Tired of dime-a-dozen tourist trinkets? Here are some places where you can be the maker. Explore glass blowing, pottery or photography in these four different Northern Michigan cities from Traverse City to Ludington.  

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If you’ve ever glanced at a piece of art and said, “I could make that,” chances are you were … wrong. But there’s still beauty in creating art at any level, especially under the tutelage of some of Northern Michigan’s best artists. Here are a few places where you can turn your vacation into an artist’s retreat and leave with a souvenir you made yourself.

Blow Glass in East Jordan

With as little as 24-hour notice (though best to book as far in advance as possible), take a private glass-blowing class at Jordan Valley Glassworks. Your 30-minute session covers the history and techniques of glass blowing, all while seasoned artists supervise your creation, from the selection of glass colors to melting them in a fiery furnace. Prices range from $70 to $125 depending on your project—choose from paperweights, oil diffusers, hummingbird feeders and more. Be inspired: Compare the movement of the Jordan River to the swirls in your glass as you walk along the new boardwalk located at Sportsman’s Park (81 Bridge St.) that meanders through the watershed.

Related Read: Michigan Rock Hunting is the Best on Earth.

Bubble Glaze Pottery in Suttons Bay

The trademark of Stephanie Starner-Greiner’s pottery is the bubbles that create circular patterns in her pieces glazed with blues and greens reminiscent of Northern Michigan’s waters—all inspired by the way that wave bubbles meet the beach on her favorite rock-hunting strolls. And she doesn’t keep her secrets to herself. Take a scheduled class at Leelanau Pottery Company, or gather a small group for a private one, and you can paint or glaze bisque-fired pieces, or blow bubbles into the glaze on a shared piece and capture the literal breath of everyone in the group. Be inspired: Stroll Van’s Beach in Leland, on a hunt for bubbles, Leland blues and spectacular sunsets.

Build Stunning Photos in Ludington

The nature photography trio of Brad and Todd Reed and Rachel Gaudette don’t take photos, they build them, creating images that allow viewers to feel like they’re experiencing the scene for themselves. Students can learn this same technique in the photo workshops hosted by the three professionals. Book the beginner Picture Perfect Weekend along with a stay at Ludington’s Lamplighter Bed and Breakfast next October, or take their online video instruction series as background for booking any of the three advanced workshops—one takes students to the Porcupine Mountains for a class on building your own photo book. They offer private lessons, too. Be inspired: Hike to Big Sable Point Lighthouse, a popular photo subject of the Reeds, especially during evenings’ magic light.

Create with Kids (or Adults) in Traverse City

At Handz on Art, a paint-your-own pottery studio in downtown’s Warehouse MRKT, kids and adults choose a ceramic piece—from coffee mugs and platters to ornaments, gnomes, piggy banks and more—then have fun personalizing it. Check out the Idea Center for books, stencils, stamps and sponges, then hit up the Color Center to pick your paints. Most pottery will be fired and ready for pickup within four to seven days (shipping is available if you’re from out of town). Walk-ins are welcome, but reservations are recommended for large groups (birthdays, bridal showers, bachelorette parties). Be inspired: A walk downtown provides endless inspo for a TC-themed piece. You can’t go wrong painting a Petoskey stone-patterned platter, a beachy bowl or a “We Call Michigan Gnome.”

Kim Schneider is a long-time travel writer specializing in Michigan adventures, food and wine. The Midwest Travel Journalist Association has named her Mark Twain Travel Writer of the Year, and she’s the author of “100 Things to Do in Traverse City Before You Die.”