Learn Something New in Los Angeles: Winter 2017

Photo courtesy of The Knitting Tree, Facebook

It is a generally accepted fact that new year’s resolutions, no matter how well-intentioned, are ultimately a recipe for failure. Why not forego them altogether this year and instead, resolve to learn something new. Here are eight great options in Los Angeles.

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Instructor Workshop | Photo courtesy of Adam's Forge

Blacksmithing: Adam’s Forge

If you thought blacksmithing was reserved for Game of Thrones, check out Adam’s Forge, where the ancient practice is still going strong. First timers are required to take one of their discovery classes, which owner Heather McLarty calls “our gateway drug.” The four-hour classes are offered several times a month. Students learn how to work safely with steel heated to 2,000 degrees (give or take a few) and come away with a barn hook or bottle opener they made themselves. After that, there are all kinds of opportunities - you can make your own tool, knife, axe, and much more.

2640 N. San Fernando Rd, Los Angeles 

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Bread class | Photo courtesy of The King's Roost, Facebook

Bread Baking: The King’s Roost

Roe Sie is, in his words, a “former corporate PR guy.” Then he started gardening, keeping chickens, making soap, and milling his own flour for bread. Now he shares his knowledge at his curated farm store, The King’s Roost. His bread making classes are by far the most popular. Students start by eating slices of warm whole wheat bread slathered with butter they churn themselves. “That gets everyone into bread mode,” says Sie. Then they mill their own flour. Everyone leaves with a dough ball, a proofing basket, a 40-year-old sourdough leaven, and lots of new knowledge about what to do with all these goodies. Though bakers of all skill levels are welcome, Sie says he actually prefers working with people who have never baked a loaf of bread. After all, he says, “For current bakers, you have to unlearn everything. It’s a whole different world with freshly milled flour.”

3732 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles

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Congas 101 at REMO Recreational Music Center | Photo courtesy of Ronnie Gutierrez, Facebook

Drums: Congas 101 with Ronnie Gutierrez

Not everyone is born with the rhythm of Poncho Sánchez. But rhythm can be taught. Professional percussionist Ronnie Gutierrez is an exceptional teacher, able to make novices feel like they know what they're doing, while simultaneously pushing experienced players to learn more challenging rhythms. He offers his hour-long Congas 101 class most Tuesday nights at the REMO Recreational Music Center in North Hollywood. Drums are provided and the price ($15/class) is right. It is very low key and there’s a terrific sense of camaraderie among the students. Do check the schedule in advance. Gutierrez is a sought after professional player who does the occasional Tuesday night gig. He also sometimes mixes things up and does a rudiments class instead of congas. These are the patterns that make up most rock and jazz percussion.

7308 Coldwater Canyon Ave., North Hollywood

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Wedding centerpiece class | Photo courtesy of Flower Duet, Facebook

Flower Arranging: Flower Duet

Every student leaves the Saturday morning classes at Flower Duet with a beautiful arrangement they made themselves. But the classes, which are taught by one of the owners—sisters Casey Schwartz and Kit Wertz—offer much more than simply how to put stems in a vase. According to Schwartz, they cover how to identify if flowers are fresh and long lasting, for example, and what blooms work well together. Each class features a model arrangement. Students proceed step by step to create something similar. “Not that you have to match ours exactly,” says Schwartz. “Everyone has their own slight, personal twist.” Men take the class too and apparently have an edge on women on knowing when to edit their creations. Some students add on an early morning tour of the Flower Mart in Downtown L.A. (there's an additional fee). The two-hour adventure, which begins at 7 a.m., includes a 90-minute guided tour as well as a half hour to go shopping.

2675 Skypark Dr. Suite 205, Torrance

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Photo courtesy of Upright Citizens Brigade, Facebook

Improv: Upright Citizens Brigade

Many actors take the terrifically popular eight-session Improv 101 class at Upright Citizens Brigade. But professionals who want to improve their public speaking also sign up. So do “friends who dared each other to do it because it sounds scary,” says academic supervisor Johnny Meeks. “There’s a skydiving quality.” People try it to overcome their fear. To counter that fear factor, Meeks says teachers make support among students the most important takeaway. Students dive in the very first day with silly games that encourage opening up such as “Pet Peeve Rant,” where the teacher directs a chorus of students to let loose with their pet peeves. Classes, each three hours long, are capped at 16, so everyone gets plenty of stage time.

5419 W. Sunset Blvd., 2nd Floor, Los Angeles

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Photo courtesy of The Knitting Tree, Facebook

Knitting: The Knitting Tree

Annette Corsino-Blair teaches all the beginning classes at her shop, The Knitting Tree, which recently moved from Culver City into much larger digs in Inglewood. She used to teach kids, so she is extremely patient. But she also has a knack for getting even those who have never touched needles before into the knitting groove. “I will have you knitting in 30 minutes,” she insists. Classes are sold in four-part series offered Tuesday and Saturday afternoons and are capped at six students, ensuring plenty of one-on-one attention. And you need not take the classes consecutively, come when it’s convenient. Students typically make a hat, a scarf and a shawl. If you get hooked, you may become a regular at the weekly events. Wednesday night, for example, The Knitting Tree provides salad greens and everyone who comes brings a salad topper. “A big part of our store is community,” says Corsino-Blair.

1031 W. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood

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Paint and Party | Photo courtesy of Randall Williams, Facebook

Painting: Paint and Party with Randall Williams

For adults who may not have sat down to make art since they were kids, a painting class may sound intimidating. But add an enthusiastic teacher who gives detailed, step-by-step directions on everything from what paint brush to use for a particular effect to the exact color and stroke, along with a little (optional) alcohol, and it suddenly seems easy. According to artist Randall Williams, who started his Paint and Party gatherings about ten years ago, students are “blown away” when they finish their canvases. The parties take place nearly every Monday night at the Burbank Moose Lodge. An open bar (and more often than not, a live band) are included with the reasonable $30 fee. Williams teaches a new image each week, which he shares in advance on his Facebook page, so you can make sure it's something that resonates with you and that you might even want to display in your home.

1901 Burbank Blvd., Burbank

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Photo courtesy of Impact Personal Safety, Facebook

Self Defense: Impact Personal Safety

Self defense is one of those things that remains on people’s to-do lists for a long time, sometimes forever. Impact Personal Safety makes it really simple to check off. Their three-hour intro workshops cover the most common stranger situations and how to get out of them, says founder Lisa Gaeta. Students learn three primary defenses: knee to groin, palm to face, and knee to head. And they practice these moves on instructors wearing what they call armor—think Michelin Man suit—so that students can go hard. They also talk discuss avoidance techniques. “It’s definitely empowering,” says Gaeta.

Multiple locations, including the Valley 
Impact: 310.360.1096
Southern California Taekwondo Center
4454 Van Nuys Blvd, Suite 106A, Sherman Oaks
SoCal TKD: 818.907.5744