AR Workshop inspires people to tap into artistic side

CREATIVE TEAM Kristi Holbrook (center, inset photo), owner of AR Workshop in Morgan Hill, stands with two members of her team, Apolonia Dye (left) and Melissa Mendosa, in the Paint Bar area of the workshop. Photo: Erik Chalhoub

A visit to AR Workshop is a one-of-a-kind experience.

From picture frames that hang on the walls with tender messages, to a calendar made out of clipboards to various other wooden objects of all shapes and sizes, every bit of unique decor was personally hand-crafted.

It’s all DIY, the abbreviation creative types use for “do-it-yourself,” referring to unique objects with a personal touch that can’t be found, or recreated, anywhere else.

AR Workshop opened in June inside The Granary on Depot Street in Morgan Hill, and since then, numerous people have let their imaginations run wild with raw materials such as wood and canvas, said owner Kristi Holbrook.

“We offer a place where you can put down your phone, connect with other people and be creative,” she said.

The “maker movement” has received a resurgence as of late thanks to social media, where people post photos of their creations and inspire others to tap into their creative side. The movement has been further popularized by the NBC show Making It, starring Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman, which has been met with rave reviews. The reality show, which challenges competitors to craft objects based on certain themes, recently wrapped up its second season.

AR Workshop was founded by Maureen Anders and Adria Ruff, who opened their first location in Pineville, N.C. in 2016. It has since exploded to more than 100 franchise locations across the country.

Holbrook, a Morgan Hill native who attended local schools, has returned to the city after she and her family lived in Clovis for a number of years. 

While in Clovis, Holbrook came across an AR Workshop in Fresno while she was looking for somewhere to take her mother when she visited. After participating in many workshops, Holbrook became inspired to open her own franchise location.

Once the family moved back to Morgan Hill, she discovered a space available in The Granary.

“I felt like this is it,” she said. “We went all in.”

Kimberly Escamilla (from left), Sally Freimuth and Renee Lee work on a project with chunky yarn. Photo: Erik Chalhoub

With Weston Miles Architects building out the space, AR Workshop has become a family affair, with Holbrook’s husband Bill, parents Bob and Kathy Martinez and other family members helping out with construction.

Her father, she noted, has set up a woodshop in his garage, where he supplies all the wood for AR Workshop’s events.

Holbrook said participants need no experience when they walk through the doors, as AR Workshop’s staff of helpers will ensure everyone walks out with a finished project.

“We have people that say ‘I don’t have a crafty bone in my body,’” she said. “We assure them that they are not alone.”

While the primary customers of AR Workshop are women (with “girls night out” parties being the most popular), Holbrook said there is plenty of “guy stuff” available. Besides the various sports-themed projects, attendees are welcome to grab a beer from the adjacent Running Shop and Hops or bring their own, and enjoy it in a bar area set up at the rear of the workshop.

Guys will have an opportunity to experience the workshop with their significant other for Valentine’s Day.

Seats are still available for AR Workshop’s Special DIY Date Night on Feb. 14 from 6-9pm. Couples can work on one project together, such as framed signs, pet beds, lazy Susans and more.

“There’s nothing like your own community,” Holbrook said. “We truly care about Morgan Hill. It’s an honor for us to be able to come here.”

AR Workshop is open for public and private workshops. For information, visit arworkshop.com/morganhill.

Date night in South Valley

Couples have plenty of options to enjoy each other’s company in the South Valley.

Rosewood CordeValle, 1 Cordevalle Club Drive in San Martin, will host a Valentine’s Day event on Feb. 14 at 5pm with a four-course dinner and wine pairing options. For reservations, call 408.695.4500.

Satori Cellars, 2100 Buena Vista Ave. in Gilroy, will host “Songs @ Satori” presented by the Christopher Choir Boosters on Feb. 15. The event features vocal performances and wine tasting. The winery will be open from noon to 5pm, and the musical program takes place between 2-4pm. 

The Original Paint Nite party takes place at Bella Viva Ristorante e Caffe, 7423 Monterey St. in Gilroy, on Feb. 16 from 5-7pm. Artist Talicia Walker will guide participants on a step-by-step painting in under two hours. Canvas, paints, brushes and aprons will be provided. For information, visit tinyurl.com/vjbs6d2.

A Valentine’s Day dinner and musical performance will be held at the Granada Theatre, 17440 Monterey Road in Morgan Hill, featuring a three-course dinner and a musical performance by Michael Bublé tribute artist Scott Keo. Guests must be 21 or older to attend. Two showings are available, Friday, Feb. 14, or Saturday, Feb. 15, 6-10pm each night. For tickets or information, visit liveloveleal.com.