The rich red, blue and green of the Milan Village Arts School pops—a welcome oasis of color on the white winter prairie 135 miles west of Minneapolis. Inside a reclaimed schoolhouse in tiny Milan (population: 365), a dozen class members bow their heads over acorns and curly twigs they are painting with metal clay (clay infused with silver particles). The kiln burns off the clay and natural materials, leaving behind pure silver shapes. It’s a modern take on traditional silversmithing.
Classes in Scandinavian folk arts like Norwegian rosemaling (decorative painting) and silversmithing draw visitors from across the country to Milan Village Arts School year-round. But coming here in the winter feels like capturing a moment lost in time. For centuries, people in the Old World perfected these intricate arts during long winters, when bitter winds and snow kept them indoors. These days, crafting vacations pairing classes with cozy lodgings offer a great way to create gifts.
A few blocks from the school, rosemaling instructor Karen Jenson welcomes students to spend a night in her home’s guest rooms (what she calls the Swedish and Norwegian rooms); her rosemaled cupboard beds look like they’re straight out of a fairy tale. You won’t find much else in Milan, but for people here to feed their creative spirit, the beautiful art and friendly setting feel just right.
For information about the school: (320) 734-4807; milanvillageartsschool.org
3 more we love
These getaways promise great lodgings, relaxing settings and, of course, time to flex your creativity.
Cooks of Crocus Hill
Saint Paul Guests learn to master sauces, grill fish, decorate cupcakes, whip up a Spanish meal, mix bitters for cocktails and more from local experts in the granite-countered kitchen classroom in the storefront along Grand Avenue. (651) 228-1333; cooksofcrocushill.com Stays at the elegant Hotel 340 combine old-fashioned decor with modern comforts, including iPod docks and two bathrooms in some suites. From $99. (651) 280-4120; hotel340.com
Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts
Mineral Point, Wisconsin Creative writing, blacksmithing, bookmaking and painting are just a few of the workshops at this nonprofit arts center 50 miles southwest of Madison. Classes for both novice and experienced artisans may last a few hours or a full weekend. (608) 987-3292; shakeragalley.com Post class, retreat to Mousehole Lodging, a pair of townhouse suites featuring plush furnishings, cozy quilts and a kitchen stocked with tea. From $179. (608) 553-1966; www.mouseholelodging.com
The Barn Inn
Millersburg, Ohio Set amid Amish Country farmland about 80 miles south of Cleveland, The Barn Inn caters to groups of crafters. The 1900s Fred Gehrig farmhouse mixes antique furnishings and homespun country decor. You’ll find two classic bedrooms, a third open bedroom, a full kitchen and plenty of space to spread out and quilt, scrapbook or knit in the connected dining and living rooms. When it’s time for a break, you can relax around the deck table with a bottle of wine you buy on-site. From $159, with breakfast included. (330) 674-7600; thebarninn.com