Gala Zakharova has spent the better part of this year preparing her artisanal maker space on 1012 Grand Street just north of Columbus Park in Hoboken for community members to take garment making, craft construction, and all sorts of sewing and stitching classes. Registration for Gala’s classes and open studio sessions is now available and she’s excited to welcome adults and adolescents to her very special space. Read on to learn about the purpose and plan for Hoboken’s new Galastella Studio.
Sew for Wellbeing
Gala Zakharova loves to watch groups of people transform raw materials into something that is all theirs. However, the goal is not to produce a seamless product. “The garment you make is not just an anonymous object that serves a useful purpose. When you lay out a design and execute that design, the object you make becomes part of your world and your history” she tells her students. Gala encourages her students to make something that shows they’ve done it themselves.
Gala learned how to sew as a young person in a professional training program in Moscow. The tailoring and needlework projects she introduces to studio guests focus on creativity and self-expression over perfection. “I encourage everyone to learn a new skill just for enrichment, to use the part of your brain that is normally dormant.”
Gala’s experiences within the fashion industry led her to value simple acts of handicraft. She is confident that building fine motor skills through the act of creating an object — with no pressure to sell it or fear of judgment — is rewarding as much for the making as for the enjoyment of the finished product.
Throughout her career as a fashion designer, Gala found that she couldn’t always produce what she enjoyed or even what she felt was ethical. Corporate fast fashion doesn’t sit well with her. So, she made a conscious decision not to overproduce or to overbuy. With that intention in mind, she teaches others how to repair and alter the things that they wear. “When we can mend what we wear, we will wear our clothes longer. But mending can also make garments better. Personalized fixes give character to clothing and you create your own style.”
To enter Galastella Studio is to leave the stress of the outside world far behind. Big windows along the east-facing wall bring in a lovely morning light for daytime visitors. Work tables and sewing machines, arranged throughout the space, encourage visitors to get to making. Gala believes that being in this special space that is dedicated to the act of making is very different from doing the same sort of thing at home. She cites all the distractions that can hinder a hurried mind from being truly free to learn a new skill and devote attention to creating something beautiful.
“Coming into a special place where you are not reminded of any of your outside responsibilities — this is a necessity. Even if you have space at home and time to commit to sewing, that is not the same. What I offer at Galastella Studio is space to breathe. Here you can change your point of view for two hours, and go back into your life as a new person. Renewed, refreshed, and energized.”
A significant part of what Gala wants to provide visitors to her studio is the opportunity to experience a slowing down of the world. Making something requires patience and time. Gala believes that the act of making encourages a shift from inner monologue to peaceful reflection as one becomes engrossed in the process.
Time Together is Tremendous
As much fun as making something can be, it’s the social dynamic that makes participating in Galastella Studio experiences truly terrific. In the past, when Gala held small group classes, she found that her students loved entering a welcoming environment to create with another person. She finds the camaraderie of learning together very powerful, and that togetherness is something to be cherished.
Gala has found that trying something totally new together is a great way to grow a friendship. Her studio is as much a place for building fun community connections as it is a safe space to try things. She tells those new to sewing who maybe want to do a thing with friends but don’t think they can master something so scary as a sewing machine, “People say ‘I can’t do anything with my hands’ but if you can learn to drive a car — a sewing machine is much easier, and with no risk of catastrophic accidents. We don’t expect new drivers to have immediate success. You can do it.” Gala has observed the most reticent students gain confidence and try because the group dynamic made trying fun.
A Consummate Teacher
Gala remembers the moment she realized she loved to teach others new things. She was a middle schooler and the new thing had nothing to do with the making of things. She taught her classmate a concept she’d come to understand in her chemistry class and she remembers clearly the experience of seeing her friend go from confused and despondent to confident. “When I remember how great it felt to see her light her up with the understanding of new learning, I think it’s no wonder that I get such pleasure from teaching.” She often returns to that core memory as she watches a student react with sheer pleasure at their studio accomplishment. Those skills build independence and confidence.
A Philosophy of Craft
Gala doesn’t like to be perceived as talented. She doesn’t credit her ability to design a beautiful object to her nature, to chance, or to some higher power. She doesn’t see her abilities as something fixed. She likes the idea of skill and explains that “When you take on a new skill, you can grow, you can add to it, make it bigger, do better than when you began. Like mastering color theory and composition, sewing skills can be learned and improved upon.” Gala remembers the experience of not being the best of the best when she began her formal study in fashion design. She felt compelled to learn and worked hard. Eventually, she surpassed her peers.
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How to Sign Up
Visitors to Galastella Studio may be familiar with the 1012 Grand Street building that also hosts Play! Hoboken on its third floor. Galastella Studio is on the fourth floor in the 407 space. Classes will be held on Thursday and Friday evenings and Saturdays during the day. Private lesson sessions and open studio times can be found on the Galastella Studio website with announcements on Instagram. Registration for fall and winter classes and open studio slots began on September 29th, 2023, and the first class started on Friday, October 6th.
Galastella Studio offers seasonally themed classes, some of which use a glue gun instead of a sewing machine, such as autumn wreath decorating. Open studio hours are for finishing individual projects independently in a peaceful atmosphere while in the company of future friends. Students can also unwind a little more when they sign up for “Sip and —“ classes in which they can enjoy a glass of wine while designing a special tote bag or embroidering a tie.