Touring KC's growing community of open artist studios 

click to enlarge Above, from left: Jordan Siebenmorgen, 
Quinn Mahler, Jeremy Luther

Photo by Chris Mullins

Above, from left: Jordan Siebenmorgen, Quinn Mahler, Jeremy Luther

The tortured artist toils through the night, alone, hidden away in a shabby studio. At the same time, an autodidact labors in isolation to perfect her latest project, relying on how-to books and YouTube videos.

Do these romantic notions still have anything to do with how creative people work? At least in Kansas City, artistic types don't have to live that way.

Those who have the urge to make something can now seek out their own kind, pooling their resources in community studios and sharing better facilities and equipment than any one practitioner typically can afford. Along the way, knowledge is handed down, experience is gained and friendships are formed. No matter your chosen material, there's a group somewhere in the metro ready to help you get started, hone your skills or share your expertise.


Red Star Studios
2011 Tracy, 816-474-7316, redstarstudios.org

Established: 1998
Notable equipment: Pottery wheels, electric and gas kilns, slab roller, spray booths
Usage fees: Day passes (studio use without storage) are available for $35 a month. There's a waiting list for shared and private studio space. Workshops and classes for adults and children are open to nonmembers for an additional cost.
Materials: Available for purchase next door at Crane Yard Clay.

With all the gleaming concrete and metal surfaces at Red Star Studios, you'd have no idea that the facility is dedicated to making objects out of mud. After a three-year renovation, the place opened in September, relocating from the Crossroads.

"The new space has energized people to come in at any hour we are open," studio manager Tommy Frank says.

Frank has divided the open, light-filled area (windows overlook the downtown skyline) into a large shared studio with smaller cubicles for members and resident artists, including professional ceramists from across the country. Projects commonly include hand-building, wheel-throwing and slip-casting processes, and the studio often doubles as an informal classroom.

"The residents are very generous with their time and knowledge," Frank says. "They lead the making environment."

A combination break room and meeting space, as well as a glazing room and a kiln room complete the spacious facility. Those in need of inspiration can simply stop in at Red Star's adjacent gallery space, which exhibits both emerging and legendary ceramists, such as Akio Takamori.


Kansas City Woodworkers' Guild
3189 Mercier, kcwoodworkersguild.org

Established: 1984
Notable equipment: 30-inch planer, 37-inch-wide belt sander, SawStop table saw with skin-sensing technology
Usage fees: A $75 "Sawdust Maker" yearly membership gets you open-shop privileges. Classes are open to members at an additional charge.
Materials: Bring your own wood.

White, green and orange name tags cover one wall of the foyer inside the Kansas City Woodworkers' Guild. This color-coding system is a visual testament to KCWG's commitment to safety and education. White means that the member has yet to finish the safety-orientation class and pass a quiz. ("True or false? You must use both safety glasses and a face shield while using the bench grinder.") Those with a green tag awaiting them are safety-certified. Shop foremen wear orange.

According to KCWG vice president Chuck Saunders, education is key.

"We're here to promote the craft of woodworking and to get people past the 'No, I can't do that' hump," he says. "Woodworking is a skill. You can learn any skill."

So you'll also find a library here, as well as a classroom that doubles as a meeting area — and, of course, a wood shop, originally equipped by the guild to provide its members with a "try before you buy" experience and that now includes tools and machines not found in most home work spaces.

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