Monday, October 2, 2017

October News 2017

October News

The year may be winding soon down soon, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the line-up of activity we have planned for this fall! October is full of workshops, our family favorite trick-or-treating event, and a show of new original paintings by Jennifer Sharp.

There are several openings in our October workshops, including Blacksmithing Historic Courting Candles, Outdoor Photography, Abstract Mixed Media, Cloud Painting, and more! For the full line-up and additional details, visit us online at

Join Jennifer Sharp on Sunday, October 15th from 3-5 p.m., for the opening reception of her exhibit Speak Up: The America I Want For Our Children’s Future. The exhibit will run October 16th to the 28th in the Cabinet Shop on the Shake Rag Alley campus and is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

October means trick-or-treating at Shake Rag Alley! Put on your wildest costume and stop by after the Mineral Point Halloween Parade. From 5-7 p.m., children of all ages will meet friendly (not scary) costumed characters who will be passing out Halloween treats at each of the Shake Rag historic buildings. This Mineral Point tradition is enjoyable for the entire family and a great way to meet many other free spirits and check out their wacky get-ups!

Be sure to save the date for Ragtime at Shake Rag Alley! Join us on Saturday, November 18th from 7-10 p.m. at the Lind Pavilion. This fall fundraiser will feature music by the Larry Busch Band so be prepared to tap your feet, hum along and swing your partner. There will be light refreshments, a cash bar, and a 50-50 raffle. Dance skills a little rusty? No problem! Mary Kay Engelke will offer a 45-minute dance lesson at 6 p.m. for $5/per couple. Tickets are available online now, or by calling the Shake Rag Alley office.

And lastly, don’t miss the Fall Art Tour, returning to our region on October 20-23. This tour allows visitors to access artists’ studios tucked away in the scenic hills in and around Wisconsin’s art communities of Baraboo, Spring Green, Dodgeville, and Mineral Point.  For more information, visit

Monday, August 14, 2017

August News 2017

What better way to end your summer than a visit to Shake Rag Alley? Whether you come for a workshop, to stroll the grounds, or a stay in one of our lodging facilities, time spent on our charming campus is a great way to wrap up your summer!

Register now for Art Adventure, our newest annual retreat weekend, on August 24th-27th. Four days of workshops in collage, assemblage, mixed media jewelry and fiber arts, altered books, cement mosaic and more. Immerse yourself in art making, connect with other art adventurers, and explore the charming art community here in Mineral Point. Check out the workshops with remaining spaces online!

Be sure to save the date for our Summer Garage Sale, August 18th and 19th at the Shake Rag Alley Lind Pavilion, 411 Commerce St, Mineral Point. Items for sale include:
  • Antique and vintage furniture: burled walnut commode; late 1960s bedroom set (dark wood headboard, dresser, night stand); relatively new two-shelf 30" square side table; bookcase
  • Vintage rugs, throws, quilts, and household items
  • Children's Desk/Drafting Table
  • Senior Care items including a rolling walker with seat
  • Tools, pet furnishings, various walking and hiking sticks, art/craft supplies, salvaged lumber - many items priced under $1

And finally, be sure to check out the line-up of workshops coming up at the brand new Printmaking Retreat, happening on September 28th-October 1st.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Sculpt with Polymer Clay
Sculptor and Storyteller Maureen Carlson is coming to Shake Rag Alley for two classes, Thursday - Friday, August 10 - 11 and Saturday - Sunday, August 12 - 13.

First, on Thursday and Friday, comes a Mixed-Media Figurative Sculpture, then, on the weekend, a Sculpted-Character Walking Stick. Maureen's expertise is in polymer clay sculpture but her passion is all about providing people with techniques and resources for telling their stories through their art. Whether you are an experienced sculptor or a novice, there is something in one of these two classes for you. 
Are you intrigued about learning to sculpt faces, create texture or add interesting surface design? Do you enjoy the process of combining techniques and materials to create one-of-a-kind works of art? Maureen's classes include easy-to-follow step-by-step instruction, tips and tricks for working with both polymer clay and Apoxie Sculpt, methods for safely attaching elements together as well as encouragement to explore personal expression.
Maureen has more than 25 years of experience in simplifying the sculpting process so that even beginners can understand the steps for creating sculptural works.  Imagine the satisfaction of rolling a supple ball of clay round and round in your hand. Then feel the magic of transforming that lump of clay into a character face or an almost real leaf to create either a character walking stick or an interactive sculpture. Treat yourself to this interactive experience.
Sign up now. Registration closes on July 31.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

July News

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July News

Woodlander's Gathering

There is just a bit of time to register for our annual
Woodlanders Gathering
(July 13 – 16). 
Don’t miss out on this
nature-filled fun event!

Point Five Concert

In the middle of the Woodlanders Gathering, local band Point Five will be playing their annual concert on Alley Stage on Saturday, July 15.  Concert begins at 7:30. Come and enjoy some great acoustic music. 

Art Adventure

There is plenty of time to register for Art Adventure, our newest annual workshop retreat weekend, happening on August 24th-27th. Four full days of mixed media workshops!  Whether an art veteran, or a complete novice, you will find lots of opportunities to stretch your wings and try something new and exciting. Art Adventure is packed with a wide range of arts and crafts mediums. Come for as many days as you like, take as many or as few workshops as you wish. Immerse yourself in art making, connect with other art adventurers, explore the charming art community of Mineral Point, and experience the magic of Shake Rag Alley, "the place that inspires creativity."

Printmaking Retreat

Save the date for our Printmaking Retreat,
September 28th - October 1st. 

Stop By and Visit!

Don’t forget, our grounds are always open to walk through, so bring the family down and enjoy a picnic on the beautiful Shake Rag Alley campus!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

June News

June presents plenty of opportunities to pay us a visit here at Shake Rag Alley. The grounds (which are always open to the public to walk through) are bursting with greenery and color - and of course, the usual hum of fairy energy we normally hear this time of year!

Tour of Fairy Homes
The annual Tour of Fairy Homes returns on Saturday, June 17th from 9am-5pm. This year’s tour promises lovely fairy dwellings of all shapes and sizes; fairy abodes will once again be scattered around the magical grounds of Shake Rag Alley for you to find! The self-guided tour is free for children 11 and under. The price of admission is $5 for everyone else. You can bid on the homes in a silent auction or build your own for $20. Also returning this year is decorating your own Fairy Wand! $3 will grant you a magical wand and access to the Shake Rag vault of sparkly thingamabobs. For more information, visit the website.

Summer Youth Program
As you are making summer plans, don’t forget to check out the line-up of Summer Youth classes. There are many new classes to choose from this year, in addition to old favorites! Visit the website for more information and to view descriptions of all youth classes.

Woodlanders Rustic Arts
Last but certainly not least, save the date for our annual Woodlanders Gathering, returning on July 13th-16th! Choose from over 40 nature-based workshops at this event known by many as ‘summer camp for adults.’

Don’t forget to visit the whole line-up of Summer classes at! We hope to see you on our magical campus!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Mining For Story, A Spring Retreat for Writers

Stories. Our stories. What better way is there to get to know one another, to stand together, to understand our world, than to share our stories?
Over the last few years, I have had the remarkable opportunity to facilitate a variety of writing workshops at Shake Rag Alley in the picturesque town of Mineral Point, Wisconsin. In Shake Rag’s historic Cabinet Shop and Potters House and Ellery House, I have listened to the tales told by emerging and established writers, I have shared my own. I have helped writers of all levels put words to the stories they hold dear.

I am so excited to have been invited to help develop this spring’s Mining for Story, Shake Rag Alley’s inaugural retreat for writers. In consultation with the founders, staff, and volunteers of Shake Rag Alley, and with past workshop participant’s comments in hand, my colleagues and I (award-winning authors and college teachers) have developed a program of supportive, generative, immersive and accessible writing workshops.

Mining for Story is a jam-packed retreat with comprehensive workshops in fiction, memoir, and writing for young people, combined with brief seminars and introductions to blogging, self-publishing, handmade books and individual manuscript consultations. Over three days, writers will move from “Breaking Ground,” to “Digging In,” to “Excavation.” Each day will provide opportunities for further community building including shared meals, panel discussions, participant and instructor readings, and other gatherings.

The pretty and peaceful grounds of Shake Rag Alley, the handsome and art filled small town of Mineral Point, the surrounding historical mining area, will provide the perfect setting for a gathering of writers in pursuit of inspiration, community, audience, instruction, professional development, and story. Writers of all levels (from very first-timer to established scribe) are welcome. Registration is open now, but space is limited.

I do hope you will join us!
Write on,

Patricia Ann McNair
Author, The Temple of Air, winner: Chicago Writers’ Association Book of the Year, Southern Illinois University’s Devil’s Kitchen Readers Award, Society of Midland Authors Finalist in Fiction
Associate Professor, Undergraduate and Graduate Studies
Columbia College Chicago, Creative Writing Department

Friday, January 20, 2017

Polymer Clay at Shake Rag Alley

Polymer Clay is one of the most fascinating and versatile craft mediums around. Artists use it to make items ranging from jewelry to sculpture and even use it to create bas relief on canvas. Polymer clay artists are equally versatile and very creative, making sophisticated and magical works with a media that was originally manufactured as a children's toy. Now you can see works in Polymer Clay exhibited in art museums and in a permanent collection at the Racine Art Museum.

We are lucky to have three nationally known and two regional artists teaching workshops this year. Click on their names to read their bios and link to their workshops.

Kate Church from Nova Scotia, describes her work as "Combining the line and form of sculpture with the playful animation of puppetry. I began to teach others what I have taught myself: a method and approach to building sculptural character. Fueled by the enthusiasm of the students, I facilitate everything from discovering a new art form to finding the confidence to tackle a career."
Kate will be teaching "Building Sculptural Character" in September.  She will show YOU how to have fun building unique character, sculpting with polymer clay and cloth over lively wire armatures, producing a figure with a unique life of its own. 

Maureen Carlson
from Jordan Minnesota, has been working with polymer clay since 1979, creating her charming and magical "Wee Folk" as well as creating a business providing books, videos, and push molds for other aspiring doll makers. She has a talent for story telling and inspiring the imagination, as well as a talent for teaching techniques.
Maureen will be teaching two classes with us in August: Stackables: A Mixed Media Figurative Sculpture, and Sculpted-Character Walking Stick. In the Stackable class you will get to use some of Maureen's famous push molds, and in Walking Stick you will learn to sculpt a face from scratch.

Carol Simmons, from Colorado Springs,  is well known for her intricately detailed work and outstanding use of color. She has taught for 15 years and has a piece in the permanent collection of the Racine Art Museum. She trained as a botanist and ecologist, and her approach to teaching color and design is very clear and logical. Carol will be teaching her technique for Mokume Gane in October. You will learn much about color, and make your own impression plate for the technique. She also has a very informative blog sharing a lot about her techniques and resources.

Kim Geiser is our neighbor from northeast Wisconsin. She is adept in illustration, mixed media,assemblage, polymer clay, jewelry making and more. Kim has published work in dozens of books and magazines and currently has a book deal with North Light books for her first book (January 2017), and you can watch her in Northeast Wisconsin on “Good Day Wisconsin” Fox 11 where she shares thrifty craft ideas. Kim will be teaching polymer clay pendents in August as part of the Art Adventure retreat.

Cheryl Smeja, from here in Mineral Point, is one of the original group of founders of Shake Rag Alley. She made a living selling sculpted leather masks and wall art, and then retired from production craft to pursue all the other crafts she has been interested in, and to help build the art center. She works on curriculum, the web site, and other internet marketing. Her workshop combines skills with wire, polymer clay, and resin.

If you have never worked with polymer clay, or if it has been a while, we hope you'll give it a try. With such a versatile product there is something here for everyone.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Visiting Jewelry Instructors 2017

Since putting together a permanent and well equipped jewelry studio, we've been working on bringing in some instructors each year who are nationally known in their areas of jewelry crafting. Once we get them here and get a class together, they have been willing to come and teach again. They tell us they like the studio, appreciate our hospitality, and love our town. I like the opportunity to learn from these master craftspeople face to face in a quiet setting with a small class size. Once you take a class from these folks you realize that they are not just good at their craft, but are excellent at teaching. I have also enjoyed meeting the students these instructors attract from all over the county and quite a few from Canada!

This year we have scheduled four visiting jewelry instructors with national reputations.

Carol Simmons

Carol is our first visiting jewelry instructor whom we met in 2011 when she needed a place to accommodate students who were wait-listed for a class she taught at Maureen Carlson's studio in Minnesota. We were thrilled to invite her here, and she has returned every year since. Being our first, Carol taught us a lot about what is needed to accommodate instructors and students who fly here and stay for a while, and she is adept at creating a casual retreat atmosphere. She will be teaching her unique Mokume-Gane technique for polymer clay which you can slice using our Simmons Slicer.

Sarah Thompson
We found Sarah while searching for an instructor who did not just wire wrapping or wire weaving, but combined it with forging and layering techniques to create the more intricate pieces being done mostly in Europe. When we spoke, she had not yet taught outside of the state of Washington, and her first book was about to be published. Talk about luck! This will be her third year with us, and about half her class was filled before she left here last year. She is incredibly patient and organized, as I guess a Mom with five kids must be. She will be making three pieces again this year.

Richard Salley

Richard is a friend of one of our board members, Lorraine Reynolds, who is a mixed media instructor at some of the same Art Retreats where he has taught. He came to us for the first time last year, and students who came were happy to find a place closer to home to learn in a smaller size class. It is amazing the level of work Richard can get you to do, even if you're a little scared. I personally made some rIngs that I never would have tackled on my own. This year we'll get to make our own stamping tools, and a silver and leathercuff that could be great for a man as well as women.

Jeff Fulkerson

This will be Jeff's first year and we are looking forward to meeting him. We have followed his work in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine, and have seen him associated with many of the best Art and Jewelry retreats and venues in the country. This year he will be teaching a piece with a bezel set stone mounted on another bezel set stone, and include a tube set stone on surrounding forged silver wire. Whew! I can't wait. He is also a lapidary craftsman and will be bringing some of his own cut cabochons.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Shake Rag Alley Welcomes 2017 Winter Writers Series

Kick Off Event:

Wednesday, January 18th @ 7pm

Shake Rag Alley’s Lind Pavilion
411 Commerce St.
Mineral Point, WI 53565

Since 2011 Shake Rag Alley has partnered with the Council for Wisconsin Writers (CWW), Wisconsin People & Ideas, and the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission through the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters to offer week-long residencies to their annual writing contest winners. During their stay, the writers participate in workshops, readings and community outreach activities.

The series will kick off on Wednesday, January 18 with the 2016 winner of the Wisconsin People and Ideas poetry contest, Karen Loeb. When asked to describe what we can expect, Karen wrote, 'My presentation will be a craft talk, where I'll read some poetry and fiction and talk about how I make decisions about which genre to write in. I will also welcome questions from people in the audience.' Samples of her work, including her award winning poem "In the Science Museum," can be found at

This event takes place at 7pm at Shake Rag Alley’s Lind Pavilion, located at 411 Commerce St. Participation is free and no registration is required.

Don’t miss upcoming events in the 2017 series:
  • March 8th John Gurda, 2015 Norbert Blei/ August Derleth Nonfiction Book Award
  • March 15th Ronnie Hess, 2015 Kay W. Levin Short Nonfiction Award 
  • March 29th Allison Slavick, 2016 Fiction Contest Winner

For more information on the Winter Writer’s Series, visit our website.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Thursday Tip - Wrapped Loop Above a Bead

The Wrapped Loop is a staple of jewelry wire working. Extremely useful for hanging a bead on an earring or dangling a pendant from a necklace.

When studio jeweler and former Art Jewelry magazine associate editor Jill Erickson started teaching at Shake Rag Alley in 2015 she sent us this terrific tutorial for our monthly newsletter. 

With Shake Rag's Beads and Bangles weekend coming up on May 21 & 22, it seemed the perfect time to share this technique to get you into the jewelry making mood.

Jill has over twenty years of experience teaching art classes to students of all ages. She earned her MA and MFA degrees in painting and drawing and uses those disciplines as a foundation for her 3-D wearable art jewelry. Jill incorporates found objects and various media in her pieces -- natural history and story-telling are recurring themes in her work. Visit her website at

We love Jill's jewelry projects. They're always so fresh and current. Check out what she has in store for this year's Beads and Bangles:

Double-Wrap Leather Bracelet
Saturday, May 21, 2016, 9am-noon

Coin Mosaic Pendant
Saturday, May 21, 2016, 1-4pm

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