Why buy it, when you can DIY it and take it home?

DIY events by Bella Sky Gifts, Artsy Avenue show that everyone has creative ability

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A family's name on a sign evokes a sense of lineage and, sometimes, offers a glimpse into the characters who belong to that clan. But if you're familiar with boozy crafts gatherings, such a display might also conjure a fun night out.

Signs and other creations around the county are frequently the products of after-dark gatherings in the Berkshires. For example, North Adams-based shop Bella Sky Gifts will present its next "DIY Sign Night" at the Bounti-Fare on Friday night. Starting at 6, attendees can work on one of three types of wooden signs while taking advantage of the Adams restaurant's food and drink offerings. That same evening, Artsy Avenue will host a "Metal Home & Hoop Wreath Sign" workshop at its North Adams space beginning at 6:30. Stencils will figure prominently at both events, providing welcome structure for those who might be intimidated by the prospect of free-handing at paint-and-sips and similar sessions.

"A lot of people are concerned that, 'Well, I don't have any artistic skills.' But it's not like that. It's stencil that we custom-make for the signs," Bella Sky Gifts owner Ashley Priester said.

Participants must sign up in advance for "DIY Sign Night," indicating which type of sign they would like to work on after looking at the options on the event's Facebook page. This edition features a 40"-by-12" sign that spells "HOME" vertically; an 11"-by-22" sign that highlights a family's name; and a campsite-inspired, circular sign.

"It's springtime, and everybody's decorating their front porches and their doors," Priester said.

Though Priester and company supply all of the materials needed to create the signs, attendees still have plenty of choice in the matter, picking colors and adding their families' names. The process is less stressful than most creative endeavors — for some people, anyway.

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"You have people that are like, 'Whatever, I don't care,' and then there are other people that are like, 'Oh, my God!' ... They're just really overthinking the whole situation," Priester said. "But when it's all said and done, everybody finishes up around the same amount of time, and everybody is really super impressed with how it came out."

Priester has been running signmaking and other DIY events for about the past five years, she estimated; she started Bella Sky Gifts less than two years ago. The Adams native moved her gift shop from her hometown to North Adams in March. She is beginning to ramp up her programming again, hosting public events in addition to the bachelorette parties and other private gatherings typically dotting her calendar.

Artsy Avenue is also a new addition to North Adams. The "create and take" art studio opened on Eagle Street just over a year ago. In addition to its robust summer art camps for area youngsters, Melanie St. Pierre regularly runs adult project nights at the studio. Friday night's event will involve attaching metal letters, a metal ring and paper flowers to an 18"-by-18" sign. Attendees will work off of a sample.

"I don't want people to come in and feel like it's work. They do work, don't get me wrong, but they need to feel like it's fun as well," St. Pierre said of adult nights.

Many participants will surprise themselves, according to the Adams native.

"Even the ones who come in thinking they can't do something walk out with a project that looks very close to or exactly like the sample project, and a lot of times they are amazed at what they're capable of doing," St. Pierre said. "It feels really good to be able to pull that out of people and show them that everyone has a creative ability."

Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at bcassidy@berkshireeagle.com, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.


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