Courtesy of Craftstitute's Facebook page

This story was written by Ithaca Voice intern Robyn Schmitz

ITHACA, NY — A new Ithaca school for handcrafts, Craftstitute, opened last month, offering classes, workshops and special events.


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Co-founders Robin Tilling and Lisa Richards brainstormed the idea for Craftstitute when Kitting, Etc., where Tilling was teaching knitting classes, announced that it was closing.

The two crafters knew they wanted to emphasize a sense of community with their new business, as well as a variety of craft classes. “I have connected with so many interesting and talented people in this area who are eager to share their knowledge,” Tilling said.

Courtesy of Craftstitute's Facebook page
Courtesy of Craftstitute’s Facebook page
Courtesy of Craftstitute’s Facebook page

Tilling’s creative experience matched well with Richards’ background in communication and business, being a full-time employee at Cornell’s Cooperative Extention.

“We really just kind of clicked. We had these complementary skills,” Richards said. “Right person, right time, right moment.”

“Lisa and I talked in early January,” Tilling said, “and next thing I knew we were signing a lease and working with a designer on our website and logo.”

Both Tilling and Richards are active in Ithaca’s art community and want to provide new creative outlets for the public. Some of the classes currently being offered include making natural cleaning products, single-cup coffee brewing, bookbinding and plant dyeing.

“We want to support our local artists and open a new market,” Richards said. “We want people to understand what it takes to make this stuff.”

“The first classes have proven us correct in surmising that people are hankering for a place where they can connect, create, and learn,” Tilling writes in a blog post for Living Gorges.

Craftstitute’s first registrant, Sandy Bickel — a retired lawyer from Indiana living in Ithaca since 2013, said she appreciates the city for its cultural vibrancy.

“I heard the word community more times in the first month I lived in Ithaca than I did the entire 30 years I lived in Indiana,” she said. “It’s been a boon to find these classes and to meet such nice people.”

The classes at Crafstitute are designed to appeal to a wide range of ages. They are currently geared toward children the age of 14 and up, but some would work well for a parent and younger child to take together.

“By far, my favorite part of this has been the unexpected moments of laughter that pop up whenever you get people together doing something that pushes them outside of their comfort zone,” Tilling said. “Being creative is like that — there is experimentation and mistakes and happy moments of things going really well.”

Craftstitute has drop-in open studio hours, available for free to enrollees during the month that his or her class is scheduled. The building — formerly The Livery restaurant — is located on Slaterville Road, about five miles east of the city of Ithaca. Classes and events are always being added. The business’ next event is April 24 — a book release party for local author, Rebecca Barry.

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Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.