By Geoff Fox
RIVERVIEW – The clubhouse in the sprawling South Pointe community was full of chatter, paint, some wine, and an assortment of small ceramic Christmas trees.
A group of more than 20 people, mostly women, had gathered for a Hammer & Stain workshop led by Laurie Diaz of Riverview. By the end of the gathering, each person had assembled, painted, and added lights to the Christmas trees in various colors.
“Everybody’s mom had one of these when they were little,” said Trudy Bailey-Ramsey, who traveled from Plant City for the event. “I attended an earlier woodworking workshop (hosted by Diaz) in Plant City with my daughter-in-law, and when I saw this one on Facebook, I knew I had to do it.”
Diaz, who served four years in the U.S. Navy, embodies what it means to be a working mom. She works full-time as a national recruiter in the transportation industry and started Hammer & Stain Riverview last year.
She said she and her children, Lanie, currently serving in the U.S. Navy, and son Rocco, a high school student, have been crafting, refinishing furniture and creating woodworking projects together for years.
At Hammer & Stain, Lanie does the bookkeeping and handles social media accounts from her base in King’s Bay, Georgia, while Rocco most enjoys using power tools to build, sand and prep the wood projects for his mother’s mobile, do-it-yourself workshops.
Diaz hosts most workshops in the South Shore area but said she has considered branching out. Most of them last two to three hours, but Diaz said the projects people complete – such as the lighted ceramic Christmas trees – can last a lifetime.
“To me, you can make a sign anywhere, but we have the experience” to do it right, Diaz said. “I’m very hands-on, and it’s fun. I get people to tap into their creative side and get them thinking outside the box – out of their comfort zone. We joke around a lot. Being creative is good for the soul.”
She added that most events are BYOB for adults.
During her “busy season,” between September and December, Diaz said she hosts about ten workshops a month. She often uses the South Pointe clubhouse but has also used local restaurants, pubs, boutiques, and studios.
At the South Pointe event, Diaz strolled around the room, visiting with everyone and offering advice on how to complete their projects.
“Once they get the tree painted, they’ll add glitter and snow with a really thick glaze to make it bright and shiny when it’s done,” Diaz said.
Sherril Cote of Riverview said she was at the event because she likes to be creative and “get out and meet people.” Like many at the clubhouse, she learned of the workshop on Facebook.
That included Tracy Quigley, also of Riverview, who persuaded several family members to join her. Because her daughter couldn’t attend, her husband Pat Quigley came instead.
Besides Rocco Diaz, who helped people choose the proper paintbrushes and offered decorating advice, Pat Quigley was the only male participant.
Asked if attending the event was typical of his Saturday routine, Quigley laughed.
“Yes,” he said, “I paint tiny trees.”
The women at his table quickly nicknamed Quigley “Dude Man,” and he grew comfortable offering them decorating advice.
“You need to retouch it down here,” he told his wife.
“Well then, get some glitter on there,” he said.
For his daughter Brittney, Quigley was creating a “Nightmare Before Christmas”-themed tree.
The women at his table were just as comfortable offering advice to Pat Quigley.
“Dude Man,” one of them said, “are you glittering your tips?”
Uproarious laughter ensued.