Fostering Creativity – Five North State businesses that can become your family’s “home away from home”

December is a great month to focus on creativity, because it’s happening all the time, whether decorating a home, wrapping a package, baking treats, planning a menu, or even creatively juggling a to-do list … even avoiding participating in the holiday fray turns into a creative process. It’s also a great time for families to plan for ways to spend creative time together  through the winter months and the coming year.  Here are five North State Businesses that are set up as creative spaces for all ages to enjoy, learn and grow in:

A Melo Place, Mt. Shasta


Atara Melo knows how relaxing and meditative being engaged in a creative activity can be. For more than 22 years, she worked with an art therapist, and seeing the effect art has on individuals is part of the inspiration behind the opening of A Melo Place creative art studio in Mt. Shasta.

“I wanted to create a place where people can come to be creative in a safe and supportive environment,” says Atara.

In essence it’s a creative space open to all: “We offer family time where parents or grandparents come in and create together with children. Senior citizens come to work on projects too,” Atara shares. Diversity is fostered in other ways: Atara’s background enables her to provide creative support to people contending with physical and mental challenges.

In addition to studio time, A Melo Place offers a wide variety of classes and workshops. Fine arts and crafts are just one component, Atara says, “I enjoy watching people come to teach, from chocolatiers, to ukulele players,  to magicians … I never know what’s going to come through the door.”

A Melo place celebrates its third anniversary this month. In keeping with its mission of benefitting everyone in the community, prices of classes and workshops held at the studio are kept low. Atara confides this means that at times it’s a struggle to keep the business afloat, and fundraising is necessary.

On December  15, a winter solstice “Fairy Faire” fundraiser takes place for all ages on a drop-in basis from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Come meet a fairy-like crew and listen to  fairy tales, make fairies and fairy houses, have a “fairy reading,” and more. $10 includes all activities … take home a craft made at the fair plus a packet of fairy dust.

Also in December, on the 29th at 1 p.m., a popular annual “Snow Bodies” workshop is being offered for all ages.

The studio also offers craft supplies and items for sale. Stop by A Melo Place at 417 Chestnut St. in Mt Shasta, or call (530) 859-1296. Class information is available online at

String Bead, Chico


Carole Witt is inspired by creativity, and that shows in her fabulous Chico shop, String Bead, that offers a mecca of ideas for making handcrafted items using beads.

“The staff love children,” Carol says … and children love creating at the shop. It’s a great place for ages 6 and up to make gifts. There are stations throughout String Bead for working on projects, and the cost of beads ranges from 3 cents to $300 each, so there’s something for every budget.

“No two people ever come out with the same project, even when using the same materials,” says Carole, “it’s really amazing.”

String Bead offers dozens of classes (see their website for details), and the shop includes a fully equipped 1000 sq. ft. fabrication shop available for “shop time” and classes that teach both metal fabrication and glass art.

For Carole, it’s gratifying to experience how much the shop is loved by the community. “We really take pride in teaching young people,” she says. “We have one young man who has been coming here to work on projects regularly since he was in elementary school … I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes over running the shop one day! Some of our staff have been coming here since they were young and love working for us and helping others.”

On Dec. 10, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., String Bead offers a fun one-day event called Santa’s Workshop. It features eight creative stations, free instruction, and a 25% discount on materials used. On Dec. 7, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., learn to make snowflake ornaments or pendants at  a Snowflake Charms  workshop ($20, plus materials).

Also during December, extra staff will be on hand to help people with their projects. Everyone is invited to come in and make gifts: jewelry, Christmas ornaments, key chains, book marks and wind chimes are some options.

String Bead is located in Chico at the Almond Orchard shopping center,
2201 Pillsbury Rd., Suite 142. Call (530) 894-BEAD (2323) for more info or visit

Sew Fabulous, Redding


Renee  Noel originally opened Sew Fabulous (then called The Fabulous Fabric Shop) for somewhat selfish reasons, she confesses … she loves to sew, wanted modern contemporary fabrics to sew with, and a space to do it in. What she didn’t expect was how popular the sewing classes she offered would become. “The first summer, kids signed up for sewing camps, and it snowballed from there,” she says.

Though she’s been sewing since she was about eight years old, her commitment and passion for teaching seems to have caught Renee by surprise, and she’s honest with her explanation: “It went from being about me, to being about everyone else who comes in to sew!”

Sew Fabulous students now range in age from 6 to adult: “Often the kids start, and then the moms want to learn too,” explains Renee. The classes became so popular that she moved the business early last year to be able to create a setting primarily designed for sewing.

The new name, Sew Fabulous, reflects the shift: The studio still carries fabrics, but its primary focus is now sewing and craft classes, camps and workshops. There are ongoing classes for ages 6-10, for teens, and for adults. Each August, an annual fashion show allows Sew Fabulous students, aka “young designers,”  to show off their creations.

These days, Renee says, the studio sounds like Santa’s workshop, with lots of kids making gifts. December workshops (for kids and adults, typically $15-$20) include a “Handmade Holiday” series and a “Gifts For” series. A popular new crocheting class is held on Mondays at 10 a.m. In January, after-school camps begin: Mondays for teens (ages 11 & up) and Tues./Wed./Thurs. for ages 6 and up.

Everyone is welcome at the studio, even absolute beginners. Call ahead and make an appointment for one-on-one lessons and to work on private projects.

Sew Fabulous Studio is located at 851 Commerce St. in Redding. Call (530) 221-1608 or find more at

All Fired Up,  Redding


Julie Alexander will have owned All Fired Up ceramic and art studio in Redding for three years this coming February, though the business has been operating for close to 14. “What attracted me to this business is that I think one of the most important things you can give to your children is your time, and the studio provides families an opportunity to do something creative together … plus All Fired Up was my niece’s favorite place!,” she adds, laughing.

Julie loves watching little ones paint. “It’s great to see how children develop when they are regulars,” she says. “I have met a lot of people who come here and then come back to visit. They bring snacks and stay for a while. It’s really fun.”

The shop is always changing, with new projects, specialty paints and classes. Besides a wide range of “paint your own” ceramic projects, “we have about 50 kids that take drawing and painting classes with artist Deborah Salyers,” says Julie.

The studio recently added mosaic projects that use tumbled glass. “We like to keep things fresh and new,” Julie explains. Customers can browse through catalogs at the shop and special order items like pendants, character items, and beer steins (a “guy” favorite).

What makes this all really special for Julie? “The people,” she says. “I love the little kids, the teens, and have met great families … and now businesses are bringing their staff in to create things. It’s a place to relax and unwind, instead of being pressed for time.”

In December, All Fired Up stocks a variety of ceramic Christmas items that make great decorations and thoughtful gifts. Project costs start at about $15 and up, which helps those on a budget. After ceramic projects are completed, Julie fires them in the studio’s kiln, and the artists return for their finished work.

All Fired Up is located at 1818 Churn Creek Rd. in Redding. Call (530) 226-1638 or learn more about the studio online at

Stitch by Stitch,  Red Bluff


Cathy Warren is owner of Stitch by Stitch in Red Bluff, a sewing store and studio where children of all ages (and adults) learn to sew. Instruction includes beginning sewing, quilting, and home décor.

Cathy was inspired to start Stitch by Stitch after participating in an after-school program, helping teach boys & girls from the 4th grade through 6th grade how to sew. Along with members of her local quilt guild, Cathy enjoyed the experience and recalls, “They were so eager to learn how to use a sewing machine and create their own quilts.”

It’s when the class series came to an end that Cathy realized there was a need that she could address: “When the students  in the program are finished, they are ready to work on another sewing  project … but we are only there for six weeks, then off we go to the next school. Most of the students were very disappointed; they had learned to sew, but had no other path to develop their new skill. I had to ask myself, ‘Where do they learn?’”

Clearly, they now learn at Stitch by Stitch! The classes have become so popular that the shop recently moved to a new location with more space and a separate classroom. Stitch by Stitch makes learning to sew easy … excellent instruction is provided through a variety of classes, using on-site sewing machines and tools.

In December, Stitch by Stitch is open Tuesday through Friday 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Sat 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through the holidays, at 614 Main St. in Red Bluff.

To find out about classes, or to book private group or party sessions, stop by the shop or call (530) 200-3110. Visit the Stitch by Stich website at

Lisa Shara
About Lisa Shara

Writer Lisa Shara lives in upper Northern California where she is involved in a variety of community projects.

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