you had unlimited materials/time, what would you create?
A bigger CRAFT!
What are your goals for the future?
We want to bring the CRAFT experiences — open crafting and workshops — to more people in more places!
What does Verlocal mean to you?
Verlocal is a supportive company that’s helping CRAFT reach more people. The tool enables us to spend more time with our guests instead of on administrative work. I would like the Verlocal folks to come in and see CRAFT so they know what they’re helping us achieve!
Do you have a quote that resonates with you the most? Share it with us and tell us what it means to you!
I often tell guests, “Who cares!” They worry about not getting it right, and I remind them, in the nicest way possible, that no one really cares how their art turns out. We just want everyone to have a nice time! Our rules here at CRAFT are 1) paintbrushes in water and 2) no judgment. We recently hung a 3-foot by 6-foot canvas that makes that clear!
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