Short Courses, Specialty Schools, And More…


Robert Collins, who teaches MIG welding at The Crucible, in Oakland, Calif., started at the industrial arts education center as a student. photo by Andrew Sullivan

While conducting our research we came across dozens of intriguing schools that didn’t quite fit into our criteria: residential programs that offer in-depth, full day courses in a range of disciplines. So we’d like to give these some mention. Some offer shorter courses or classes of only a few hours (often just in the evenings). Others specialize in one particular subject.

In a few disciplines—principally glass-blowing, textile arts, and ceramics—there is such a large number of schools and workshops that it’s virtually impossible to create a manageable, and meaningful, selection of the best. (Two exceptions are the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts in Helena, Montana; and Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Wash., both of which come highly recommended.) For other schools, barring your own sources of recommendation, the best resource may be this directory from The American Craft Council, which is the pre-eminent U.S. organization supporting craftsmanship. The directory is organized by state, and includes both degree and non-degree programs.

That said, we can offer some guidance on three fronts: first, five respected organizations that teach a range of crafts, but with shorter or lighter courses of study than a college program or our immersive workshops; second, a list of nine well-regarded  woodworking schools in different corners of the U.S.; and last, five schools that specialize in a fun derivative of woodworking: boatbuilding.

  • Craft Alliance Center, in St. Louis, Missouri, is solely dedicated to contemporary craft, offering classes, exhibitions, residencies and community programs out of its two locations in the St. Louis area.
  • Contemporary Craft, in Pittsburgh, Penn., has a full time gallery space to exhibit the work of artists and craftspeople, as well as hold classes, lectures and performances.
  • The Crucible, Oakland, Calif. The Crucible’s roots are in fire and industrial arts, but it has grown since 1999 into a major Bay Area arts presence, offering instruction in more than a dozen media, including ceramics, leather and woodworking.
  • TechShop, which started in San Francisco, now operates nearly a dozen locations in the U.S. and beyond. Membership is not cheap ($150/month or $1,650/year), but it gives you access to the latest equipment for working with plastics, electronics and software, as well as more traditional woodworking, metalworking and textile facilities. Studios are open late and provide plenty of instruction. Open to ages 12 and up.
  • Lillstreet Art Center, Chicago, Ill. Professional artists and students work side by side in the former gear factory that houses Lillstreet Art Center. Lillstreet offers classes to the community in six different media, and has a program of classes for children, all the way from newborns and up.
  • If you’re interested in the development of craft skills in general, The Craft School Experience is a consortium five immersive schools from our main story, which have come together to promote and support craft education.

A balanced chemical equation outlining a displacement reaction is written on machinery at The Crucible in Oakland, Calif. photo by Andrew Sullivan



Today’s aspiring woodworker is blessed with more than 170 workshops, studios, and college-degree programs around the country, and more than 40 outside the U.S., that are devoted to this field. (For a complete list, see Fine Woodworking magazine’s directory of woodworking schools, which is organized geographically.) To simplify your choices, we’ve created the following woodworking sampler from six different regions of the U.S. Each one is a professional workshop (rather than a college program), and each comes well recommended by experts in the field:



© 2020 Natalie Jones, all rights reserved. Under exclusive license to Craftsmanship, LLC. Unauthorized copying or republication of this article is prohibited by law.

Published: April 17, 2017