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12 outside-the-box holiday gift ideas

Consider giving experiences rather than material gifts this holiday season

10 Photos
Needle-felting instructor Juneko Martinson assists a pupil with her three-dimensional wool raccoon during Martinson’s workshop Nov. 17 at the Fort Vancouver Visitor Center. Martinson’s felted creatures are in the foreground. Martinson also planned to teach a workshop Saturday to make a needle-felted gnome.
Needle-felting instructor Juneko Martinson assists a pupil with her three-dimensional wool raccoon during Martinson’s workshop Nov. 17 at the Fort Vancouver Visitor Center. Martinson’s felted creatures are in the foreground. Martinson also planned to teach a workshop Saturday to make a needle-felted gnome. Photo Gallery

Fiber artist Juneko Martinson watched her 12-year-old pupil student, Audrey, poke a barbed needle in and out of charcoal-colored wool. Audrey, a seventh-grader, was focused on creating the dark circle around the eye of the three-dimensional wool raccoon she was making in Martinson’s needle felting workshop at the Fort Vancouver Visitor Center. The girl has taken three of Martinson’s classes and has a fox, owl and now a raccoon that she’s created.

Martinson, who raises alpacas and sheep in Brush Prairie, has created a menagerie of felted wool animals from hedgehogs to penguins to pigs and has sold them to buyers as far away as the U.K. and Japan. She said she enjoys teaching people the simple craft of needle felting.

“I took a stumble into needle felting,” Martinson said. “The tools are so simple. It takes new sewing. No gluing. This little crunchy noise of needle felting is kind of soothing to your soul. It’s kind of meditation. Poking the fiber, it gets denser and denser until it becomes a three-dimensional shape.”

Martinson is among hundreds of artisans and experts teaching workshops and lessons around Clark County.

In a nod to simplicity, why not give experiences rather than material things this holiday season? Better yet, share an experience with a family member or friend. Take your best friend or grandchild to one of Martinson’s workshops so both of you can learn needle felting and make a sweet creature to remind you of the time you spent together.

Rather than buying your sister a sweater, why not give her knitting needles, yarn and knitting lessons so she can learn to knit her own? Perhaps your husband who enjoys sampling handcrafted beer would enjoy taking a homebrew class. Has your daughter spoken often of the Cirque de Soleil performance she attended last year? Why not give her lessons in aerial silks so she can experience the thrill of hanging suspended from the ceiling?

Below are 12 Clark County experiences you can give your loved ones this holiday season. Let this be a starting point for your imagination as you brainstorm your own outside-the-box gift ideas.

1. Make a needle-felted animal or gnome

What: Three-hour hands-on workshop to learn needle felting on wool and make an animal or a gnome. All materials provided. Ages 12 and older.

Who: Fiber artist Juneko Martinson needle felts with wool she harvests from her alpacas and sheep on her Brush Prairie farm.

When: Next classes begin in February.

Where: Visitor Center at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, 1501 E. Evergreen Blvd.

Cost: $35 includes kit and class, or buy the $30 kit only at Friends of Fort Vancouver Bookshop.

Contact: Register for Juneko Martinson’s classes at the Friends of Fort Vancouver Bookshop, 360-816-6216. For future classes, call Martinson at 360-831-5477 or email her at Check class schedule for Fiber Art by Juneko at

“People look at what they’re making, and they start smiling and even giggling. It definitely makes the creator smile and maybe the recipient, too.” — Fiber artist Juneko Martinson who creates three-dimensional animals with needle felting.

2. Make homebrew

What: A full slate of classes include beginning homebrew, all-grain brewing, micro-distilling, beginning kombucha and wine making with a kit. Bader partners with Double V Distilling in Battle Ground for the two-day distilling class and Oregon Kombucha for the kombucha class.

Who: Steve Bader, homebrew instructor and shop owner.

When: All-grain brewing class 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Jan. 5; beginning brewing class 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 29 and Jan. 26 and 6 to 9 p.m. Jan. 10; beginning kombucha 1 to 3 p.m. Jan. 12.

Where: Bader Beer & Wine Supply, 711 Grand Blvd.

Cost: Most classes are $25 to $40, but the two-day distilling class is $99

Contact: 360-750-1551 or see detailed event calendar at

“People are always very curious about the hobby of beer, wine, kombucha and distilling, but they don’t know much about how to make it. They can learn about the process in a few hours in one of our classes.” – Steve Bader

3. Learn to tie flies

What: If you have a fly fisher on your gift list, consider giving fly tying classes.

Who: Clark-Skamania Fly Fishers experts teach adults and children ages 6 and older to tie flies. Children are encouraged to attend the classes with an accompanying adult.

Beginning fly-tying class from 1 to 6 p.m. over four consecutive Saturdays: Jan. 19 and 26, Feb. 2 and 9, Vancouver Fire Station 9, 17408 SE 15th St. Cost: $40 includes instruction and all materials. Contact Al Wood, 360-904-7797 or

Free fly-tying classes at 7 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 5525 S. 11th St., Ridgefield. There is no charge and classes are open to the public. Contact Gary Bevers, 360-270-1470

For more information, visit Clark-Skamania Fly Fishers at

“We’re trying to get people exposed to fly fishing, and especially kids. We encourage kids age six and older to learn fly tying with an adult. Once you take this beginning class, you can take it as many times as you’d like as a refresher at no charge.” — Alan Stanley, Clark-Skamania Fly Fishers

4. Learn East Coast Swing or Tango

What: Six-week beginning and intermediate ballroom dancing classes; no partner required; singles and couples welcome.

Who: Husband-and-wife dancing duo Julieann and Joseph Platt also teach dance lessons for wedding couples, and fathers and daughters in their home dance studio.

When: Beginning East Coast Swing, 5:30 p.m. Sundays; Intermediate Tango, 6:30 p.m. Sundays. Six-week series for both classes begins in January.

Where: Riverside Performing Arts, 1307 N.E. 78th St.

Cost: $60 per person for the six-week series

Contact: Julieann at 954-249-5823 or email

“We just love to introduce people to the world of ballroom dancing. And what better way than finding a gift certificate in your stocking? You can make good on your New Year’s resolutions and start your dance lessons in January.” — Julieann Platt, ballroom dance instructor

5. Learn to sing or to play an instrument

What: Music lessons for adults and children of all ages. Group and private lessons are offered in vocal and instruments including piano, guitar, violin, ukulele and more. Classes meet weekly. Students perform two concerts per year and have other opportunities to perform through its Jam Band. School also provides instrument rentals and sales.

Who: All music instructors have music degrees and are experienced musicians and teachers.

When: Variety of days and times available.

Where: Opus School of Music, 414 Pioneer St., Ridgefield; East county location: 726 N.E. 2nd Ave., Camas

Cost: Prices start at $63 per month for children’s chorus and $93 per month for other group lessons; private lessons start at $132 per month for one 30-minute weekly lesson up to $264 per month for 60-minute weekly lessons. Some scholarships are available.

Contact: Ridgefield: 360-887-8770; Camas: 360-833-9604 or visit

“One of the things that separates us from music stores are the fun opportunities for our students to perform in our Jam Band at libraries, elementary school carnivals and business events in Clark County. Our students all learn classic songs like ‘Stand by Me’ and ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight.’ We offer Jam Band performances to organizations at no charge.” — Rob Melton, director and owner, Opus School of Music

6. Learn about gourmet cooking

What: Small-group gourmet cooking classes

Who: Chef Kim Mahan, who studied cooking in Spain and at Clark College.

When: Spanish paella, 5:30 p.m. Jan. 9 or 11; aebelskiver appetizers, 10 a.m. Jan. 17 or 5:30 p.m. Jan. 19; cozy winter dinner party, 10 a.m. Feb. 12 or 5:30 p.m. Feb. 14.

Where: Class Cooking, 110 E. 15th St.

Cost: $65 to $80 per person

Contact: 360-600-8006 or or

7. Blow glass

What: Private or group glass-blowing lessons for beginners through advanced skill levels. All materials are included. Firehouse Glass is a public access studio offering instruction and rental in glass blowing, fusing, casting, torch work and cold working.

Who: Two generations of glass blowers, Greg Lueck and Andrew Lueck.

When: Private or group lessons are offered seven days a week. Morning sessions are from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., afternoon sessions are from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. and evening sessions are from 6 to 10 p.m. Call or text to schedule your private lesson.

Where: Firehouse Glass, 518 Main St.

Cost: Four-hour private lessons are $280 for up to three people.

Contact: Call or text Andrew at 360-931-1238; 360-695-2660, or

8. Learn blacksmithing

What: Private classes in general blacksmithing, blade and knife forging, ax forging and making pattern-welded steel.

Who: Classes taught by Nick Marcelja, who has been smithing since 1995 and was a “Forged in Fire” champion on The History Channel.

When: Private classes are arranged on an individual basis.

Where: Red Troll Forge, 2800 N.E. 172nd Ave.

Cost: Full-day class for one person is $250; full-day class for up to four people is $400 .

Contact: 360-921-3804 or or email

9. Figure skate or play hockey

What: Figure skating and hockey group lessons for adults and children of all ages and abilities. Sessions last eight or nine weeks and include a weekly 30 minute group lesson, skate rental during classes, free public sessions while you are enrolled in lessons and three additional public session passes for your guests.

When: During the first week of January, new classes will be offered on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Where: Mountain View Ice Arena, 14313 S.E. Mill Plain Blvd.

Cost: $17 per class, between 7 and 9 classes per semester.

Contact: 360-896-8700 or

10. Take an aerial silks class

Do you have someone on your gift list who attended a Cirque de Soleil performance and envisions being gracefully suspended in the air on ribbons of fabric? If so, perhaps a series of aerial silks lessons would be a thoughtful holiday gift.

What: Six-session beginning aerial silks classes for teens and adults start in January. Classes include the opportunity to learn on the aerial silks, dance trapeze and lyra, or aerial hoop. Tricks, poses and sequences are taught to the strength of individual students. The class includes warm up, flexibility training, guided technique instruction and a warm down.

Who: A longtime dancer, Renee Donahue fell in love with aerial dance and teaches the six-week class.

When: 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. six Thursdays from Jan. 24 through Feb. 28.

Where: Danceworks Performing Arts, 11005 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd.

Cost: $145 for six sessions; class size limited, advance registration required. No experience required.

Contact: 360-892-5664, or

11. Knit a scarf or design a sweater

What: One-on-one knitting instruction for beginners; advanced design classes as well as a social time of open knitting.

Who: Expert knitter and shop owner Jennifer Powell.

When: Beginning knitters are taught individually through a series of one-on-one lessons at no charge. Beginners use an easy pattern and the knit stitch to create a scarf. Next, beginners learn to purl and create another scarf using both the knit and purl stitches. Advanced classes on designing socks and sweaters, including a fisherman’s sweater, begin in December and January. Advanced classes are eight to ten weeks. Social knitting — in which knitters gather at the shop and work on individual projects while they chat — begins at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Where: Wag Tails Yarns, 982 E St., Washougal

Cost: Beginning knitting classes are free, but a skein of yarn, needles and patterns cost $15 to $20. Advanced design classes cost $45 to $50 for six-to-eight-week classes.

Contact: 360-835-9649 or or

“My goal is for people to enjoy knitting and to gain a sense of their own personal creativity. We are a design house with boutique yarns. We can help people take their own ideas and grow in the direction they want to go. You can make stuff with beautiful fibers and colors. We show people that knitting isn’t intimidating. If a knitter is having problems with a project, just bring it in and we’ll get you going again. When you come in, you’ll get the help of very knowledgeable knitters.” — Jennifer Powell, expert knitter

12. Paint a picture

What: Learn to paint via weekly classes, open studio time or one-night workshops.

Who: Artist and art instructor Elida Field.

When: Specific classes include:

Art for teens: weekly painting instruction for youth sixth through 12th grade, 4 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays, $130 per month

Painting for adults of all skill levels, adult acrylic painting techniques: 6:30 to 9 p.m. Mondays or 9:30 a.m. to noon Tuesdays

Open studio time 12:30 to 3 p.m. Tuesdays.

Wine Bottle Paint Night, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 10. Bring a label from your favorite wine and Elida will teach you to paint a wine bottle and wine glasses on an 11-by-14 canvas. You affix the wine label to your finished painting, $65.

Warrior Horse Paint Night, 4 to 6 p.m. Jan. 20. Paint a warrior horse on an 8-by-10 canvas. Adults and teens of all experience levels are welcome, $45.

Where: Elida Art Studio and Gallery, 735 N.E. Sixth Ave., Camas

Cost: $130 for a month of classes for teens; Art, Women, Wine art for adults $125 per month membership gives you access to Monday night and Tuesday morning class, open studio time, opportunity to sell your art through Elida’s website and art show participation; one-night workshops for painters with no experience needed, typically $65.

Contact: 360-984-8333 or or

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