By Joe Hadsall
As the final days of the holidays approach, last-minute shoppers might consider a gift that keeps on giving throughout the year — a new hobby. “From scrapbooking to art, try buying a class and let them take what they want, and see where it goes,” said Joe Donahue, manager of Michaels in Joplin. “You’d be surprised at the amount of people who never would have done something if it wasn’t for a class.”
Michaels, Spiva Center for the Arts and other artistically minded places around the region offer classes in a number of things that could become habit-forming.
If crafts aren’t up someone’s alley, maybe a game is — and there’s plenty of ways to get hooked on games around the region, too.
From making jewelry to blinging up blue jeans, beading gets a lot of attention these days. The bead section is one of the closest things to the front door at Michaels for a reason, Donahue said.
“We just added a second beading instructor,” Donahue said. “Beading is starting to really take off.”
Beading is appealing to creative fashionistas who want to design their own embellishments or crafting-conscious artisans who enjoy making pretty things, Donahue said. Beaders make a variety of jewelry, from necklaces to rings, and also embellish everything from jeans to purses.
While the end results differ, beaders use the same materials, Donahue said. The store also offers several beading classes and parties, where like-minded artists can meet and learn from each other.
Getting started in beading can be done for as little as about $20 for a starter kit.
Though some suggest cupcakes are on the way out, decorating those and bigger, full-sized cakes is not.
Michaels offers similar classes and starting kits that begin at about $20. The gifts could be perfect for those who watch cooking programs on cable networks.
Fans of video games might appreciate a game played in real life, with a community of other players. For almost 20 years, the makers of Magic: The Gathering have provided such a system.
“When a new expansion has come out, I’ve had more than 100 paid attendees for a pre-release tournament,” said John Davidson, owner of Changing Hands Book Shoppe. “I usually have at least eight or 10 people playing every week.”
Magic: The Gathering is the first collectible card game of its kind. Players choose different cards and construct a deck that they use against other players.
The game is perfect for people who enjoy casual gaming, and has a relatively inexpensive starting point — Davidson said a good kit with a couple of playable decks starts at around $20.
Other, more complicated games can get expensive quickly, such as Warhammer 40,000, a tabletop miniature war game where players collect armies of troops and vehicles and fight across massive battle scenes. A starter kit for the game is about $100, Davidson said.
But both games, and others available, have built-in communities similar to crafting circles, Davidson said.
“You have to play these games against live opponents, and you have to have a neutral ground,” Davidson said. “It works out to be a social thing. The players are a community here.”
Another component of Warhammer 40,000 is the pieces, which are intricate miniatures. Players develop a second hobby of painting them in a variety of ways.
Davidson said some players go for a complete, fresh off of the assembly line style, where others paint on battle damage and other wear.
“There’s more or less a competition there,” Davidson said. “They try to be not necessarily the best, but the most original.”
But modeling doesn’t require an accompanying game, Donahue said. Plenty of modeling fans build planes, cars and other vehicles.
Though models may make good presents, it’s important to consider the skill level required, Donahue said.
“If you get someone a huge battleship and they don’t have the temperament for it, they will burn out,” Donahue said. “Best to start with a simple one and grow from there.”
Modeling may also make a good all-ages gift, if the model matches their interest.