The Bumbling Artist Attends Girls’ Night Wreath-Making Workshop at OI

By Laura Jackson Roberts

stink at arts and crafts.

Lots of people say that, but I offer you the admission in the spirit of frankness. I’m terrible. In elementary school, I glued myself to a desk. In college, my clay pot exploded in the kiln, taking several of the more talented students’ pieces with it. The professor gave me a out of sheer pity.

painting classOglebay Institute offers a wide array of classes from fine art and traditional crafts to classes for those who just like to get their inner Pinterest on, and even though I live a few houses up from Oglebay Institute’s Stifel Fine Arts Center, my fear of embarrassment has kept me from signing up for classes for years. Every season, I look at the offerings and get excited when I see stained glass, watercolors, and black and white photography until my inner art-buffoon quickly reminds me about the time I got trapped in a dark-room, and I chicken out.

Halloween Wreath WorkshopHowever, I’m your Oglebay Institute blogger, and it’s my job to try these
experiences on and see how they fit so that you can do the same thing. I’ve agreed to bumble through the class to give you the courage, perhaps, to do the same.

It’s October 8 at Stifel. I’m already feeling like a putz, not just because I have no talent but also because my two girlfriends can’t make it tonight. Will I have to sit by myself and be the awkward weirdo in the corner? I ask a group if they would mind my joining them. “Have some wine!” they chorus, and quite easily, I’ve been adopted by these lovely women, who are a group of family, friends, and co-workers enjoying a night out. At the front of the room, Ye Olde Alpha has provided appetizers, including chicken skewers, bruschetta, and chips and dip. Attendees have brought their own wine.

Rachel Shipley Workshop
Instructor Rachel Shipley guides students through various arts and crafts projects.

Instructor Rachel Shipley is an art teacher for Ohio County schools, and she’s provided the raw materials for this Halloween wreath-making endeavor: grapevine wreaths, cobwebs, sparkly-bendy things, spiders … anything we might need. I ask her about her method, which seems simple and fun. She says, “I put everything out and then people automatically start to put it together and socialize without kids.” I think the without kids part proves to be the key. Even I can bumble my way through this—it’s idiot-proof.

Well, almost.

Rachel issues a friendly warning about the glue guns. “They will singe your skin.” She’s not kidding—somehow I’ve already glued my forefinger to my thumb. Pretending I’m licking guacamole off my hand, I gnaw them apart. Rachel comes over to our table to give us a bow‑making demonstration, which involves pinching the bow as hard as you can until your hand complains. “When your fingers start to burn, that’s when you know you’re doing the right thing,” she explains, as she produces a perfect bow. Then she gives us a few sage words of advice: “Don’t fight the ribbon.” Maybe that’s my problem: I’m not taking the Zen approach. Rather than creating a Halloween wreath, perhaps I should let the wreath create me.

Or, I could just hot glue this heck out of this thing and hope it holds together until November 1st.

The ladies at the next table get really excited when they attend Girls’ Art Night. Rachel warns me that they’re “the rowdy group,” and they always bring mimosas. Naturally, I want to meet these mimosa people. They rattle off a lengthy list of events they’ve attended: fall wreaths, seashell wreaths, woodburning, Christmas cards.

copper bracelet
Students create cooper bracelets in the jewelry making classes at the Stifel Fine Arts Center.

Oglebay Institute offers an arts and crafts night at least once a month, and the projects often correspond to the season.

After a glass of wine, I decide that my wreath needs to be able to survive a microburst, so I attach every leaf, every web, and every spider leg to the grapevine, and then pour the rest of the melted glue stick around for good measure. I’m surprised at how much I’m enjoying myself, and how easy Rachel makes this process. It’s not about skill; it’s about fun, and by the end we’re all so chatty that nobody pays any attention to my artistic talent, or lack thereof.

At home, I put my wreath on the front door. The poor mailman had to look at that thing for over three weeks.

Girls' Night ArtOglebay Institute offers another Girls’ Art Night – Christmas Wreath Workshop on December 3 at 6:30pm. A new season of workshops as well as six and eight week classes begins in January. Topics include watercolor painting, oil painting, handmade greeting cards, wood burning, furniture refinishing, stained glass, jewelry making and more. Visit for the class schedule.

(Note: The author enjoyed the program so much that she came back for more, attending a Christmas Wreath Workshop November 12. It wasn’t even a blog assignment! Way to go, Laura!)