The shamanic Tai-Lao people mastered the ikat tie-dye technique centuries ago, weaving a single, continuous silk thread into exquisitely patterned scarves. This three-day class gives the literal ins and outs of the process, from cocoon silk extraction and dye mixing to matching patterns on a traditional standing loom. Three-day class, $173; other weaving and dyeing classes and workshops from $35; rooms from $55 a night. Photo courtesy of Ock Pop Tok.
The Abate Zanetti Glass School has been home to masters of Murano glassblowing for 150 years. Giancarlo Signoretto teaches a five-day primer in the furnace room on how to gather glass from the kiln and use blowing pipes, tweezers, and molds to fashion soft glass into Venetian goblets, plates, and vases. From $900. Photo by Chalkie Davis. This appeared in the September, 2012 issue.
Awamaki’s 10-day tour of the Andean heartland stops in the isolated village of Patacancha, where students learn how to color alpaca wool with natural plant dyes. Two more days are devoted to one-on-one backstrap loom sessions with Quechua weavers whom the nonprofit supports. From $1,499. This appeared in the September, 2012 issue. Photo courtesy of Awamaki.
At Dellatolas Marble Sculpture Studio, students take a page from ancient Greek artisans and chisel locally quarried marble into busts or relief carvings. Workshops of two weeks or longer are held on Tinos island. If your sculptures don’t fit in your suitcase, you can have them shipped home. Workshops from $1,560. Photo courtesy of Dea G Dagli Orti/Age Fotostock. This appeared in the September, 2012 issue.
Artisans of Leisure’s privately guided, 17-day ceramics tour visits potters in 11 towns, including Imbe (known for its rustic Bizen-yaki ceramics) and Hagi (famous for its glazed tea accesories). Hands-on, clay-to-fire sessions can be arranged on request. Guests stay in luxury hotels and traditional ryokan along the way. $32,565. Photo courtesy of Artisans of Leisure. This appeared in the September, 2012 issue.
There are seven of us gathered in an airy second-floor salon of an 18th-century palace on Place Vendome in central Paris. Sunlight streaming through the tall French windows bounces off a long lab table strewn with clusters of jewels of every color and size. As we use magnifying loupes to examine these gemstones—which range from deep blue sapphires to fiery orange spinels to golden heliodore, in sizes up to 30 carats (just bigger than a grape)—we are encouraged to play with them. “Let them speak to you,” our instructor says. (We are on our honor to demur if the jewels say, “Quietly slip me into your pocket.”)
None of us assembled at this workshop are consorts of the Sultan of Brunei, nor are we experts or industry capos. None of us are shoppers, either, or at least not at this moment. We’re a mix of lawyers, consultants, gallery workers, and one journalist (me) with a geeky interest in...