First look: Elves Studio, Splash Studio's holiday pop-up
If you think the elves in the North Pole have been busy, wait until you see what the workers at Splash Studio have been working on: a pop-up winter wonderland worthy of a Rankin/Bass stop-motion Christmas TV special called Elves Studio, opening at the art bar's East Side HQ on Saturday, Nov. 23 and running through the rest of the holiday season.
Hosted at 1815 E. Kenilworth Pl., Elves Studio shifted its original focus away from one particular oversized Santa helper from the big screen and more toward general North Pole workshop culture and festive cheer-filled fun. The result is still a blast of holly, jolly Christmas joy, even before you walk in the doors – now outfitted with new signs and holiday decor.
The real transformation, however, awaits you inside Elves Studio, as the art bar's crafting and painting space has been morphed into a world of festive wrapping paper, dancing sugar plums and Christmas candies, warmly glowing holiday lights and a blessed blizzard of paper snowflakes – all 2,000 amazingly cut and handmade by the Splash Studio crew, ranging from traditional snowflake shapes to some unique designs shaped with cute little Milwaukee-inspired Easter eggs for those with acute eyes.
Of course, all of the delightful decor is just the setting for the real fun: creating your own Christmas crafts and artwork. There are multiple options for artists of all ages and abilities on Elves Studio's menu, including canvas paintings of classic Christmas images and painted wooden sign projects with festive messages like "Let it snow," "Santa Baby" and some others you'll have to discover for yourself with a visit.
Those are all solo projects, taking approximately 30-90 minutes to complete, while the menu also offers a partner project: the "Elfie wreath," a holiday-colored creation that features your face as the star of the craft.
As for some smaller ventures, the Elves Studio menu also offers little cross stitch creations with designs ranging from classic holiday greetings to some more modern Christmas-inspired puns and even one particular R-rated project perfect for the grinch in your group.
On the complete opposite of that, Elves Studio also offers easy kid-friendly ornaments, like a happy tree trunk reindeer face and a smiling snowman made of popsicle sticks. And for some wearable wintry wonder for kids of all ages, there's also a special side area where guests can create personalized glittering elf hats – which, if you flip them over, can also function as little stockings to hang by the fireplace for Santa to stuff. That's two-in-one utility there!
For those who aren't the most artistically inclined (guilty as charged), there are still plenty of places inside Elves Studio to get your holly jolly on. For instance, the pop-up features multiple festive photo ops, one cheerfully decorated like a toy-testing work bench to another winter wonderland backdrop complete with a glimmering reindeer to elf cutouts, a mailbox to the North Pole and Santa's sleigh.
And it's not like that sleigh could travel to this East Side hotspot without its famous driver – so yes, Santa Claus will be in attendance throughout Elves Studio's run as well, holding court and hearing children's wishes while sitting on his giant gingerbread-esque Christmas throne.
The pop-up also features seating outside of the main crafting area at Elves Studio for those who just want a festive-themed place to grab some tasty treats to snack and swig.
Speaking of which, in addition to a menu of activities to help feed guests Christmas creativity, Elves Studio has a menu of sugary sweets, North Pole-ready nosh and spirited holiday-themed spirits mixed with tasty libations from the pop-up's "naughty shelf" of ingredients.
Those festive adult refreshments include a gingerbread martini made with Kahlua, vodka, maple syrup, vanilla, molasses, cinnamon, ginger and sweetened condensed milk all topped with whipped cream and chocolate syrup; "The Mad Elf" featuring Jack Daniel's Tennessee Fire whiskey, intense ginger liquor, lemon juice and club soda; and "Milwaukee's Best Coffee" crafted with Irish whiskey, maple syrup, hot coffee and cardamom bitters topped with whipped cream and cinnamon. Most cocktails at Elves Studio cost $8-9.
To help soak up those seasonal sippers, the pop-up also serves up a collection of tasty morsels, from Christmas-decorated cookies and cakes piled high with colorful candy treats (and thankfully no spaghetti) on the sweet side of things to pretzels, meat and cheese plates, and specially crafted bar popcorn mixes for more savory snacking satisfaction.
So now that you've gotten a peek inside, the only thing left to do is see all the festivities at Elves Studio in person for yourself – and happily that'll happen sooner than later, as the pop-up moved up its opening date from Friday, Nov. 29 to Saturday, Nov. 23.
The holly jolly hotspot will then remain open through Sunday, Dec. 29, with doors open Mondays through Thursdays from 4-11 p.m., Fridays from 4 p.m. until midnight, Saturdays from 10 a.m. until midnight and Sundays from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. (Extended hours are planned for Monday, Dec. 23.) Children with a parent or guardian are welcome at all times, but Fridays and Saturdays after 5 p.m. are reserved for guests 16 and older only. And while reservations are not available, eager artists can call ahead to be placed on the waiting list for a project space.
For more information, visit Elves Studio's website.