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From passion to profession: Minnesota DIYer brings workshops 'up north'

People attending the PiP workshop in Fargo will be able to make their own centerpiece box. Special to The Forum1 / 3
Jill Miller, a Concordia College graduate, runs a successful DIY business in the Twin Cities and has scheduled workshops this summer in Fargo and Detroit Lakes. Special to the Forum2 / 3
Jill Miller says her workshops are as much about connecting people as building projects. Special to The Forum3 / 3

When Jill Miller graduated with a degree in teaching a few years ago, she might have envisioned helping children with their reading, writing and arithmetic, but little did she know eight years later she'd be helping grown-ups with their cutting, nailing and drilling.

Miller owns and operates Projects in Person or PiP in downtown Hopkins, Minn. PiP provides the venue, materials and guided instruction for even beginners to create their own do-it-yourself projects. This summer she's bringing those workshops to both Fargo and Detroit Lakes.

"There's nothing like being up north again," she says.

Miller got her elementary education degree from Moorhead's Concordia College in 2009. During her workshops at Love Always Floral in downtown Fargo and The Barn at Five Lakes in Detroit Lakes, attendees will get the chance to build either a tabletop centerpiece box or framed artwork.

"The centerpiece box is a really versatile piece of home decor, and it's perfect for beginners," Miller says.

After people build their boxes, they choose wood stain, handles and decide upon other ways to make the box uniquely theirs, including adding Mason jars full of flowers inside.

A passion for teaching and DIY

After college, Miller taught everything from first to eighth grade, but maintained a love of do-it- yourself projects, especially after she purchased a 1948 home and was forced to make necessary repairs.

"I was always interested in DIY, but as an adult I realized the teaching part was gone," she says. "These aren't really skills that are seen as a priority or handed down through families. I set out to do it better. I wanted to create a unique experience — having people get together and connect while learning some new skills."

So she opened PiP in Hopkins — what she calls "the sweetest little town" — all while being mom to twin girls soon to turn 2 years old. The business has been prominently featured on Twin Cities television stations for its DIY segments.

A self-taught DIY'er

Miller calls herself "the master of DIY trial and error" because much of what she teaches in the workshops are things she's had to learn on her own. But she does admit getting some help from her husband Jason, a Moorhead native, who she calls "my living YouTube tutorial." She says there's something to be said for making something with your own hands.

"I've found that people are most proud of the things they did themselves," she says. "When you go into someone's home, they won't point out the carpet or something. They'll say, 'I painted that wall.' People like to show off what they've done."

It's no surprise then that her workshops in the Twin Cities are well-attended and that her July 12 workshop in Fargo has already sold out. But tickets remain on sale for a July 13 workshop in Detroit Lakes and two August workshops in Fargo.

As much fun as the workshop attendees seem to have, Miller gets something out of it, too.

"What's fun is after they leave they'll get in touch with me later and say, 'Look at this other piece I made' or they'll say, 'I can use a drill now!' Most of these people have never used a drill before. It's so much fun to watch that empowerment happen," she says.

For more information on PiP workshops in Fargo and Detroit Lakes go to www.projectsinperson.com and click on the "Workshops" tab.

Tracy Briggs

‘The Great Indoors’ with Tracy Briggs appears every Thursday in The Forum. For more information go to her blog at thegreatindoors.areavoices.com.

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