There are many signs of life at 3 Girls & A Kiln. The local art collective, run by friends and co-creators Deborah Kern, Aimee Randolph and Claire Rohleder, recently added wood sign workshops to their existing line-up of do-it-yourself ceramic and design classes. After experiencing — and thoroughly enjoying — January’s positivity plaques session, I eagerly headed back to their location on the corner of Camana Bay’s Market Street to engage my creativity with them again.
Prior to the class, participants were asked to select a preferred design from a range of available options. These included inspirational slogans, island-themed patterns and novelty phrases like “Tacos are my spirit animal.” On the night of the workshop, we arrived to personalised stations complete with a stencil of our chosen design, a block of wood, safety gear and the curious tools of the trade — earplugs, hammers, sponges, bits of t-shirt fabric and meat tenderisers.
As always, Deborah, Aimee and Claire encouraged a light-hearted atmosphere by chatting comfortably with guests, peppering their instructions with jokes and singing along to a playlist of 1990s classics like Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby” and the Backstreet Boys’ “Quit Playing Games with My Heart.”
The first step was distressing the wood for that rustic worn-by-time look. If you’ve had a stressful week and need to safely let out some pent-up frustration, this part of the workshop is for you: the distressing methods included banging and scraping the plank with the hammer and meat tenderiser to create rounded edges and aesthetic scoring patterns. With approximately 20 people doing this at once, you can imagine that we generated quite a racket — hence, the earplugs.
Once we’d sufficiently distressed our planks of wood, it was time to stain them. The three girls use non-toxic, low-fume stains so inhaling unsafe chemicals was not a concern. They explained our colour options and offered recommendations on how to achieve the specific look we each wanted. I opted for a walnut shade, while others selected darker chocolate brown or paler oak hues. My tablemate, Caroline Moran, who attended the session with her husband Eamon Wilson, chose a soft grey for her “Beach Bound” sign; she was designing a peaceful, beachy dressing nook in her bedroom and intended to display the sign there.
After staining, it was time for a short mingling break — with cheese! — while we waited for our signs to dry. I chatted with Matt Ellis and Sara Marino, who recently moved to the island from Toronto, Canada; they’d found out about the class while looking for local experiences, and planned to use the wood signs as decoration in their brand-new house.
American Laurel Hendrickson also made the permanent move to Grand Cayman recently, though she’d visited and owned property here in the past. When I asked her why she had chosen to settle in Cayman she enthusiastically stated, “It was the most beautiful island I’d ever seen.” Her sign will also grace her home.
Once the stains had dried, we began the final step: stencilling and painting. Stencilling, it turns out, is a lot trickier than it sounds. The templates had to be very slowly and carefully peeled from their protective layers in order to keep the design aligned and intact. But with the 3 Girls’ help and steady hands, even those with the most intricate designs managed to successfully apply their stencils. We selected paint colours from a range of neutrals, jewel-tones and pastels. Caroline kept to her beachy theme with pale blues while Eamon added pops of pink, blue and orange to his “Wanderlust” sign.
We sponged on the paint in thin layers to avoid over-saturating before carefully peeling off the adhesive stencils and revealing the finished products. Caroline and Eamon were thrilled with each other’s work for good reason, and other guests equally praised their tablemates’ creations. We had all produced artwork that we were proud of; better yet, we could enjoy the instant gratification of being able to take our work home immediately.
With the woodworking class, 3 Girls & A Kiln offers accessible art in a supportive, social atmosphere. The event provides the opportunity to work with a new material, meet people from different walks of life, produce a beautiful piece of artwork and most of all, have a lot of fun.