Local businesses offer a lot to a community but one of my favourite unique offerings they have is education. I am always on the search for new things to learn and try but it’s really difficult to find small one-off classes on new topics that aren’t hosted by education centres or require a commitment to a lengthy program. Short of looking through AirBnB’s experiences for fun to-dos in a pre- and post-COVID world, I didn’t feel like there were many informal types of classes for different hobbies and professions. Turns out, I was so wrong. A ton of local shops in Toronto offer interesting workshops and classes. I am not a master candle maker, or knife wielder, or watercolour artist but there are ways to learn all these skills and more from local stores! See below for more about Toronto workshops and classes offered by local businesses.
While these local shops' workshops and classes are not operating during COVID, the classes that local Toronto stores offer are great to keep in mind for the future. A lot of these small and local businesses are offering gift cards for future classes. Some of these shops are doing virtual versions of their courses, too. Virtual workshops allow you to connect with the people you love virtually and share a new experience together!
Paper Plus Cloth’s art workshops and meetups
Paper Plus Cloth offers creative and beautiful goods with many paper, pens, writer’s tools, and sundries carefully sourced from around the world. Their specialty Japanese stationery shop offers paper goods and art supplies out of Parkdale, Toronto. Rowena Sunga’s shop provides everything you need to explore the arts - and workshop your creations right there.
For Paper Plus Cloth’s meetups and workshops, talented instructors take you through different topics in the arts. These meetups give you the opportunity to explore new talents and connect with other people. Students have learned monogram, digital lettering, cartooning, and so much more. If you’ve been looking to take up a hobby or expand on your artistic side hustle this a great opportunity to try a new pursuit in the arts. I love learning about fonts and font creation (yes, I know) and I had no idea I could learn how to create digital hand lettering right from a workshop in my own city.
You can also book private art workshops for groups of six or more in topics like calligraphy, brush lettering, watercolour, bullet and art journaling, collaging and anything you’d like to tailor to your interests. This would be a unique way to do pre-wedding parties or baby showers. Also seems like a way to get your wedding party to calligraphy some custom wedding invites for you - all disguised as fun. 😉
Knife Toronto’s knife sharpening and skills classes
Knife Toronto is a hot spot for Japanese knives and kitchenware accessories, such as sheaths and sayas, wooden cutting boards to put your new knife to use, and well-earned chef aprons. They offer sharpening, too so your knives can always be on point (eh!). Founded by former chef Eugene Ong in West Queen West, Eugene wanted to provide Toronto with a beautiful high-end knife shop for professionals to home-cooks alike.
Knife Toronto sharpening and skills courses are each limited to five people and they provide whetstones, which is for sharpening. They work with any skill level. Their sharpening class requires you to bring your own knife and covers the maintenance of stones and knives, knife steels, edge geometry, hand pressure and position, and proper bevel angles for both Japanese and Western kitchen knives. While their skills class is all about proper knife handling, knife safety, choosing the appropriate knife and the importance of a sharp edge on delicate vegetables which they can provide knives for.
I am the kind of person who manages to grate themselves on the cheese grater and I chop all my ingredients with tiny steak knives. There’s no doubt I could use a class like this. I’m unsure if I’d be more of a detriment to the class than anything but love that this skill is taught right here in Toronto. Cooking is a slow process when you can’t properly wield a kitchen knife… or cheese grater.
Cookery’s cooking classes for all ages
Cookery is a specialty kitchenware store & cooking class studio with collections of both heirloom and everyday cookware, kitchen tools, bakeware, barware, dinnerware, serving ware, and cookbooks. Cookery aims to offer passionate home-cooks and gift givers in Toronto neighbourhoods high quality cookware. Owner Alison Fletcher opened the first location in Roncesvalles, Toronto some years ago and has expanded to other locations across the city - and soon Montreal.
Cookery’s shops offer cooking classes for kids, teenages, and adults. Their adult cooking classes offering wine pairings - score! Their typical cooking classes take place at one of Cookery’s locations in Toronto but Chef Joyce Singh, Chef Jessica Roberts, and other talented chefs take to the virtual stage to bring you their local cooking lessons right at home. Mouthwatering classes on how to make dumplings, handmade pasta, Indian recipes, vegetarian dishes, artisanal bread, and so much are offered virtually. This is a fun option to spend time with your kids learning a new skill, too.
If you’re looking to avoid embarrassing yourself with your abysmal cooking skills in front of strangers (I’m projecting here) you can sign up for private cooking lessons from Cookery. They’ll host up to ten in their virtual classroom and send you wine pairings for the custom-designed menu. A great opportunity to virtually gather with family or friends while keeping physically distant - and a night that results in delicious food and wine!
Yummi Candles’ candle making workshops
Yummi Candles was established in 1976 and is a family-owned and -operated business selling candles and other home goods. Yummi Candles is both the manufacturer and seller of their candles, all proudly made in Canada. They have strong ethics and quality control over their products. You can find them in the Distillery District in Toronto.
Today, I learned what a chandler is and it’s not some character from Friends. A chandler is a maker or seller of tallow or wax candles (and usually soap). Experts in this field will take you through the art of candle making at Yummi Candle’s workshops. Their scented candle workshop lets you choose two fragrances to combine with Yummi Candle’s plant-based ingredients for waxes and wicks. You leave the workshop with two of your own handmade candles and a couple of products. I love candles but it’s hard to find plant-based ones that use safe ingredients so it’s exciting that Yummi Candles offers you the ability to chandler yourself (I don’t think I used that right 🤔) your own scented candle creation.
You also have the option of booking a private party - another way to sneakily get your wedding party to make the decor for your event! Their private party mixes scented candle making with wine tasting. Expect four samples curated by a sommelier included with all the great benefits of a typical scented candle-making workshop.
Jomo Studio greenery- and concrete-themed workshops
Jomo Studio is the handcrafted planter design studio. The goal of co-founders Graham Bull and Dan Huang’s studio is to curate a wide range of house plants to give everyone a greener space. Their handmade concrete planters, coasters, and home decor objects are to be envied, but there’s no need to be turning green! They offer workshops on making your own concrete and plant-themed goods.
The Jomo Studio team is comprised of experts in plant life, high precision concrete pouring, needle felting, candle making, and macrame knotting. You can find their pop-up studio in Cityplace, Toronto. Their classes seem like a great team building exercise to encourage a little nature and greenery in your home office. Plus it’s likely you don’t know too many people who have taken on high-precision concrete pouring before so everyone in attendance will be likely to learn something entirely new!
Their classes are all very reasonably priced and you can buy gift cards for future workshops to use post-pandemic. The class I’m most excited about is the succulent and concrete planter workshop. You leave the class with both a new plant and two beautiful planters - one you made yourself with a silicon mold and one prefabricated planter that you planted a succulent in! You can also sign up for a plant needle felting workshop where you’ll create two succulents plants from needle planting plus a pot for each! If you lack a green thumb, a needle felting plant is sure to last.
Shop local in Toronto for future workshops and classes
While the pandemic have halted in-person classes, a lot of these small and local shops are offering gift cards for future classes or a virtual version of their in-house workshops. These local Toronto stores are all teaching things that I have never done before and it’s exciting to find workshops I can attend with friends, family, or as a team-building event in the future. If there’s a new topic you’ve always wanted to try in the arts, hand-making, or cooking then check out what your local Toronto shops offer outside of their products - you may be surprised to learn that aside from selling you beautiful items they also teach you how to create them from scratch!