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For smart travelers, DIY classes are the ultimate souvenir | Arts and entertainment

As I sit at my loom overlooking the Mekong River in Laos, the gray-blue water and jade green trees distract me from the melon-colored silk I spent the morning weaving.

Thank goodness Ms. Vanthong, the patient master weaver who oversaw my efforts at Ock Pop Tok, a craft center on the outskirts of Luang Prabang, a dream town where jungle landscapes meet French colonial architecture. I’m here for a half-day weaving class that involves dyeing silk with locally harvested plants (indigo, lemongrass), spun it into yarn and then, after several hours of hard work, to weave a surprisingly professional silk doily.

Travelers have long dipped their paws into the local culture with cooking classes and wine, beer and chocolate tastings. But, perhaps because of millennials crazy about DIY or the current craze for mundane, fair trade products and fashion, there are also more and more options for learning regional crafts. “A lot of my clients, especially those with children, ask for hands-on experiences,” says Bethesda, Md., Travel agent Michael Diamond, whose Cobblestone Private Travel runs tile and pottery-making classes for guests traveling to. Marrakech, Morocco. . “Maybe it’s Instagram fodder; maybe these are people who really want truly individualized activities.

Some classes consist of an hour or two of demonstrations by a local craftsman – a Japanese paper maker, a carpenter from North Carolina – with a chance to try your hand at their art and create your own keepsake. Other classes (like my time on the Laotian loom or block printing in Jaipur, India) may take all day or a few days, depending on your level of interest and the vacation time available. Some programs employ refugees or people who might otherwise be living in poverty; all allow you to interact with the locals in a deeper way than stopping at a souvenir stand.

Artistic tours are also on the increase, leading creatively-minded adventurers on longer odyssey, for example in weaving Oaxaca or making Indian bamboo bikes. Founded in 2015, VAWAA (Holidays with an Artist; Vawaa.com) connects individuals or small groups of travelers to 69 artists in 23 countries for “mini-learnings” of four to seven days. You cover your accommodation and meals, then spend around four hours a day carving out leather dropouts in Malaysia or sewing denim jackets in a Los Angeles design studio. “I think people crave tactile experiences,” says founder Geetika Agrawal. “There was this growing desire to know who did this, how was it done? The craft really does.

And ACE Camps (Acecampstravel.com) welcomes groups of 10 to 16 people on retreats spanning 5 to 11 days and focusing, for example, on batik in Swaziland or flower arrangement and pottery throwing in the southern Japan. “We try to create immersive experiences with not only hands-on crafts, but also cultural and culinary opportunities,” says company founder Angela Ritchie. “You can take home a handmade souvenir, but you will also leave with a collection of local experiences and fresh ideas.”

Here are several places to exercise your creativity as well as your curiosity. It is recommended to book in advance.

Visitors to Bagru, India, about 20 miles southwest of Jaipur, will see yards and yards of brightly colored wood-printed textiles drying in the sun in a giant communal field, as has happened for decades. centuries in this textile center. Studio Bagru holds one- or two-day workshops demonstrating how artisans carve teak into intricate blocks, then use them painstakingly to stamp designs onto cotton using natural dyes (indigo, mud, vegetable). Students then stand at long wooden tables, printing scarves, shawls or bags with cashmere, leaf or elephant designs.

1st floor, G7 / B, Vinobha Marg, Opp. Villa Magpie, scheme C, Ashok Nagar, Jaipur, Rajasthan

Cost: About $ 85 for one day, about $ 155 for two days. Fees include a traditional thali lunch and a winery; Jaipur transport available for around $ 25.

Founded in 1950 to teach a trade to orphans of World War II, this Florentine leather workshop and school has taken up residence under the arcades of the former dormitory of the Franciscan friars in the Basilica of Santa Croce. Students don white coats and choose from a rainbow of richly scented skins before cutting and sewing a book cover for three hours of class, or they sew and finish a belt in six hours. Want to be the next Salvatore Ferragamo? You can also take a 10-week crash course that covers the basics of bag making.

Via San Giuseppe, 5R, Florence

Costs: Book cover making around $ 160 to $ 270; belt making around $ 308 to $ 470

This textile arts center employs weavers and dyers from neighboring villages who teach batik, basketry, silk weaving and other traditional crafts, some of which are intended for children. Classes last from half a day (dyeing a cotton towel) to three days (weaving an ikat scarf). An on-site cafe serves spicy East meets West cuisine, and the five-bedroom Mekong Villa, filled with textiles, offers accommodation.

125/10 Ban Saylom, Luang Prabang, Laos

Cost: About $ 24 to $ 146

Fifteen minutes from the center of Marrakech, the Beldi Country Club, a Kasbah-style hotel and garden complex, offers small glass-blowing and pottery workshops that make tagines and tea cups in the region’s candy colors. In the pottery store, children and adults alike have clay pots, cups, or bowls spinning around on the wheel, which the staff will then glaze and bake.

Kilometer 6, Route de Barrage, Cherifia, Marrakech, Morocco

Cost: About $ 20 for adults, about $ 10 for children

Appalachian Crafts

This school and arts space, located in a bucolic setting about a two-hour drive from Chattanooga, Tennessee, or Asheville, North Carolina, opened in 1925 to preserve Appalachian folk crafts. Over 860 one-week or weekend courses in subjects as varied as “Baskets of Sweetgrass” and “Forging an ax” are taught by renowned craftsmen. Students can also book comfortable on-site accommodation and healthy meals.

John C. Campbell Folk School

One Folk School Road, Brasstown, North Carolina

Cost: Rates range from $ 354 to $ 898

Are all the current decor trends – the return of macrame wall hangings, succulent pots – originated in Los Angeles? Maybe, and students can learn how to do these and other cool West Coast crafts at Makers Mess, which runs classes in a chic Silver Lake storefront (and, until 2019, a pop-up downtown). Attendees slide a brightly colored Eames chair up to a long wooden table for hands-on instructions on making marbled clay coasters, felted animal portraits, leather sandals, and, yes, macrame. Classes last two to five hours.

602 N. Hoover St., Los Angeles

Cost: From $ 46 to $ 230 (for more complex handicrafts, such as making leather sandals)

In a bright, industrial-chic workshop at this New York museum, adults and children ages 4 and up can try glassblowing, etching and melting. Don safety glasses for highly supervised 20- to 40-minute lessons in one of the world’s largest glass showcases, where students prepare a pendant, photo frame, or even a wine glass.

One Museum Way, Corning, NY

Costs: generally $ 13 to $ 32

South African thread beading

This 19-year-old non-profit workshop and boutique amid the cafes and galleries of Cape Town’s bustling Woodstock neighborhood employs underprivileged artisans who use colorful beads and threads to string and shape life-size lion busts, holiday ornaments in the shape of the African continent; and mini soccer cleats. 90-minute classes help children and adults build key chains, bracelets or small bowls.

Streetwire artists collective

354 Albert Rd., Cape Town, South Africa

Cost: around $ 20; book in advance for weekday sessions only

Argentinian fileteado painting

Stroll through old Buenos Aires neighborhoods such as San Telmo and La Boca, and you’ll spot commercial signs and sometimes vintage buses adorned with swirling calligraphy lettering, carnival colors, and elaborate scrollwork. It’s fileteado, a local style of painting started by 19th-century Italian immigrants and continued by artists such as Alfredo Genovese, who frequently teaches two-hour group lessons in his Fileteado Porteño studio. Participants make a small decorated plaque.

Fileteado Porteño Workshop

Admiral FJ Segui 1465, Buenos Aires

On a 60-foot rowboat parked in England’s scenic Worcestershire canals (about 45 minutes from Stratford-upon-Avon), goldsmith Jonathan Kettle teaches small groups full-day ring-making classes, of crosses and bracelets. Participants also receive cakes, tea and, during the colder months, a chance to warm up by the small wood stove on board.

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