Uncorked Creativity

Southside craft studio brings
friendship and fun to the table

By Beth Clayton-George

» Craft + Cork, a southside crafting studio and all around hangout spot, has been open since last March, but owners Vanessa Kenworthy and Kathryn Woodward admit they still have trouble describing their newest venture. There really isn’t anything quite like it, they say.

Craft + Cork is an apt name. There is, indeed, plenty of crafting at the space, and many wine bottles are uncorked in the process. It’s just that the name doesn’t cover everything.

At the studio, creativity reigns supreme as crafters of all stripes gather for structured classes, meet-ups dedicated to specific art forms, and open studios, where guests can take advantage of available supplies and equipment to create. And while the finished products that are taken home at the end of a session are often impressive, Kenworthy and Woodward say Craft + Cork’s real value is in the connection attendees feel with one another and the individual benefits of time well spent.

“Do you want to go to a shrink, or do you want to go out with your girlfriends and have a drink and make a piece of home décor?” asks Kenworthy.

Craft + Cork has its roots in another, less formal business Kenworthy and Woodward started several years ago while working together at a corporate office in downtown Indianapolis. The duo became known in their circle as the go-to planners for birthday parties, anniversaries and wine tastings.

About two years ago, the women began hosting office parties during which they would pour drinks while attendees painted on canvas. The events were so popular that they quickly gained a following and several repeat customers. But with repeat business came a new conundrum — what would guests do with their growing stack of personal creations? Kenworthy and Woodward learned that the artwork was languishing in closets and basements, unseen, and occasionally even tossed out. They started hosting events that helped guests repurpose their old projects, and as those sessions grew, so did the idea that their fledgling business needed a home base.

One night while sitting around a bonfire with friends, the idea for Craft + Cork began to come into focus. The pair can’t recall who articulated the idea first, but by the time the words were spoken, it was practically a foregone conclusion.

“The train was already moving at that point,” said Woodward. Within a month, the friends were checking out available spaces and nailing down a business plan. A key part of their strategy was visiting every painting and craft studio in the market. What they found only solidified their confidence in their idea.

“Craft + Cork is a totally different experience,” said Kenworthy.

For one, they’ve chosen to eschew any rules about how guests are to complete their projects, and they let crafters interpret each painting for themselves. Skilled teachers are on hand to help painters with their techniques, but freeform designs and color schemes are encouraged as well.

They also designed their space to encourage lingering. Kenworthy — an avid scrapbooker who loathes the utilitarian stools often provided at her scrapbooking conventions — insisted on comfortable chairs, which flank long, wooden tables that beg to be covered in paint splotches, paper scraps and wood remnants. And while the last session is scheduled to wrap up each day by 9 p.m., the women have been known to stay late to ensure that each artist leaves with a completed masterpiece.

Finally, they wanted to share more than just painting with their guests. While traditional canvas projects do play a key role in the class lineup, the subjects vary widely in style and complexity, and include more personal projects, like Paint Your Pet night or Paint Your Loved One, sometimes emotional events that help attendees capture their fondest memories on canvas. Other popular projects include painted bar glass sets and seasonal crafts such as December’s stocking hanger project.

The studio also hosts BYOC (Bring Your Own Craft), which allows guests to bring their own supplies and simply use the space to spread out and keep surprise presents a secret from their recipients at home. 

Most notably, Kenworthy and Woodward take requests. Visitors to their website are encouraged to submit photos and descriptions of projects they would like to recreate.

“If you can pin it, we can craft it,” promises Woodward.

While Kenworthy and Woodward lead a majority of the sessions, they also rely on a growing network of artists who lend their skills in specific genres. During these sessions, the pair are on hand to offer technical assistance and an artistic eye — and keep glasses full of liquid creativity.

They have taken care to curate a wide selection of wines available by the glass or by the bottle, in addition to beers on tap from local brewers MashCraft and Taxman, plus imported and domestic bottled beer, coffee, tea, soft drinks and juice.

While the majority of Craft + Cork’s events take place in the studio, Kenworthy and Woodward often host events at the Johnson County Public Library and select Kroger locations (through the grocery store’s Krafting with Kroger community outreach program).

Other regular events include Color Me Calm (a coloring book club for grown-ups), trivia and game nights, and even a monthly book club meeting. “Those don’t have anything to do with crafting, but we like reading, so why not?” said Kenworthy.

The hours are undoubtedly longer than what they experienced in their previous jobs, and they spend nearly every weekend at the studio, entertaining guests, perfecting project plans and putting the finishing touches on their masterpieces. But you won’t hear any complaints out of them.

“Let’s be honest,” said Woodward. “What would we be doing if we were at home, anyway?”


Some upcoming events at Craft + Cork

Dec. 17 at 10 a.m.
Kids: Advent Calendar

Dec. 17 at 1 p.m.
Country Snowman painting

Dec. 17 at 6 p.m.
Paint Your Pet

Dec. 19 at 6 p.m.
Spindle Snowman

Dec. 21 at 6 p.m.
Winter Stream

Dec. 22 at 6 p.m.
Bar Glass Sets

Dec. 23 at 6 p.m.

Dec. 27 at 6 p.m.
Baby It’s Cold Outside painting  

Dec. 30 at 6 p.m.
Happy New Year painting