Nearly a dozen women fended off cabin fever one stitch — and one sip — at a time Saturday in Farmingdale as the global coronavirus pandemic stretches past the one-year mark.
"Ladies are just happy to get away from their husband and their kids for a few hours and be around other moms and other ladies," said Lorraine DiCarlo, the owner and instructor at The Vintage Canvas, an art studio on Main Street in Farmingdale.
Women who attended her "Chunky Blanket" workshop on Saturday knit blankets with thick strands of chenille yarn and also brought a bottle and a yearning for a few hours of escape. "They just need the break," DiCarlo said. "People are more willing to come out, now more than ever."
In recent years, "sip and paint" and crafty variations like knitting or sign painting became popular events at art studios and bars and restaurants. Typically the instructor sets up a finished work and then leads the class, step-by-step, through the process of creating their own that they can take home.
Though there is basic art instruction, "A sip and paint is more about socialization and just having something to do," DiCarlo said. "Plus, when they finish the piece that we’re working on … they’re just excited."
Some studios serve alcohol while others are bring your own.
Studios and instructors — alcohol-free instruction is also available — had to adapt to survive after COVID-19 shut them down last spring. Some created take-home kits, offered virtual instruction or held private backyard events for children and adults.
Lori Hochberg, owner and instructor at The Village Artist in Huntington, said that before the pandemic her art center held two open sip-and-paint events a month but that now they’re usually once a month and more likely to be with a family or group of friends than strangers.
"Since the pandemic hit, we cut the number of people in half, just to space everybody out," Hochberg said. "We do have plexiglass dividers that we put up on the tables which works out nicely. So everybody kind of has their own little cubicle to work in."
Hochberg said she has rules for mask wearing similar to restaurants, asking everyone to keep a mask on "unless you’re in your seat and you’re sipping."
Other safety precautions include temperature checks and plenty of hand sanitizer in the studio, she said.
"We are really trying our best to make it a safe environment for everybody," Hochberg said.
Prices and times for sessions vary. DiCarlo said her blanket class was three to four hours, depending on when participants finished their project. Her most recent Saturday workshop cost $65, but she said the next one will be $75.
Nicole Phillips and her daughter, Jessica, opened a Board & Brush franchise — a studio that specializes in creating hand-painted signs and which serves alcohol — in Bethpage in October 2019.
"We started to sell out every weekend and then the pandemic hit," Phillips said. "We've gone from being able to have 36 people in a workshop at one time down to 12, so that hits our bottom line pretty hard, but you know, we’re just thankful to still be open."
Phillips said they survived the summer by doing private backyard workshops but now they are selling out events at the studio.
"People seem pretty excited to get back out," Phillips said. "People realize that we’re being cautious … we’ve had some people walk in and be like, ‘Oh, do I have to wear my mask?’ Yes you do."
SAFE, NOT SORRY
Safety measures at studios vary, but some include:
• Reduced class size for social distancing
• Mandatory mask wearing
• Plexiglass dividers
• Hand sanitizer
• Temperature checks