The best way to get acquainted with the Indie Art Capital of the World's impressive DIY scene is to take part in some of the many instructional classes offered around the city, so that's exactly what we decided to do here at Alive.

The best way to get acquainted with the Indie Art Capital of the World's impressive DIY scene is to take part in some of the many instructional classes offered around the city, so that's exactly what we decided to do here at Alive.

I'm the guinea pig, and for my first class, I went directly to Wholly Craft. Last month's offerings included an easy beginner's option: a two-hour, $15 introduction to soft sculpture from Helma Groot, whose plush, painted mobile designs are featured in the shop's new Wall Gallery through June 6.

What's soft sculpture? As I found out, it's a technique that involves covering a soft, fabric shape with an emulsion solution that results in a semi-hard shell.

The setting: The Sunday afternoon class began with the all-female group of five sitting around Wholly Craft's back table, introducing ourselves.

Several of the attendees were friends or relatives of Groot's; those who had joined the class independently included a mom and her preschool-aged daughter and a glass artist new to Wholly Craft.

Conversation was mostly limited to discussing sewing experience over the hum of Groot's antique machine.

The crafting: We could design any shape we wanted, Groot said, and she sped things up by doing all the sewing on her machine. So the hard part, really, was coming up with an idea. I sketched a silly, big-lipped fish.

After Groot sewed my shape together, I cut it out and turned it right-side out. She sewed off the lip, fins and tail so they'd stay flat. Once it was stuffed with batting (use a chopstick for tight squeezes) and stitched shut, I coated my fish with acrylic polymer emulsion and took it home to dry.

The aftermath: A couple days later, I painted my fishy friend a bright orange, leaving it light enough for the floral pattern underneath to show through. He then got a red belly, bulging eyes and an overbite. Everyone who sees him asks the same two questions: "You made that?" and "What's it made of?"