Curating Creativity

October 2018 View more

By Annemarie Mannion

cozy fireplace, rugged farm tables, and a yellow bike parked outside with a basket of red geraniums set the tone for creativity at the WorkBench DIY Studios, a business started by Naperville resident Erica Rowlands.

The possibilities are endless at the studio, which offers 60 different paint colors and six types of stains. Customers make wood pallet signs, canvas tapestries or totes, pillows, and even bottle openers. Customized stencils provide a foolproof method for creating a personalized, handcrafted home decor items.

Wood pallet signs are the shop’s most popular project. Customers are supplied with a fresh plank of wood and other materials. For a distressed look—and a good workout—they can attack the wood with a hammer, chisel, or meat tenderizer. The next step is to apply the quick-drying paint, followed, if desired, by whitewash or dry brushing, and then by the stencil.

It takes about 2∏ hours from start to finish, and projects range in cost from $49 to $70 (or $35 for a youth project). 

Here’s what Rowlands, a former television journalist, has to say about her burgeoning business.

How did the WorkBench DIY Studios get started?
I’ve been creating custom wood signs as gifts for many years, and decided to channel that passion into a new business. I always knew that I would open a boutique someday, but, with the creation of the WorkBench DIY Studios, I wanted to give customers options.

What are those options?
Customers can come in and make an item themselves, have us make it for them, or purchase items from our boutique. In addition to our workshops, we have a full boutique of home decor. We also offer nationwide shipping, and Realtors from as far away as California are ordering our custom signs as closing gifts for their clients.

What projects can customers make?
There are over 200 projects in our gallery—from wood pallet signs and centerpiece boxes to canvas tapestries and pillows. The options are really endless, because we custom-design everything here in our studio. Because we are do-it-yourself, we’re really open to trying new things and enjoy working with customers on their custom projects.

Why does this appeal to customers?
It’s a lot of fun and everyone leaves with a project they made themselves. People enjoy a glass of wine or beer while our talented employees lead them through the process step by step. Whether you’re alone or with a group of friends, everyone has a great time.   

Are projects easy to make?
Our motto is “no experience needed.” There are definitely projects that are more challenging, but all of it is designed for someone with no experience to leave with something that they can’t wait to display in their home or give as a gift.

What are your private parties like?
Our studio is beautiful and makes for the perfect backdrop for any party. From youth to adult parties, we provide all the materials, music, and fun. We can accommodate up to 30 people for parties. Many people like to bring food or snacks. Naperville doesn’t allow BYOB, but we also offer reasonably priced wine and beer.

How does making something make customers feel about themselves?
There is nothing like the pride you feel when you’ve made something yourself. The best part of every workshop is seeing the smiles on people’s faces when they see their finished projects. Some people come in feeling a bit anxious about the process, but we make sure everyone leaves happy and with a feeling of accomplishment.

The WorkBench DIY Studio is located at 2960 Artesian Road, Naperville,