Crafting Like the Pros

Instructor Rhonda Knights, left, looks on as Blanche Topps, center, and Kendra Speights work on a lazy susan at AR Workshop in Santa Clarita. Dan Watson/The Signal
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It’s a Thursday night at A R Workshop in Saugus and between the sounds of wood being sanded and electric drills whirring, there is laughter and the occasional cheer.

Veronica Brown of Valencia is standing at a tall work bench, staining a large wooden rectangle, while her friends Erica Derry and Joelle Danaby work on a pedestal tray and Lazy Susan respectively.

“I’m going to do the coolest thing ever and make a Texas plank board, because that’s where I’m from,” Brown said proudly.

Veronica Brown, right, uses stain inside a Vynal template to create a flag of Texas at AR Workshop in Santa Clarita. Dan Watson/The Signal

It’s the second class for Topps and Derry, while Danaby was there for the first time.

She planned on using the large Lazy Susan adorned with her surname and wedding date as the centerpiece for her family’s dining table.

“It’s amazing and feels doable, because Rhonda walks you through the steps with samples,” Danaby said.

That would be Rhonda Knights, who owns A R Workshop with her daughter Brianna Burton. The duo opened their Saugus store last year as an opportunity to capitalize on Knights’ building skills and Burton’s business background.

“She’s the carpenter and I’m the one who has a degree in marketing,” Burton said. “I visualize and she makes things happen.”

Instructor Rhonda Knights, left, assists Sabina Kosek as she creates a vinyl stencil to decorate the lazy susan she is making at AR Workshop in Santa Clarita. Dan Watson/The Signal

A & R Workshop offers group and private classes ranging from wood to macramé to chunky blanket projects. Class prices start at $39.50 and go up to $95.50, with all materials and instruction included.

Private parties are available with $75 booking fee and a 12-student minimum.

“People make projects for their home or bachelorette parties, for wedding signs or realtor closing gifts. It’s very personal,” Knights said. “You can customize each project and make it one of a kind.”

All skill levels are welcome, with a minimum age of 7 accompanied by an adult.

Burton admits she has a soft spot for first timers.

“People that don’t think they’re crafty are my favorite,” she said. “One girl came in and put together a eucalyptus sign that looked better than the example that was posted online. She was shocked.”

There’s also a kid’s camp with two-hour classes Monday through Thursday for $180 that includes a photo frame, wood project, canvas wall hanging and tote bag. An optional Friday class is available for an additional $45.

“It’s a little crazy and a lot of fun,” Burton said. “Parents are always shocked at how good the projects come out. They’ll say, ‘Oh my God, my kid made that?’”

Knights feels A R’s old-school projects are perfect for today’s youngsters.

Instructor Brianna Burton, right, looks on as Erika Derry uses a pin nailer gun to attach a leg to the table pedestal she is making at AR Workshop in Santa Clarita. Dan Watson/The Signal

“There aren’t any wood shop, automotive, and home economic classes anymore,” Knight pointed out. “I think it’s time for kids to put down their devices and do something creative.”

Potential students can preview and register for classes online. Once registered, students can select the project size (that determines the pricing) and create a customized design online (which is printed out as a hard copy stencil for the class).

During the class, students put on an apron, then pick out colors from array of hues with names like Cilantro, Dishy Coral, and Mature Grape and stains ranging from dark (Coffee Bean) to light (Stone).

Knights has all the supplies ready for each project, including stains and paints in individual cups.

She goes from table to table, showing students how to perform different techniques – painting, staining, dry brushing, washing, and blocking – depending on what look they wish to achieve.

Erika Perry uses a hair dryer to dry the paint on the table pedestal she is making while others work on their projects behind her at AR Workshop in Santa Clarita. Dan Watson/The Signal

On this evening, Derry is adding colorful touches to her pedestal table. It’s her second class.

“My house has a Spanish theme, so I want this to look like tile,” she said. “I’m creative and this is an outlet. The fact that you can do this with friends is really fun.”

With six classes under her belt, Kendra Speights of Valencia is right at home in the workshop like atmosphere.

“I’m a junkie,” she said with a laugh. “I have 3 kids, so it’s my time to get creative and unwind.”

Speights is always impressed with her results.

“My finished projects look like something you’d buy from Home Goods or Pottery Barn,” she said.

AR Workshop is located at 27916 Seco Canyon Road, Suite 204, Saugus. For more info, visit or call (661) 288-1903.

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