On a Sunday morning in St. Louis Park, I watched a picture frame undergo a Cinderella-like transition. Starting with a $2 wood frame from Goodwill and a small jar of chalk paint, I quickly worked it into a stylish jewel-tone piece. Guiding me through this transformation was Ann Hayes, the bubbly and attentive instructor at the St. Louis Park location of Mama’s Happy; Hayes teaches classes at Mama’s Happy’s other locations, too. The store is one of several locations across the Twin Cities that sells goods made by local women and holds classes for those eager to learn how to make crafts of their own.
“For a lot of women, this is their primary source of income, for others it’s a hobby, but for all of us, it’s a creative outlet,” says Hayes, who sells refurbished furniture at the store in addition to teaching classes.
The Mama’s Happy stores are stocked full of homemade goods of every category and style, from original clothing to re-upholstered furniture to painted decorations. The shop also allows those interested in boosting their creative skills to come in and get a hands-on learning experience at one of their popular classes. One trend that they’ve capitalized on is chalk paint, a fast-drying, malleable paint that allows crafters to make anything from furniture to fabric appear brand-new.
“People who have no experience with the paint can do it so easily,” says Hayes, reflecting on the popularity of chalk paint as a medium. “Chalk paint will adhere to just about anything: metal, wood, fabric, and more!”
Mama’s Happy offers several classes that cater to chalk painters, including the popular Chalk Paint 101, a class on cabinet refinishing, and BYOP (Bring Your Own Piece). Chalk Paint 101 takes students through the various painting techniques and styles available with chalk paint, while BYOP lets attendees transform their own piece under the instruction of Mama’s Happy’s staff. The classes use Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, a specific paint created by artist Annie Sloan and renowned throughout the world.
Hayes loves watching the ways that students use the paint (which costs $38 per quart) to update pieces and to hear the stories behind the projects.
“People always have a little story behind the pieces, whether it’s something inherited from a grandparent or something they found at a garage sale,” she says.
Elizabeth Dunbar, a fellow student at the BYOP class I attended, brought in a piece that fit into the latter category. She found an intricate wooden chandelier on Craigslist a few years ago and decided to purchase it with the intention of someday fixing it up. When her husband bought her admission to the class as a Christmas gift, she knew it was the perfect opportunity to update the chandelier and to take a bit of time to herself to create.
“My husband knew I was interested in refinishing furniture; I had this chandelier in the basement and two kids at home, so this class helped me get started,” says Dunbar. “I find it really relaxing and fun.”
The St. Louis Park Mama’s Happy recently moved to a new location on West 36th St., with room for a gift shop and a workshop for additional classes. The gift shop houses pieces from vendors selling anything from picture frames.
“I’m super-excited to have my own paint room and workshop area,” says Hayes. “The new space allows us to offer more classes, more frequently.”
Hayes anticipates the move will bring new classes to Mama’s Happy, including painting, sign classes, stencil classes and, potentially, sewing classes. “It’s wonderful that everything is handmade, and worked by women who live right in our community,” says Hayes. “It’s an amazing group of women to work with.”
Mama’s Happy locations offer a variety of classes to help students take their painting and crafting skills home. Classes are offered nights, weekends, and days throughout each month. Visit mamashappy.com for more information about the chalk paint and signing up for workshops.
Mama’s Happy in SLP has a new home
5630 W. 36th St.