Do-it-yourself build at AR Workshop
Janis Heinrich Yaswa grew up in her grandparents’ jewelry shop on South Higgins Avenue. In the fall of 2018, Janis learned that the space that housed so many of her childhood memories was up for lease. She took a leap, returning to her hometown of Missoula.
“121 South Higgins is home to me. I remember everything about this space as a little kid,” Janis said. “This was either going to be rented to me or to someone else. I had to have this space.”
She didn’t know exactly what kind of business she’d open, but the charming little shop on Higgins called her home.
“I was really at a crossroads in my life and needed to make decisions. It really was as if this was all laid out for me,” Janis said. “It started with the location; this space is so precious to me. It really was where I grew up, with so many memories of my parents and family.”
So, she signed a lease and after a bit of soul-searching, Janis decided she’d share her love of crafting with the Missoula community.
Enter AR Workshop—a boutique DIY studio that offers instructional crafting classes. Janis first heard of the company’s founders from a television segment and followed them on social media for several years. They’d recently opened franchising opportunities when Janis found the Higgins location.
“The timing was perfect,” Janis explained. Her son helped fix up her family’s former store which now offers a retail area in the front and a workshop area in the back.
The large workbenches are covered with brown butcher paper. Drills line a shelf along the wall. Paint-spattered aprons hang from hooks next to shelves stocked with jars of paint. If you can dream it, you can likely create it at AR Workshop. Build a tray, paint a sign, learn how to make a tasty cocktail—it’s all available at AR Workshop.
“We have over 600 projects to choose from, a variety of materials to work with, and the option of customizing your own project,” Janis said. “New projects and designs are released each month, so there is always something new to create.”
Creating in community fuels the passion behind AR Workshop.
“Our workshops are activities for all ages and skill levels and it’s great to see how impressed guests are with their projects when the end result is revealed,” Janis said. “The workshops are three hours of carefree creativity, connecting with others, talking, and laughing. Our guests always comment [on] how cozy our space feels and we love that people feel at home here.”
Janis said the workshop is an extension of her home.
“Every day I’m here I meet someone I have a connection with somehow,” Janis explained. “I love to share my story and hear other peoples’ stories, especially hearing what they love about living here or what has brought them to Missoula.”
With the popularity of DIY shows and social media platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, Janis explained, maker workshops have really taken off.
“Our workshop allows people to be creative in a safe space,” she said. “Guests get the satisfaction of learning a new skill and [get to leave] with a finished project of their own making.”
Take knitting, for example.
You’ve seen pictures of a woman cuddled under a chunky knit blanket, steaming mug in hand. AR Workshop brings the dream to life: you can learn to knit a blanket or a pair of throw pillows in a few hours using only your hands and a few skeins of jumbo yarn.
Women giggled as Janis instructed them on the first few stitches. They knot and then unknot their first rows, learning from their mistakes. They sip wine and nibble on take-out as they chat with friends. Within thirty minutes, muscle memory begins to take over as blankets double, then triple, in size.
Whether it’s knitting or painting, building or decorating, AR Missoula offers something for everyone. Janis will celebrate the shop’s first anniversary in May and is planning some special events to celebrate. She’s collaborated with several local crafters to offer new workshops and plans to expand those offerings in the future.