It doesn’t take long to figure out why this place is called Hot Shops. In a corner of the ground floor, heat ripples from thrumming furnaces at Crystal Forge where glassblowers expertly manipulate molten globs that droop without constant turning. Around the corner at Bruning Sculpture, you can see metal forged and shaped or bronze poured into sculptures. At Hot Shops Pottery, it takes a forklift to transport gigantic clay vases into the jumbo kiln for firing.
It isn’t all heavy-duty art, but it’s the hands-on action—the chance to see artists in the thick of creation—that makes Hot Shops stand out. More than 70 artists rent 56 studios in this 92,000-square-foot former Serta mattress factory. Visitors are welcome to wander the three floors and try their luck at catching artists in action. Colorfully painted studio doors stir curiosity and hint at the talents behind them. If artists are absent, they often have minidisplays of their work on Hot Shops walls.
We visited an illustrator (who does paintings, prints, cards and children’s books) and did the equivalent of window-shopping at a studio with a giant wooden lion and ostrich with intricate moveable parts. Another artist specialized in toys, dollhouses and barns; others crafted delicate jewelry and created playful paintings that use puzzle pieces for texture.
If you want to maximize the number of artists you see and catch the most mesmerizing demonstrations, watch for open houses and other events throughout the year.