Introducing OUR DAD!

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       We spend plenty of time talking about our sister bond and our mom since we are all teachers and artists. But, in the spirit of Father’s Day, we cannot forget the leading man in our pack - our dad (or as we call him Diddy).  He may not be an “artist” in the literal sense, but he is certainly creative and he has been a primary teacher in our lives. While he’s a lawyer by day, he is also our teacher, trusted advisor, contract reader, and so much more.

      We were lucky to have such an exceptional dad who prioritized us in every way. He still does and would do anything for us, but we have such strong memories of him that we now see were total and complete gifts that not everyone has. For example, throughout our entire childhood, Dad came home for dinner by 5:30 every single night of the week like clockwork. He made sure to head in early on busy days to be home by dinnertime and though his job required occasional travel, we don’t remember him being gone for more than a night or two at a time. We can still hear his specific footsteps bounding up the stairs two at a time to come tuck us in. On Saturdays, dad would scoop us up in our PJs and take us to get donuts (such a thrill!) and to visit our cousins.  We absolutely loved it, and we’re sure mom enjoyed the break! When we went on our big family vacations, cousins and all, our dad was always the one playing with us in the waves, on boogie boards, playing other games. Even when we tired of an swimming, he’d stay until the last of us was done and would body surf back to the beach on a wave with a huge smile. As adults, he is still the most likely to get a game or activity started when we’re on vacation or home for the holidays.

      While he is fun, which is a great personality trait, his other qualities are where we truly lucked out.  Perhaps the two words that stand out to describe dad are dependable and faithful. We knew with every paper we wrote, test we took, or idea we’ve described that he would listen, think on it (or read it), and provide clear, dependable feedback.  Not everything we’ve done or idea we’ve had has been amazing but he seems to always find a way to give feedback that is positive and encouraging. When we started brainstorming the idea of Little Art House, he first listened, than confirmed and encouraged our idea, and then set about writing a to-do list of things to consider which we definitely needed.  As we looked for our first location and than our second, he answered almost daily calls and went with us on site visits as a third pair of eyes and ears. When we received the lease for our current location, he thought it was excessively intense but heard us exclaim that it was important, so, lo and behold, a couple of months later the kinks were worked out and we have him to thank for it.  This is that dependable trait - we can depend on him to tell us the truth and stick by us no matter what. His faith is threefold, and shown by his intense commitment to his community of Columbia, Tennessee, his service to the Presbyterian Church, and, most of all, his faith in his family. We never once felt that we couldn’t do something or go somewhere or be someone because of him. He has always had faith in our choices and our goals.

    We could go on and on but for now, we want to end on this note. It is such a gift to get a little wiser as you get older. We are in this lucky position where we are old enough to realize how amazing our parents are and still have time to tell them and spend time with them. For us, we plan on making sure our dad knows how much we love him this Father’s Day and everyday, especially when we head back to the beach for the Fourth of July where we anticipate playing games, riding waves, and maybe still making a dribble castle or two :). Happy Father’s Day, Diddy, we LOVE you!

 

Our Favorite Sensory Toys for Independent Play

When we both obtained our Master in Arts of Teaching at Belmont University, we took quite a fascinating course on child development.  We learned the various developmental stages of children, including the typical abilities and limitations per age. It became apparent that we should structure our classrooms in a way that challenge our students but don’t exceed their current physical and mental abilities.  For example, we know inherently that giving a 15 month-old a marker to draw with may seem ridiculous but oftentimes in education we find ourselves asking students to perform a task before they are even capable of completing that task.

It is important to stay in-the-know and listen to your gut when asking your child or student to complete a task. We can make assumptions as parents and teachers about our children’s development but luckily there is a ton of research and literature out there that can help us determine what activities and new experiences or challenges we can produce for them.  Every day, interesting new discoveries and connections are made in this field.

As we dove into younger ages with our classes, specifically age 5 and under, we realized that while our education taught us a lot, we had to do some brushing up on our child development knowledge.  After reading and researching many different resources, we have become adept at creating lessons that are developmentally appropriate and fun for our littlest learners. One of our favorite things to do is create opportunities for them to engage all of their senses- sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste (though taste should often be avoided in art, but sometimes they can’t help themselves!).  

Below are some of our kiddos favorite toys and as a bonus - you can make these too so easily with items you may have already at home or can grab at a dollar store!  We are sure to incorporate some key words and questions when we play with these items and our kids. We hope this helps you little independent kiddos play throughout the day while also developing motor skills and curiosity mostly mess free! :)

SENSORY BALLOONS

  • Balloons (be sure not to get the water balloons or they will break too easily!)
  • Rice, Beans, Flour (pretty much any dry item that you can fit down a funnel)
  • Funnel
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This is such a fun and mess-free way to let you kiddos play with various textures!  Simply put the funnel in the balloon and slowly fill it up with various dry pieces. Once you’ve filled it as much as you can, let any extra air out and tie it up!   When introducing these, you can point out the textures (i.e. soft, hard, bumpy, smooth, etc) as well as having them guess what is inside :)

SENSORY BOTTLES

  • Food Coloring
  • Sparkles, glitter, pom-poms, beads, jewels, etc.
  • Washi tape
  • Hot glue
  • Water
  • Oil (optional)
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The options for sensory bottles are endless!  You can create a theme with color or imagery in the bottle or just random.  We like to have at least one thing for each color of the rainbow :) Once you’ve added the dry items of your choice, add water and food coloring (bear in mind the coloring can affect certain dry items such as a white pom-pom :).  Once the lid is put back on tightly, add hot glue to the opening and while it’s still warm, add your tape to secure the lid shut. You can use washi tape to match or just regular masking or duct tape too. Shake them, roll them, stack them and see what you can find in the bottles!

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PERCUSSION INSTRUMENTS

  • Rice, Beans, Lentils, etc. (pretty much any dry item that varies in shape/size)
  • Duct tape
  • Clean cans, bottles, old plastic eggs or other shape container
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Possibly the simplest option and super fun, make your own percussion instruments!  Just add your dry item to you container of choice and secure it with duct tape. If you use an egg with two spoons, you can even make your own maraca :)  You can shake them, tap them together, tap them on the ground, and more to get a variety of sounds!

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POM POM DUNKING

  • Scissors
  • Duct or Masking Tape
  • Bottle (any shape really but the 12oz drinks work really well)
  • Pom poms
  • Container for pom poms

This is so great to help kids with motor skills and problem solving for how to get the pom-poms in and out of the bottle :)  Simply remove the label the lid (We add tape to cue that it is an opening). Cut a 2-3 inch hole in the front of the bottle and add tape to the sharp edge to prevent injury and to show the opening.  Fill another container with pom poms and let them get to dunking! You may need to guide them through putting the pom pom in and getting them out a time or two. After that, they will surely play with this for a good long time independently :)

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Our Wonder Woman

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We’ve shared before that our mom was our art teacher growing up. And not just figuratively - she was our actual teacher with Introduction to Art for nine weeks in high school and she was Leighton’s homeroom teacher for all four years. Many kids probably would’ve requested a schedule change, but not us. By the time we reached high school we knew that she loved us, respected us, and valued us enough to allow us freedom to grow, but also to be there when we needed her, like on Fridays when we really just had to have that king-sized candy bar to get through the day.  For this Mother’s Day, we’d like to go a bit down memory lane and share some reasons why we love her so.

When we were little, maybe four and five years old, a few friends asked our mom to start teaching little art classes in a church rec room around the corner from our house. There weren’t any other art teachers in Columbia and it wasn’t common practice at that point to have art in schools. We LOVED these classes because we knew the teacher (usually a perk), we were with all our friends, and well, it was art. Need we say more?  This original “Little Art House” that never had a name, business plan, or official space stayed with us as we grew up. Whether mom knew it or not, she showed us it is possible to go it alone and create something.

Throughout the years, she remained our teacher both officially and unofficially.  At home, she was a genius at creating study tricks that helped us with every subject matter including English (she has dyslexia, y’all, how did she do it?).  We never realized how hard and exhausting that must have been to help us for hours after teaching all day. She somehow had energy to constantly encourage us to pursue our dreams no matter how crazy those dreams might be.  When Leighton tried out for cheerleading in sixth grade, completely out of nowhere, and got the phone call that she made the squad our mom’s face went from a fleeting expression of disbelief to her exclaiming “I knew you could do it!”. She was at every game from then on out.  When Emma decided she was going to participate in her first pageant during her senior year (Miss Mule Day) after most girls spend their teen years participating, or when she decided to make her own dress for prom, mom just said “Of course! What do you need?”. Let’s not forget our brother who also benefited from her optimism when she encouraged him to run for office his freshman year of high school.  He was a bit shy, and seven years later he became Student Body President at Vanderbilt University.

We could go on and on with memories like this of the amazing support and faith she provided us with over the years and the example she has set for us as business owners, sisters, and teachers. To this day, we still call her to ask “how would you do this project?” or “what do you think about this idea?”. We may or may not call her multiple times a day but we assume she doesn’t mind :). To all of the mothers out there, THANK YOU. You may not hear that much when your kids are little but, if our experience is any testament, they’ll look back in wonder at how you did it all with a swelling sense of gratitude. To our momma, the beautiful Carrie Lancaster, WE LOVE YOU. Thank you for being our biggest cheerleader, study buddy, and teacher!  We’ll call you in a few!

 

Creating Space in You Life to be Creative

It’s funny how structure can provide space to be creative.  It seems almost counterintuitive but it’s the best way to be as creative as possible.  If you have a plan for certain areas of your life or schedule, you have more mental space for being creative.

Mark Zuckerberg was onto something with wearing a hoodie every day almost as a uniform.  We tend to eat the same thing for lunch all week so that’s one less thing to think about.  In our classes, we have a general structure for class so we can think of more amazing projects and processes for our students.  

With all the moving parts of an adult’s schedule - taking care of the kids, fixing dinner, exercising, working, and the list goes on - it’s important to save some space for whatever creative process feeds your well being.  For some it may be gardening, music, or baking, but for us it’s visual art! We try to offer a variety of art making processes for both kids and adults so there is something for all levels.

Our lineups for May and June are already amazing, and we’ve added some fun options to really celebrate the summer season,  like Family Friday Tie Dye! Our newest teachers, Elisabeth Braswell and Rachel Pritchett, are offering even more variety for watercolor painting.  The regular teachers are back as well, including Modern Calligraphy class with Molly, Acrylic Skyline Painting class with Douglas, and more!  We (Emma and Leighton) are also getting back into the teaching mode with adults with Linoleum Block and Encasutic Painting classes!  If there’s ever a time to carve out art making time in your schedule, this is it! We’d love to create with you this summer!

 

Collaboration Inspiration

In about one month, we’ll celebrate our one year anniversary in Hillsboro Village and we have been inspired in ways we could not have predicted.  The students, families, and artists who visit us at Little Art House have been so kind and encouraging.  Each season has brought new ideas and classes that have been challenging, exciting and fulfilling.

Collaborating with others to provide new opportunities in the neighborhood has been one of our favorite developments that has happened since our move to Acklen Avenue.  From our first experience with mask-making last October with artist Alex Lockwood and Genie from Arcade Kids to “Haute in the Hospital” with Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, the past few months have been full of collaborative events, and we have some new ones in the works that we haven’t even announced yet. (Keep an eye out - we’ll tell you about them soon!)  These events are really special opportunities for us to work with our neighbors and grow our businesses together as a Hillsboro Village family!

Since our move to Hillsboro Village, we have been eagerly awaiting the restoration of the beloved dragon in Fannie Mae Dees Park.  On May 20, we will celebrate the dragon’s reveal at 4:00pm with our friends and neighbors from Hillsboro Village.  That will be followed by live band performances into the night. We'll have a craft table set up to make dragon puppets from 4:00-6:00, and Arcade Kids will have an awesome tattoo station going as well!  It is sure to be an amazing time and we can't wait to celebrate the restored dragon with you!

Imagine, Explore & Create All Summer Long

When we think back on our summers as kids, we can still smell the honeysuckle and feel the cut grass under our feet. We were outside a majority of the time creating imaginary worlds but when we weren’t outside, we were at the pool pretending to be mermaids or inside painting, drawing, playdoughing, etc.

At Camp Mom, we never had time to get bored. The second we even got close to complaining, mom would swoop in with an idea and off we’d go. We didn’t realize then, of course, that mom was intentionally giving us little nuggets of ideas that we had to then develop with our own creativity and drive. She might say something like “Make an animal out of playdough.” and the next thing we knew, an hour had gone by and we’d have made an entire zoo of playdough animals. We were lucky to have each other to play with as well and that made every activity all the more fun.

As adults, we strive to keep that creative spirit and independence alive during the summer through our camps. While much of the time is structured and planned, we build in unplanned time as well where free draw, playdough, and play time is the focus. Since we are not in school, we want our campers to feel like any solution to a task is fun. We might suggest drawing a guitar during Music City Camp week but if their guitar has more of a ukulele look to it or is actually a drum set, that is fine!  As long as they are happy and creating, we consider it a success.

We also value the interaction between the campers and encourage socialization and exploration. We see new friendships form every summer and we are always surprised by what our campers come up with when brainstorming and imagining with their new friends. Last summer, a group zeroed in on a hilarious “Taco World” idea and during Free Play they continued to build their world out of Duplos.  Another group decided that the nature section of the USN playground was their personal fort and added to their development every day.

These innovative ideas may not have prospered if there had not been the time or place for it.  As we gear up for all of our summer camps this year, we are keeping our memories in the back of our minds while planning.  That feeling of fun and freedom (while also learning a little bit :) is at the core of what we are offer in our Summer Camps.

 

 

Rembrandt, the Copycat

In our art classes, we hear young students complain and say “so-and-so copied me!”  Our response is often that copying is one of the highest compliments someone can give you, which is true.  However, it can also be a great tool for learning new art making techniques or spark ideas.

Many prominent artists over the years have used copying to learn studied and honored techniques. Rembrandt, for instance, was one of those artists.  There is currently an exhibition at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles that highlights all of Rembrandt’s studies of Indian artists who predated him. The exhibit was awesome! These works were not his best or most exciting, but rather, a way to see how he learned and studied other artists’ techniques to grow his own skills. The goal of these studies are that you take that inspiration and transform or apply the technique to create your own new, original work of art.

As creators, we fully understand and support all legal and ethical guidelines for protecting intellectual property.  At Little Art House, we follow up with the compliment statement we give our kiddos with encouragement and guidance to take that initial “copy” and to continue working and adapting the work to reflect their own creative process.

As we kicked off our final class pack of the school year this week, we’re already having a blast. We are excited to finish up the year with our students, both new and now tenured, that have learned to imagine, explore, and create with us.  We welcome everyone to join in as we finish out the school year strong and gear up for summer camps!

Are you new to Little Art House?  Feel free to join for a trial class to see what our weekly classes are like!  If you’d like to join for the remaining classes, we can always figure that out after your trial class :)  We hope you create with us soon!

 

Health & Happiness

Like many people, we routinely make New Year’s resolutions to "find more balance" or “live in the present” only to find they are not as easily attainable as we'd hope. They are often interrupted by daily life, to-do lists, or bumps in the road, and before we realize it, we feel overwhelmed and confused.

When we opened our studio, we knew our work-life balance was about to shift but we did not realize how significantly.  A few months into our new careers as owner-operators, we were both spending the majority of our time at the studio or thinking about and working on Little Art House.  Don’t get us wrong, we love what we do, and wouldn't trade it for the world, which is why it was so easy to just defer to Little Art House all day every day. During the holidays, we both realized we needed to bring some balance back into our days. This is why we have welcomed more members into our Little Art House family and connected with other like-minded individuals running businesses that believe in the same core values.

As we were making decisions on how best to utilize our studio space and time, Ashley Ray from Habitat Yoga attended an adult class with her family.  We realized we knew her from previous summer camps at USN, and we decided we needed to work together in some capacity. We saw an opportunity to expand and offer a great addition to well-rounded healthy living.

Art is a great outlet for personal reflection, understanding and growth.  Now, we are so excited to offer a mind-body opportunity to support these same goals as well!  In an effort to help our community be well-balanced, we can’t wait to co-host Yoga & Art in the Park with Habitat Yoga!  Join us as we practice our yogi skills and then create a fun art project to kick off what is sure to be a gorgeous weekend.  We’ll be at Fannie Mae Dees Park (Dragon Park), 2400 Blakemore Avenue, on March 23rd, 4:30-6pm with Yoga 4:30-5:15 and Art Making 5:15-6pm.  We hope to see you there!

We Heart Creative Communities!

Want to know a secret? There have been years where neither one of us has picked up a paintbrush to paint for pleasure.  As owners of an art studio, one would think we could carve out time to create but life gets busy, it’s too hard, the dog ate my paintbrush, etc.  The list goes on with reasons and excuses as to why we have taken hiatuses.

It is challenging to put time aside to create and even more challenging to save the brain space for it, which is why creating within a community is so important.  Our classes, for both children and adults, have reminded us about the power of support.  Watching others imagine, explore, and create in our space has become an inspiration for us.  It is amazing to see what happens in our classes, and the encouragement our students provide each other.  

The routine is admirable and make us so happy to see.  Artists of all ages consistently choose to come create with us, and part of what drives that desire is seeing their artist friends in class.  We have watched friendships develop and participated in wonderful conversations that might not have happened if the class wasn’t there.

Our goal is constantly to support and encourage imagination, exploration and creativity.  After teaching and participating with classes for almost a year in our new space, we have also learned how important it is to create with others for inspiration, motivation and overall camaraderie.  We hope to continue to offer a variety of classes for all of our artists to enjoy together for years to come!

 

Art and the Brain

Betty Edwards's book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is one of our favorites at Little Art House.  It explains how our brains and our biology works for and against us when it comes to creating art.  The introduction describes how the left side of our brains - our logical and analytical side - likes to insert opinions and corrections while the right side of our brains wants to see the whole picture and express feelings.

As we all know, we need both hemispheres working together to really dive into the creative process. But, how do we allow them to work together and not at odds?  We have to train our brains and create connections by honoring all aspects of learning.  When we ask our students, “what is the most frustrating part of making art?”, the most common answer is “it isn’t what I imagined in my head” or “it doesn’t look like I wanted it to look.”  This is one conundrum of our biology: understanding what we see versus what we think we see.

Training our eyes to see and our brain to understand - to perceive depth, color, and perspective - involves creating connections in the right hemisphere. Throughout our school years, we spend an inordinate amount of time creating connections on the left side of the brain through math, science, and literacy.  Now, there is ample evidence showing the importance of supporting the arts in connection with traditional academic subjects, and, as a result, classes are starting to blend both daily.

At Little Art House, we strive to show students how to create these connections and how to use both sides of their brains. We want our students to know that everyone struggles to make these connections and use their brains this way.  It is a common myth that art is a talent and some are born with it and others are not.  While some people may be more naturally inclined, everyone can learn how to create and make art.  If there is a desire, there is a way.  We are here to support that journey.