As a mother of toddlers in a city chock full of experiences to be had and places to go, I still find that it really has to be something special to blow me away. Perhaps it’s the New York cynic in me, but I just don’t get that excited any more.
But this attitude changed effectively when I walked into Make Meaning, the city’s new DIY craft emporium that tugs at and inspires every last one of your artistic impulses. As creator and owner Dan Nissanoff aptly puts it, Make Meaning “delivers the ‘wow’ factor.”
Located on the Upper West Side, the vibrant and colorful three-story space is expected to be the first of several in New York City, and there is even a planned national rollout. The store is an endless treasure trove of creative baubles. “This is a candy shop for creativity—Make Meaning comes from the notion of spending meaningful time with family and friends and making meaningful things,” says Nissanoff, an NYC dad of twoand self-described “idea guy.”
The main floor, which is dedicated to walk-in “creative experiences” for craft lovers of all ages, houses glass, ceramics, beads, candles, soaps and paper. In addition to being impeccably organized, all materials are high-quality and fashion-forward, and continuously change with the seasons and trends. The lower level, or “Rec Room,” houses community classes (including Mommy & Me, after school, and even a “Make It After Dark” option for adults); the upper level, which overlooks the entire store, serves as a party space.
Adding to the uniqueness of the experience are “ACE’s” (Associate Creativity Enthusiasts), or staff members who go out of their way to assist anyone—young or old, “crafty” or not so much—in creating something truly special. “The way we work is similar to the Apple stores; they have ‘geniuses,’ we have ‘ACE’s,’” Nissanoff says. “Our ACE will show you in two minutes how to create something amazing, without any artistic skill.”
After opening just three months ago, Make Meaning has already amassed over 1200 “members,” whose monthly membership fee gives them special benefits like exemption from sitting fees, free and discounted classes and invitations to members-only events throughout the year. Visitors include both adults and children (and a significant number of adults sans children),and the store has become a popular destination for families looking to create gifts for loved ones, host birthday parties, or occupy cold winter days with kid-pleasing indoor activities. Local schools are starting to get in on the action as well, with some bringing upwards of 75 students for an organized, hands-on, “creative experience.”
And crafts aren’t all you’ll find at Make Meaning. At the in-store café and sweet shop, visitors can choose from a variety of delectable-looking options, including cakes, cookies and candy as well as an assortment of beverages. Soon the store will boast a wine offering for adults, making it a great option for date nights, girls’ nights out and the like. An in-store retail boutique offers art supplies, creativity kits, craft kits for grown-ups (think D-I-Y wallets and shopping totes), luxury gifts and more.
Our day at Make Meaning left my children with a sense of pride and accomplishment, and left me with some of the most beautiful mementos of their childhood I have received to date. What’s more, although they are only toddlers, their focus and concentration never waned during the two hours we spent there—a remarkable feat in itself.
“Parents of young children are constantly looking for things to do with them—things that are stimulating, educational, unique and experiential,” Nissanoff says. “Here you’re going to spend quality time with them as opposed to being a passive bystander.”
Make Meaning, 329 Columbus Avenue (between 75th and 76th Streets), 212-362-0350, makemeaning.com.
Main photo: Jessica Shyba, photo of Nissanoff and family: Daniel S. Burnstein.
5 Must-Try Creative Experiences At Make Meaning
Ceramics: Popular with little ones, who love painting their pieces and creating hand and footprint keepsakes for mom and dad.
Candles: A pouring station allows kids to be involved in every step of the process, making the candle-making experience extra special.
Soaps: With a fragrance to please even the choosiest nose and an array of fun shapes, colors and add-ins, the soap-making option remains a favorite of grade-schoolers—not to mention their parents, who no longer have to remind them to wash up before dinner!
Jewelry: All the rage with the store’s teen and tween visitors, who choose from a wide assortment of beads and baubles to create necklaces, bracelets and more.
Glass: Adults particularly love the glass-making option—choose from creative glass accessories like rings, bracelets and belt buckles, or go big and create a plate or platter!
Let’s Make Some Meaning: Our Writer’s Creative Experience
When my typically shy, observant kids walked in to Make Meaning, they were instantly intrigued by the colors, the low counters full of objects to paint and create, and the seats that were just their size. In no time at all, they dove right into their projects. They knew they were being given something very special to make, and that feeling of independence enabled them to let go and use their imaginations. Three-year-old Jack painted a ceramic horse and carefully chose the wax for a candle, while two-year-old Zoe hand-picked and strung every bead on a necklace for me.
Their pride in their finished products was extraordinary, and the time that we shared together and the creativity invested in each project made the experience truly amazing. The staff was both helpful and warm—they made us feel at home. I’ll cherish each piece we made and the time spent with each other forever. I even wear my necklace almost every day, shocking people when I tell them it was created by my two-year-old!