Art school? Check. Weekends spent sketching images? Check. Sketchbooks and lesson magazines in hand? Check. Design-school instructors primed to recommend ideas for the works she would acquire later? Check.
Bookstore recommendation? Check. It’s a paradise, right? Try spending time with a map and folder of pages to showcase entries one at a time.
Atelier 130 on Rhode Island Avenue, Northwest, is an art studio, a layout of containers, and a design studio within the same building. The glassy space hosts about 10 people at a time, chatting with instructors and customers, designing artwork, and connecting with one another. Within 12 blocks, there are 10 art studios; within walking distance, there are eight other fine-arts stores in this quirky neighborhood.
Looking for the next big thing? Oogieloves is the classroom for aspiring actors. Tom and Katie’s Dining Room is the dining room for aspiring caterers. Mizani Comics, now in its 14th location, isn’t really a store but a place to interact with artists and possible future or current customers.
Easter egg hunters are the target in Woodberry Kitchen, where there’s not just one—there are two egg-shaped pho shops, plus other goodies. Inside Commonwealth Fine Art is a salon of easels and workbenches, ideal for taking a break or putting on your creative finery while friends come in to purchase a notebook. Before you put your phone down, you might click onto MakerBot DC for a 3-D printer for a hobbyist.
Perfect for the entrepreneurial or artist-in-training? Instead of a store, Top Hill Animal Hospital offers a small art studio with items designed to turn pets into works of art.
A shop with an inspired spirit? The Corner Bookshop, often lauded for its imaginative—and insightful—display and selection of books, hosts seminars and workshops in a number of mediums, including jewelry-making and woodworking.
An outlet for your photographs and sketches? Instead of a store, find a studio devoted to the work of esteemed portrait photographer Robert Storr. There’s a chance to play around with digital transfer. And a chance to call on mentors who are experienced in and supportive of color and composition.
On in Bethesda, Ultraviolet Art is known for its minimalist bookcases that house stock—a cache of high-end tomes, a shelf of community artworks, and an array of perfectly displayed rugs. An open air gallery offers seasonal art—you can even view pieces you can buy through the store.
For a tangible and, for some, intensely personal experience? Biscuit + Potatoes, with its inventive, but fast-paced artworks and cocktails, is the place to be.
Paint studios in plenty of neighborhood locations offer a slew of craft activities—everything from paint-and-sip sessions to sculpture-class workshops. Creative interest is encouraged at Langham Place’s On the Narrow and Lava Artistic Collective in Shaw, which is hosting a two-day workshop, “The Headliner’s Luncheon,” featuring semi-retired musician Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top.
As far as stores go, the Central Plates store in Chevy Chase, for example, prides itself on being so fastidious about its products that it doesn’t stock butter—a savvy decision, since it creates a level of exclusivity and provides its customers with a more rigorous service. It may be easier for large-scale, commercial chefs to keep inventory—but why not provide access to exactly the kind of small-scale, personalized attention that makes them famous in the first place?
Cotton-tailed dorks at work? Get in their way and they’ll go home with the style guide from the Upper East Side Baby and Three.
For inspiration, a lot of creative places offer demos or workshops with attractive hosts and models as artful assistants, but you may want to drop by a real studio where the aesthetic is your muse.
To find dozens of ideas of places to visit and things to do, check out our 2014 Smashing Ideas guide here.
This article appears in the April 2014 issue of The Washingtonian.