5 heritage crafts to learn + where to take classes in Birmingham

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welders making sparks
Traditional heritage crafts, such as metalworking, are important skills to preserve. Photo via Sloss Furnaces on Facebook.

When you hear the phrase “arts and crafts,” usually images of popsicle sticks, hot glue and watercolor paints come to mind. However, traditional heritage crafts are a far cry from the crafts we did in grade school. These are artistic and useful skills that have been passed down through generations, often considered “dying arts” in today’s modern times. Consider learning one of these heritage craft skills listed below to ensure their place in our culture’s future, while also finding a fun, new hobby!

1. Stained glass

woman holding stained glass window
The art of stained glass is thousands of years old. Photo via Samford School of the Arts.

Join a multi-thousand-year history of stained glass artists using colored glass, copper foil and soldering irons to create beautiful, light-catching decorations. Whether you’re interested in creating a dramatic statement window for your front door or a simple ornament for your Christmas tree, learning how to create stained glass will be a unique experience.

2. Bluegrass music & quilting

These two heritage crafts aren’t typically thought of as companion skills, but are often taught in tandem at the Alabama Folk School at Camp McDowell. Learn to play different bluegrass instruments, or enhance your current instrumental skills, from local masters. Then, learn the detailed art of quilting from the nationally recognized Gee’s Bend Quiltmakers. Enjoy a weekend emersed in learning the arts of our Alabama ancestors, all while feeling like a kid away at camp again!

3. Pottery throwing

people wheel throwing pottery
Get your hands dirty with wheel-throwing pottery classes. Photo via Earthborn Pottery Facebook.

Ceramics have seen a huge come-back in popularity over the last couple of years, but how many of us actually know how to throw pottery? Learn how by taking classes with Cahaba Clayworks! Choose either six-week courses or one-time workshops, which include all the materials you’ll need to create your heritage crafts.

4. Metalworking

metal workers pouring red hot iron
Learn all about metalworking at a national historic landmark. Photo by Sloss Furnaces.

For those of you who want to turn up the heat a notch, sign up for a metalworking workshop with Sloss Metal Arts. You’ll learn the basics of casting, welding and blacksmithing over a three-day period. Who knows, you might discover you love the trade and pursue this heritage craft professionally!

5. Woodturning

wood turning
Wood turning creates beautiful works of wooden art. Photo via Alabama Woodturners.

You know when you go to artists markets and craft fairs and see all those booths full of beautiful wooden bowls, platters, and vases and wonder how in the world they are made? Alabama Woodturners can teach you. Only members can take part in their regular Saturday afternoon classes, but if you’re looking for a new craft hobby it’ll be worth it to join.

Looking for more hobby classes or workshops in Birmingham? Check out our local business guide and sign up for our newsletter!