4 DIY Northern Michigan Souvenir Ideas, From Photo to Pottery


Tired of tourist trinkets in spades? Here are some places where you can be the creator. Explore glassblowing, pottery or photography in these four different northern Michigan towns, from Traverse City to Ludington.

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If you’ve ever looked at a piece of art and said, “I could do that,” chances are you’re wrong. But there’s always beauty in creating art at every level, especially under the tutelage of some of Northern Michigan’s finest artists. Here are some places where you can turn your vacation into an artist’s retreat and walk away with a souvenir you made yourself.

Blown glass in eastern Jordan

With notice as short as 24 hours (but best to book as soon as possible), take a private glassblowing class at Jordan Valley Glassware. Your 30-minute session covers the history and techniques of glassblowing, as expert artists oversee your creation, from selecting glass colors to melting them in a fiery furnace. Prices range from $70 to $125 depending on your project – choose from paperweights, oil diffusers, hummingbird feeders and more. Be inspired: Compare the movement of the Jordan River to the swirls in your glass as you walk along the new boardwalk at Sportsman’s Park (81 Bridge St.) that winds through the watershed.

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Bubble Glaze Pottery in Suttons Bay

The hallmark of Stephanie Starner-Greiner’s pottery is the bubbles that create circular patterns in her glazed pieces of blues and greens reminiscent of northern Michigan waters, all inspired by the way wave bubbles meet the beach. during his favorite walks in search of stones. And she doesn’t keep her secrets to herself. Take a scheduled class at Leelanau Pottery Company, or gather a small group for a private party, and you can paint or enamel bisque-fired pieces, or blow bubbles through the glaze on a shared piece and capture the literal breath of everyone in the group. Get Inspired: Stroll Van’s Beach in Leland, bubble-chasing, Leland blues and spectacular sunsets.

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Create stunning photos in Ludington

Nature photographer trio Brad and Todd Reed and Rachel Gaudette don’t take pictures, they construct them, creating images that allow viewers to feel like they’re experiencing the scene for themselves. Students can learn this same technique in photo workshops led by the three professionals. Book the beginner perfect weekend with a stay at Ludington’s Lamplighter Bed and Breakfast next October, or take their online video instruction series as background for booking one of three advanced workshops – one takes students to the Porcupine Mountains for a lesson on building your own photo book. They also offer private lessons. Be inspired: Hike to Big Sable Point Lighthouse, a popular photo subject in the Reeds, especially during the magical evening light.

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Create with kids (or adults) in Traverse City

AT Handz on art, a paint-your-own pottery studio in the downtown Warehouse MRKT, kids and adults choose a ceramic piece — from coffee mugs and trays to ornaments, gnomes, piggy banks and more — then have fun personalizing it. Check out the idea center for books, stencils, stamps and sponges, then head to the color center to choose your paints. Most pottery will be fired and ready for pickup within four to seven days (delivery is available if you’re coming from out of town). Drop-in tours are welcome, but reservations are recommended for larger groups (birthdays, hen parties, hen parties). GET INSPIRED: A walk through downtown provides endless inspiration for a TC-themed room. You can’t go wrong painting a Petoskey stone patterned platter, beach bowl, or “We Call Michigan Gnome.”

Kim Schneider is a longtime travel writer specializing in Michigan adventures, food, and wine. The Midwest Travel Journalist Association named her Mark Twain Travel Writer of the Year, and she is the author of “100 Things to Do in Traverse City Before You Die.”


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