Business teaches children to use their hands

One woman has found a living in giving kids an outlet for their creativity

Posted: Thursday, August 03, 2000

Since she was a child, Merridy Davis loved creating things with her hands. A few years ago, she turned her skills into a business that gives dozens of Juneau children a summertime activity.

``There's a million things that you can create with kids,'' said Davis, founder of Hands-on Workshops. ``The ideas and projects are no problem, there's so much to do.''

In its fourth summer, Hands-on Workshops offers several week-long courses that teach children, ages 8 to 12, a variety of handicrafts.

``Right now we're teaching Japanese crafts that include embroidery and working with paper. We just finished `Everything Beanie Week' where the kids made furniture, clothes and even whole rooms for their Beanies,'' Davis said.

Originally, Davis' idea to teach crafts to children stemmed from her desire to entice her sister and her children up to Juneau for the summer.

``My sister is an amazing seamstress and I thought if she could teach sewing classes, she could make the money to come up here from Washington for the summer with her two kids,'' Davis said.

Davis was successful in talking her sister into the idea and Hands-on Workshops was born.

``That first year, we started with sewing doll clothes and making doll furniture,'' Davis said while taking a break from class at Faith Lutheran Church.

Although Davis' sister, seamstress Renee Lewis, is ``allergic to rain'' and does not participate anymore, Duayne Lewis, Davis' mother, lends a hand with classes that typically range from five to 12 students.

``Kids still have great stuff in them if you can get them away from the TV,'' said Lewis, who makes her home in Washington state.

For Davis, the mother of three children, being handy and creative was emphasized at an early age.

``As kids we were encouraged to be creative with what we had and I remember always being interested in crafts and entertaining myself,'' Davis said.

Rachel Kyle, an 11-year-old student in the Japanese Crafts workshop, has been a sewing enthusiast for several years.

``I really like to see what you can make after it's done. It's fun to come here, it gives me new ideas,'' she said.

Next on the agenda for Hands-on Workshops is ``Mixed-Up Week'' where students will learn how to make stepping stones, books, party decorations, felt applique and beading, Davis said.

``I think the most rewarding thing about these workshops are the kids' ideas,'' Davis said. ``We found out really quickly that even though we will sew up a sample to show the kids, they all have very different ideas of what they want to make.''

``It's like a fuse,'' she added. ``It just sets them off and then they are creating what they want to.''

Mixed-Up Week will run from 9 a.m. until noon, Aug. 14 through 18, at Faith Lutheran Church, 2500 Sunset Drive. The course costs $85 and includes all the material used in class.

For more information about Hands-on Workshops, call 789-2696.

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