Why not take your travel a step further by letting expert artists teach you their craft? Leave the plastic keychains, Eiffel Tower T-shirts, and cute Pope Francis bobbleheads behind as you decorate a Carnival mask in Venice, brandish a glass-blowing torch in Aruba, or design a delicate floral lei in Lahaina. You’ll go home with a deeper understanding of each place—and with original do-it-yourself souvenirs. But if you still want that Pope Francis bobblehead, go for it.
Lei-Making in Lahaina
Consider scheduling this private lei-making class on a pristine, white-sand beach or atop a dramatic cliff overlooking the crashing waves. Your instructor explains the ancient tradition of Hawaiian leis as you and your 5 best friends learn to craft tropical flowers into necklaces, garlands, and other decorative tokens of affection. Practice techniques like haku (braiding) or wili (twisting) with dozens of purple orchids and yellow carnations. When you finish, keep your fragrant and meaningful creation for yourself or present your symbol of love, peace, or friendship to someone else.
Glass Blowing in Aruba
Ever had a hankering to play with hot glass? At Terrafuse Aruba, you can safely blow your own glass beads while learning the basics of the red-hot art of glassblowing from renowned teachers. Your class begins with a tour of Terrafuse’s professional glass-blowing workshop. Then, local artists guide you as you get a feel for your torch and the properties of molten glass. Finally, you’ll fire up the torch to 1300 degrees Fahrenheit (700 C) and shape Murano glass into clear, aqua, and black beads that you’ll use to make your own bracelet or keychain souvenir. Complete your experience by browsing the artisan-made blown-glass jewelry and ornaments in the studio shop.
Kintsugi Pottery in Tokyo
The ancient Japanese art of kintsugi is more than simply repairing pottery. It’s also the philosophy of embracing an object’s flaws as beautiful, distinguishing features. Join an intimate group of eager would-be potters—and philosophers—for a professionally-taught pottery workshop as you reassemble your broken piece of pottery with a gold- or silver-laced lacquer. As you connect the pieces, the lacquer creates shining metallic seams that emphasize and celebrate the unified piece’s imperfection. Artists will help you complete your final product, a gorgeous, fully-functioning vessel.
Stipwerk Stamps for a Dutch Design
Head to Amsterdam’s Dutch Costume Museum, located in a 17th-century canal house, to design your own bag using traditional Dutch paint-stamping techniques that locals in the nearby Dutch town of Staphorst still practice. To try your hand at stipwerk (dotwork), you’ll take a single stipwerk stamp and individually paint each point of its concentration of needles. Then, press the stamp, needles first, into your fabric to produce a multi-hued, dotted image or design. Imitate traditional Dutch leaf-and-flower patterns or ad-lib your own design to give your bag a spontaneous look. After class, you can wander the museum and explore other Dutch designs.
Barcelona’s Gaudí-style Mosaics
Follow in Gaudí’s footsteps as you tour his architectural masterpieces like El Park Güell and La Sagrada Familia that give Barcelona a Modernist feel—and earned Gaudí his rep as “God’s Architect.” Marvel at his Trencadís style, an art form using bricolage, or irregular “found” pieces of colorful broken ceramics. When you arrive at the workshop, let Gaudí’s vibrant buildings and whimsical mosaics inspire your artistic side. Your skillful instructor guides you in creating your own mosaic picture frame or coaster from an assortment of broken ceramic tiles. When you finish, you’ll have your own Trencadís souvenir and hands-on experience with Gaudí’s brilliance.
Decorating Venetian Carnival Masks
Venice’s world-famous Carnival happens every spring, but you can celebrate Venetian art anytime by decorating an ornate Venetian Carnival maschere (mask). The Mascherari (Venetian mask-makers), will instruct you in the centuries-old art of mask-making in their studio. Listen to the Mascherari explain the curious history of Venetian masks—and the mischief of mask-wearing revelers—and decorate your mask with metallic paints, crystals, gold leaf, and feathers. An experienced mask-decorator will be on hand to advise you in completing your spectacular mask, but you’ll have to plan your own carnivalesque shenanigans.
Baking Macarons in Paris
Parisian bakeries are centers of gastronomic wonder, and macarons take the cake as some of the most popular pastries on the shelf. Your professional chef and instructor will help you sprinkle a little Parisian magic on your vacation as you make your own glorious macarons. Explore the mouth-watering rainbow of macaron flavors, including chocolate coconut, raspberry, lemon, and caramel, and learn to bake delicious meringue shells like a pro. You’ll leave with 2 dozen edible delicacies, but they probably won’t last long. Bonus: Kids are sure to love this class, too!
What are your favorite souvenirs to pick up on trips?