A weather-proof summer solution
With how much rain Chicago’s been getting, planning weather-proof activities may be the thing to do this summer. Fortunately we’ve found just the place, Bottle & Bottega.
What is it Bottle & Bottega doesn’t offer your typical art classes. They organize BYOB “art parties” where you paint along with a professional artist and go home with something to hang up on your wall.
Who started it Stephanie King-Myers, 37, is the daughter of a French artist and has been painting her whole life, often replicating the work of others. Her husband, Nick, attended art school and mostly works with pencil and charcoal. Art was always more of a passion than a profession for the two of them, but that all changed in 2009 when they both got laid off from their jobs at a luxury spa network.
“A couple weeks later a friend of ours came over and we were painting,” King-Myers says. “She’d never painted before and told us how jealous she was that we could do it.” Convinced it was easy, King-Myers and her husband told their friend to print something she’d like to paint. Then they opened a bottle of wine and set her up with a canvas and paintbrush. “Her painting turned out great,” King-Myers says. “We thought, what a great idea this is.”
It turned out the concept already existed in several states and similar businesses were popping up everywhere. King-Myers knew they were on to something, so she started Bottles & Brushes with her husband playing a supportive role. The business was mobile and included private events at people’s homes and public events at local venues. But soon enough, King-Myers met Nancy Bigley who became co-owner and helped the company, now Bottle & Bottega, open its doors in Lakeview this March.
“We’re still the only ones in Chicago so far,” she says.
How it works The three-hour events range from BYOB studio parties to couple’s nights, kid’s parties, fundraisers, bachelorette parties – with optional nude models – and now, mosaics. A typical night has anywhere from a minimum of five to a maximum of 65 people and is led by local artists, with one artist for every 10 to 12 people.
The first half hour is devoted to mingling, enjoying light snacks and opening your bottle of wine, something King-Myers calls “uncorking your creativity.”
“A glass or two is all you need to feel more comfortable and a little braver,” she says. “It’s intimidating to look at a blank canvas or a piece of artwork that you think looks difficult.”
For the remainder of the time, participants follow along with a local artist teacher who shows them how to mix colors, draw the basic shapes and build upon them – all with a glass of wine nearby. For those who want something different, there is the option of replicating one of the paintings on the walls or in the art book.
“Everyone has an inner artist, even people who struggle with stick figures,” King-Myers says. “One of our greatest challenges is letting people know that there is absolutely no experience needed.”
But if someone is struggling or frustrated, the teachers are happy to help. Walking out unsatisfied “very, very, very rarely happens,” she says. “Everyone is always surprised.”
Why we like it There’s wine, nice people, soothing music and a beautifully decorated and colorful studio whose large street view windows evoke the feeling of painting outdoors. As if that’s not enough, the experience is therapeutic and provides the opportunity to exercise a part of the brain that often gets neglected sitting in front of a computer all day.
In the end, it doesn’t even matter if you get dirty or color outside the lines because you will walk away with something that holds personal meaning and can be hung in your home.
“Watching people who thought that they didn’t have an artistic bone in their bodies realize that they’re capable of something creative,” King-Myers says, “is an empowering thing.”
Details Classes are offered almost every day for around $35. Check their website to see the schedule and register for an event.