Ahead of the Curve

Where to Find a New Hobby in Southwest Florida

Ever try throwing a pot or building a birdhouse? Here's where you can pick up on a new skill.

BY May 16, 2018


I want you to take a minute right now to consider your skill set. What are you good at? In fact, let’s not even worry about whether you’re good at something or not. What can you do? (And yes, other than make restaurant reservations and drink wine.) I ask only because once you’ve nestled into life in Southwest Florida, you may find your days filled with little 

more than mornings of golf, afternoon naps and evenings (and livers) filled with Beaujolais. On the surface, that sounds pretty good. Especially if you still are working a full-time job in Akron, Ohio. But it gets old quickly. And so will you.

Studies have shown that if you keep learning, you fight off the aging process—or at least slow it down. That beats the alternative.

And while it’s fine just to sit and relax and not do anything for a while, having a hobby that you enjoy is worth its weight in gold. (OK, myrrh.) So let’s build some skill sets and make our lives even more fulfilling.


You’d be surprised by how many people want to quilt. I know I was stunned. However, it is a time-honored tradition that harkens back to the dawn of scrap fabric, and one that truly became folk art during the time of American colonization. And now, here we are, in our golden years, realizing the only thing we’ve given our kids is our father’s hairline and a late-model Mazda Miata. What the kids will truly appreciate is a three-layered stitched bed covering that you made with your own two hands. Luckily, there are a large number of quilt shops locally, and most of them have classes to teach you the ins and outs of design and stitching. Quilt Lovers Hangout in North Fort Myers has classes from beginner to advanced, while Flash Sew and Quilt has locations in both Fort Myers and Naples. Check them out for class prices. quiltlovershangout.com, flashsewandquilt.com


If you’ve ever seen the movie Ghost, you know that throwing pots can be one of the most romantic things possible. And if you’ve seen the movie War of the Roses, you know that throwing vases can expedite divorce. What we learn from this is that it’s better to make than to break. And if you’ve ever wanted to make something that’ll put your high school art class ashtray to shame, you should try a pottery/ceramics class. Clay More Ceramics in Naples offers wheel classes and hand-building classes that will give you the confidence to create the vase, pot, dish, bowl, plate of your dreams. And once you get your skills down, you can then visit during open studio hours and freewheel it. Also check out the Centers for the Arts Bonita Springs. claymoreceramics.com, artcenterbonita.org


Let’s say you’re throwing a party and want your invitations to look top-notch. The third or fourth (maybe fifth) thing any party planner will tell you is to do your own calligraphy. Nothing says “classy” like the hand-penned swoop of a capital letter. Admit it: When you get an invitation with calligraphy, you seriously consider accepting. It certainly beats those cut-out block letters associated with ransom notes I get in the mail constantly. And best of all, you can take classes in the art of calligraphy right here. Naples Art Association regularly offers them, as does the Centers for the Arts Bonita Springs. naplesart.org, artcenterbonita.org


OK, so maybe you don’t really care about quilts or pottery or calligraphy or any of the other things that made colonial America great. But one of the skills that brings a smile to everyone’s face is cooking. Whether it be having a signature meatloaf or a braised red snapper over garlic- and ginger-infused oil, cooking classes can help you get there. Best of all, cooking is a skill that will be useful each and every day of your life (not like that calligraphy nonsense we were just talking about). Locally, you can choose from several places that offer classes on a regular basis. Sur la Table, located in Naples at Mercato, offers various classes every day on topics ranging from pasta to northern Thai to knife skills. Most are 2 to 21/2 hours long. Crave Culinaire also offers private classes that give you access to chef Brian Roland. In Fort Myers, Get U Cooking offers classes and cooking parties several times a week for both kids and adults. And speaking of kids, Little Chefs in Training in Fort Myers specifically teaches children how to love cooking, so they finally start pulling their weight around the house. surlatable.com, getucooking.com, craveculinaire.com, littlechefsntraining.com

Craft beer

My parents used to make wine in the basement of our New York home. Though I was too young to really follow the process, it seemed unlikely that they were going to be confused with any member of the Mondavi family. But in the 21st century, basement wine has been replaced by kitchen counter craft beer. And if you’ve been known to enjoy a frothy hop-filled beverage, few things are more satisfying than creating your own booze. In fact, I had an uncle in New York who had kegs of his own homemade brew in his basement. (My family may have had a problem.) Nevertheless, if you’re interested in getting into the liquid amber craze, check out Hangar 41 Brew Shop’s Brew School in Fort Myers. They have everything you need to get started. (They also make wine.) You can also check out BrewStory in Estero, which offers all of the ingredients a home brewer needs to create a foamy beverage. hangar41brewshop.com, esterobrewstory.com


Out of all of the skill sets listed here, none is more universally appreciated than painting. Being able to recreate a bowl of fruit or a sunset without the use of a smartphone camera is truly mindboggling. And the best part is that if you really get into painting, whether it be with oils, acrylics or watercolors, you have a terrific excuse to sit in the same spot all day long pondering strokes and shading and just which loved one is going to be lucky enough to hang this masterpiece on his or her wall. Painting is a fantastic outlet for creative types looking for something that is both empowering and relaxing. From President George W. Bush to Tony Bennett to Grandma Moses, we see it’s never too late to take up the art of painting. And there are numerous classes in Southwest Florida to wet your toes. From the Naples Art Association to the Centers for the Arts Bonita Springs to Alliance for the Arts in Fort Myers, you will find more classes than you know what to do with. naplesart.org, artcenterbonita.org, artinlee.org


Maybe painting is too much for you. After all, you really just want to capture the moment right now and post it to Facebook. In that case, you’re better off learning photography skills and dazzling Instagram with your ability to frame a Jiffy Lube sign against the angry skies of a summer thunderstorm. But just where do you learn to do that? Well, if you happen to be in Cape Coral, the Cape Coral Art League regularly offers digital photography classes, where you’ll learn everything from camera operation and care to shot selection, printing and presentation. They even discuss computer manipulation and graphics. At the Centers for the Arts Bonita Springs, you can take classes in using your mobile device as a camera. The Photography Institute of Naples offers private and group lessons as well as field trip lessons, while the Naples Camera Club offers the opportunity to meet with like-minded photo buffs. capecoralartleague.org, artcenterbonita.org, photoinnaples.com, naplescameraclub.com


Building things with your own two hands is even more satisfying than stealing from a rube. I should know because I’ve built many things that were later stolen. From garden swings to docks to shelving units, I can assure you that creating something from nothing is immensely satisfying. Sure, you could just go to Home Depot or Lowe’s and learn how to build a birdhouse, but why not go big and take real woodworking classes? The Florida School of Woodwork is right up the road in Tampa and offers classes for beginners (and the more advanced). Most require multiple overnights, but you’ll be building things like quilt display racks in no time. schoolofwoodwork.com

I promise that if you get good at any one of these skill sets, not only will your life become richer and more satisfying, but you’ll also make more friends and be even more popular in between naps.

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