For those of you that may not know about Airbnb I am here to sing its praises. An international online database of people essentially renting out their rooms or homes to travelers. It is the best way (a matter of opinion, but one I stand strongly by) to travel with a bit of privacy that hostels may not offer and without paying the high cost of a hotel room. I have used Airbnb countless times, most recently indoctrinating my mom into the Airbnb world when we scored a sweet, modern apartment in central Málaga, Spain for her birthday. In the past, I’ve found a bright loft apartment in Brooklyn, a girl pad in Nice and the coolest apartment in the middle of the dopest neighborhood in Dresden (with the best Döner shop I will say). The Airbnbs that I’ve stayed at in the past have helped shape my experiences in those places. There have been kind hosts, local spots explored and the best suggestions that help make my already packed itinerary even busier. Not a bad problem to have. So when I noticed that Airbnb was starting to offer experiences, I KNEW this would be an even better step into really appreciating a new location. Which is how ended up going to my First Airbnb Experience.
Airbnb experience is a new venture Airbnb is trying where different people in cities all over the world offer classes, tours, activities, and a bunch of other….well……experiences that you can do while visiting in their city. Depending on the location you search, the options are countless and new ones are being added every day.
When I knew I was going to have a few days in Chicago, I figured the city would offer me some really cool and unique experiences. I wasn’t disappointed. There was cooking classes, glassblowing classes, soap making classes, river cruises, food tours, hula hoop classes, flamenco shows, walking tours, honey bee farm visits and even an opportunity to build an app with a programmer. I’M NOT EVEN LISTING ALL OF THEM. There are AT LEAST another 40+ options to choose. All offered at different prices and date ranges. Which made choosing just one activity that I wanted to do SUPER hard. I eventually settled on making a ring at a Metalsmith’s studio.
The pictures of the experience had hammers in it, so at the very least I figured I would get to bang something…..pun not intended. There was also promise of playing with fire in the description that was also really winning me over if we’re speaking truthfully. BUT THE REAL SELLING POINT was getting to make a ring that I would get to keep. Fun fact about me, rings have become my most treasured keepsakes while traveling.
The process of signing up for the experience on Airbnb was pretty simple. I entered my info, chose what day I wanted to attend, entered in my payment method, sent an image of my ID to verify with my host and I was good to go.
Janeane over at Redbud Jewelry was great when it came to communication. She first sent a confirmation letting me know the full who, what where, when and what to wear when it came to the event. I even received a reminder a day or two before the event reminding what to wear and that it was BYOB (an adult plus).
Finding the Redbud Jewelry studio was no problem. The studio was bright and warm compared to the cold and rainy Chicago day I seemed to have stumbled upon. The studio was the perfect spot for the Owner/Metalsmith, Janeane. Who let me tell you, was also a ray of sunshine on this freezing day. On one side of the studio there was beautifully arranged handmade jewelry all of which Janeane had created with stones that made my stonehound heart flutter. The walls housed aesthetically pleasing home goods and small gifts. On the other side was her workshop and the stations I would find myself creating a ring at. She let me know that our class was actually going to be a one on one lesson on how to make my ring. I was ecstatic.
She let me choose a ring blank, which is a rectangular piece of metal, that I was going to form into my ring. My ring blank choices were copper and bronze, I went with bronze. Next I had to straighten it with a steel block and mallet, my heavy hands LOVED this part.
Janeane has a bunch of different stamps and hammers that provide different designs and textures. She also had a bunch of scrap metal and let me play around with all of these amazing tools until I got an idea of what I wanted to create. I instantly gravitated towards these Mexican-inspired stamps Janeane had gotten on a trip there. Her instruction was spot on and really encouraging. Coming from a girl who can barely draw a stick figure, I sometimes question my eye for design. Janeane didn’t let that stand in my way, she played with my ideas and encouraged my creativity. My initial design went out the window because 1. Mistakes happen and 2. I lack the patience required for straight lines. Janeane took what I initially considered mistakes and turned them into new avenues of inspiration and reminded me at the end of the day, this ring was going to be something unique that I created with my own two hands.
I measured the ring to the size I wanted and NOW IT WAS FIRE TIME. Yes, I was trusted with an instrument that produces fire, my eyebrows were a LITTLE nervous about this decision. Let me just quickly say that one of the things I appreciated most about this experience was Janeane’s style of teaching. She basically made a ring alongside me. She used her ring to walk me through the process, broke down what each instrument did by demonstrating and then let me mimic her actions. So yes, it is 100% hands-on, score!
….even when it came to the fire. *devil emoji*
The fire, or more properly known as the annealing process helps to alter the physical properties of the material, making it easier to work. It’s a bit like a small blowtorch and there’s something deeply satisfying watching the metal dance through colors under the heat of the flame. We went through the process a couple of times while chatting like we were old friends who hadn’t seen each other in awhile. Talking about our travels, our partners, fun things to do in the city and gushing over the things I’ve already done while in town.
After cutting my ring to size and filing the edges flat, I went through another round of annealing which I was feeling pretty confident with by this time. Then it was time to shape this little stick of metal into my beautiful ring. It was crazy watching this process unfold before my eyes. To see what looked like a metal stick of gum begin to form into a ring that I would find at a shop or artist’s market….MADNESS!! Then to think that I made it with my own two hands, I was so proud!
Now it was time to solder my ring. This process would involve taking two small pieces of metal and melting them down until they formed a seal CREATING MY RINGGG!! MY PRECIOUSSSSS. Sorry, that’s the only LotR reference I’ll make. A quick dip in some pickle, which is not at all what you’re thinking (it’s actually a liquid that cleans all the black off from the anneal/soldering). Then using a ring mandrel and rawhide mallet I worked it down to the size I needed. The last step was covering my baby in a pretty finish. Janeane had a bunch of different options. There was an oxidized option, a satin finish option or a polish option. I chose the polish option which finished my ring into a shiny, bright almost gold like finish. I WAS HEAD OVER HEELS WITH MY FINISHED PRODUCT.
….Honestly, I loved everything about this class. I loved the ring I made, I loved the way Janeane was a shower of encouragement, I loved learning about the jewelry making process, I loved the studio I worked in and the night I was having. Overall, I REALLY loved this experience. Would I recommend trying out your own Airbnb experience? Without any hesitation, I say, “YES ABSOLUTELY”.
If you’re in Chicago and want to do this same Airbnb Experience, you can find the information here.
I already have my eye on a bunch of experiences I can do during my upcoming travels. Like a tile painting class in Lisbon, rooftop yoga & mimosas in Austin and a hatmaking workshop in New York.
Are you completely new to Airbnb and now dying to try one of these experiences?! Sign up using THIS LINK to get a $40 TRAVEL CREDIT. That could cover the entire cost of a once in a lifetime experience or help cover the cost of accommodations during your adventure.
Have you tried out Airbnb experiences? What did you end up doing, let me know in the comments!
Photo Credit for Pinterest Banner: RedBud Jewelry Instagram