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5 fresh ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Kentucky

Master class on modeling of clay on a potter's wheel In the pottery workshop. High quality photo Shared experiences can cement relationships and create memories that last longer than a box of chocolates. | Photo by Stock.adobe.com

Instead of (or in addition to) the usual Valentine’s Day go-to’s—chocolates, flowers, jewelry—why not go to a class together and try your hands at something new? Kentucky is known for its vibrant artisan and food scenes, so whether you develop new cooking skills to enliven your homemade meals or learn a traditional craft, you’ll remember the experience, deepen your connection, and perhaps even create a piece for your home that becomes a family heirloom. Don’t forget to call ahead to make arrangements.

1. Throw clay, turn bowls, or try both

Tricia Ferrell's studio

The serenity of Tricia Ferrell’s studio allows couples to focus on each other and on the soothing joy of creating with clay. | Photo courtesy Brushy Fork Creek Gallery and Studio

The drive is part of the wonder as you navigate to Crofton for Paul and Tricia Ferrell’s Brushy Fork Creek Gallery and Studio in rural southwestern Kentucky. Dogs will welcome you, and the Ferrells are happy to show you around their organic farm, which includes horses, goats, and chickens, before you head inside the gallery to see Paul’s turned wood bowls and Tricia’s pottery. Then, roll up your sleeves to make one-of-a-kind pieces of your own.

If you have romantic notions about hand-shaping a clay vessel on a potter’s wheel à la Ghost, Tricia will provide gentle guidance. Couples and small groups of duos can also book hand-building classes and invent individual ceramic pieces. Clay creations require firing, glazing, and refiring, and Tricia is happy to finish the process for you and ship your work. But you may find that this peaceful region warrants a return trip.

And then there is the enticement of working with Paul to create a bowl from locally harvested wood. For more than 40 years, he’s been teaching this fine craft at international symposia and woodturning club gatherings, but here, you can appreciate his expertise in a much more private setting as you devote a full day to working on the small, medium-size, or gigantic lathe to turn a log into a forever treasure.

Nearby Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park offers a rustic lodge, campground, hiking trails, and lake to travelers seeking away-from-it-all destinations.

2. Weave in colors that suit your style

The Little Loomhouse

Fun, beginner-friendly classes at The Little Loomhouse in Louisville allow adults to unwind while they weave. | Photo courtesy The Little Loomhouse

Finding just the right textiles for your home can be a fun adventure when you journey to The Little Loomhouse in Louisville to craft your own woven goods. You’ll feel as though you’ve stumbled upon a sweet fairy land as you pull up to this trio of Victorian cabins, snuggled into old oak woodlands on historic Kenwood Hill. Operated by a nonprofit foundation that preserves the legacy of master weaver Lou Tate, The Little Loomhouse is a living museum where you can view weaving and spinning artifacts and finely woven pieces.

You can jump right into a mini-weaving lesson and leave with matching (or not) mug rugs: simple hot beverage coasters. Couples tend to gravitate toward Saturday classes, though, which run 90 minutes to 2 hours and introduce spinning or weaving skills or focus on creating an end product, such as a rag runner or place mats for your dining room table. Instructors can also schedule custom classes for couples who have their own projects in mind. You’ll find the clickety-clack of the looms and the rhythm and repetition of weaving a gift in itself: one that shuts out the distractions of everyday life and allows you to focus on the shared task at hand.

After class, walk the 3.3-mile loop around the beautifully landscaped Iroquois Park, just down the road, and celebrate your accomplishments at one of the restaurants at the recently restored Colonial Gardens, where couples once danced to the sounds of Elvis and big bands.

3. Forge something strong together

Appalachian Artisan Center

Feel the fire, swing the hammer, and forge something made to last during a hands-on class in the contemporary blacksmithing shop at the Appalachian Artisan Center. | Photo courtesy Appalachian Artisan Center

The couples who spend time with Master in Residence Dan Estep at his modern blacksmithing shop and metalwork studio at the Appalachian Artisan Center (AAC) tend to be outdoorsy people: hikers, campers, hunters, and anglers who want to make knives to use at home and in the field. Heating and hammering metal to create useful tools is a satisfying and stress-relieving process, and your workshop fee also supports the AAC’s mission to preserve Appalachian culture and traditions. In Hindman, close to Kentucky’s borders with Virginia and West Virginia, the AAC also operates a dulcimer museum, a stringed instrument–making factory, and a gallery showcasing local artists’ works.

Estep teaches hatchet-making workshops here, too, and occasionally helps couples custom-craft fireplace sets or simple items like rings or key chains. If your vision has more of a wood-fire, hand-bellows, late-18th-century vibe, Estep, who has about 40 years’ experience as a blacksmith, can make that happen, too. Inquire about classes he teaches for the Southeast Kentucky Blacksmith Association.

4. Turn off the TV and be chefs in reality

Cooking at Millie's

The skills you hone during a Cooking @ Millie’s date night just might spice up your home-kitchen routine. | Photo courtesy Cooking At Millies

This is no demo! Your cooking station awaits, and your instructor might be one of the hottest names in Louisville’s culinary scene, perhaps even someone you’ve seen on Fox or Food Network like MasterChef winner Gerron Hurt or Chopped champion Dallas McGarity. Cooking @ Millie’s has been making date nights a dream for almost 5 years, and even if the idea of cooking your own meal sounds intimidating, you’ll both be all smiles by the end of the night. And not just because your first bottle of wine is included with most classes. (Be sure to designate a driver if you plan to drink alcohol.)

Whether you choose a cuisine you’ve never prepared or food that’s more in your comfort zone, you’ll be surprised by how working together and eating 3 or more courses leaves you feeling not just full-bellied but full-hearted. By doing all the chopping, mixing, sautéing, and baking yourselves, you may just develop skills to up your home-cooking game, too. Classes sell out quickly, but new opportunities are added constantly, so stay tuned to the new offerings each season brings.

5. Feel the heat

Making glass at the Fire Studio and Gallery in Louisville

Glass, shown here at Fire Studio and Gallery in Louisville, is a mesmerizing art medium that, like love, is beautiful in its fragility. | Photo by Mike Hudson

You’re in for a “hot date” when you book a short glassblowing experience at Fire Studio and Gallery in Louisville’s East End. This ancient craft requires artist Mike Hudson and his team to heat molten glass to 2,100 degrees. Once you’ve felt the radiant warmth and witnessed the speed and precision of their work, you’ll have a new appreciation for the glass objects of everyday life.

Which project will you choose? A curvy heart, a cute snowman, a round ornament, or a small fluted bowl? Although COVID-era restrictions mean you won’t be able to blow into a long pipe to assist, you can still select your piece’s colors and pattern, then watch it come to life as you learn about the equipment and the process. Seeing an oozy blob of glass become a cherished object will leave you awestruck. Your creation must cool slowly overnight, so arrange for shipment or, better yet, make a weekend of visiting other year-round attractions like the Louisville Zoo.

If wedding bells are in your future, pick out 2 colors of glass “sand” to combine during your unity ceremony, then return to Fire Studio to have a keepsake crafted just for you. In the gallery, you’ll see myriad options, such as Hudson’s unique entwined candlesticks: a fitting symbol of the love you share.

Fueling road trip desires is a passion for Kim Knox Beckius, a widely published travel writer and contributing editor at Yankee Magazine.

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