I’ve received many emails this year about how to open an art studio for kids. Though I appreciate the good intention behind these emails, they often cause me pause. I mean, how can I speak to 20 years of hard work, failure, success, following my intuition, going into debt, finding a life partner, having kids, pounding the pavement and finally speaking my truth, in an email?
I moved to California 21 years ago this summer. I knew I wanted to work with kids but I didn’t know how. I’m a natural when it comes to kids. I think I get it from my dad. He was a teacher before he went into finance. Kids love him. My friends loved him growing up. Maybe I watched him. I’m not really sure. I just know that if there’s a kid around between the ages of about 2 and 10, it’s a pretty safe bet we are going to hit it off. It’s always been like that.
I’ve also always loved art. From a young age I could draw and had pretty good ability with my hands to make things. I hung out with other artsy friends and we were always picked to do arty things in school. I found my confidence in art. And probably my escape from things that were stressful growing up.
One thing I payed close attention to growing up, was this big word I heard a lot. “Entrepreneur.” My grandpa, Harry Goldstein, was an entrepreneur, and I could tell from the way my mom talked about him, what he did was something of value. My grandpa was the first person to bring the surf and skater culture from the west coast to the east coast where we grew up. This was a great source of pride in my family. It was something I understood intrinsically. Do things people haven’t done before. That’s cool.
So though I am a teacher and an artist, above all else, I am an entrepreneur. I crave the world of possibilities. I yearn for it. And though I have spent years teaching art to children, it is the possibility of what I can create, discover, bring to fruition, that drives me. I think it’s taken me 43 years to figure that out, but now that I know, I know.
I’ve had several businesses in my life, from painted shells at the beach club at 4, to jewelry made from fishing equipment and erasers at 10 with my number one cuz Erica Reitman, to drawing characters on clothing at 15, to a children’s t-shirt company designed by kids for kids, that I sold only 5 or so years ago. From that very real, yet fragile last business, I learned I’ll never go into credit card debt over a business ever again. It was one of the most stressful periods of my life and one I don’t wish to repeat. But, that business, which was in talks to be in every kids Gap in the country before the the recession hit, taught me many things. Among them, photoshop, quickbooks, how to to sell, how to put myself out there and the power of loneliness.
When I met my husband Evan in 2005 I learned what it meant to have a partner, a real partner, that has your back in every sense of the word. I couldn’t do half the things I do without Ev’s support. He is my everything and I know that with all my heart. He helped me go back to teaching, get out of debt and and receive a steady paycheck again. What a relief it was to NOT be my own boss.
A year or so later came my girls. They taught me how much I loved doing art with kids again and how good I was at it. They got me back in my game and filled me with a passion to blog about creativity and how passionate I was about it. My girls were my guinea pigs for what worked and what didn’t and my models for all the endless photo shoots. Oh, the photo shoots. “Girls just wait, one more pic, can you just please stretch the slime one more time!” Man, I have asked a lot of them over the years and I am grateful for every post they helped me create.
When I left my teaching job for the third time in almost 15 years I didn’t know what I would do. I just had to leave and thankfully I had Ev’s support. He believed in me and all that I was capable of. So I left my job and got a new one as an atelierista at my girl’s preschool. And I just crushed it. It was so much fun. I poured my heart into that studio and I loved every second of it.
Then the phone started ringing. “Can you teach an after school art class to a bunch of girls at my house?” One after another, the calls came in. Before I knew it there weren’t enough days in the week to teach all the classes. I had to hire another teacher just to keep up with the demand. It was an almost startling surprise. I kept saying to Ev “I think this might be something. This feels like a real thing. Should I open an art studio? I think I’m ready.”
Ev would always say to wait. “Wait until you can’t do another thing with what you’re doing already. Wait until you can’t fit another person in the garage for a pop up class or add another class at someone’s home. Then you’ll be ready.” I waited two years. And one day, I was ready. Ev peaked his head into the garage and felt the energy and saw all the people and he said “You did it baby. You’re ready.” We signed a lease on the studio two weeks later.
So when I get these amazing emails, from women I admire and respect, trying to make a life worth living, asking how can they too open an art studio for kids, maybe I’ll refer them to this post. My 43 years of living. It won’t be the same journey as mine, but if you keep putting one foot in front of the other, listening to your heart, pounding the pavement, making mistakes and letting people help you and love you, one day, you’ll be ready too.
Happy New Year! Thank you for the chance to share my journey with you. xo, Meri Cherry