Using your gifts and passions to tap into a community’s need guarantees success
By Carolyn Culbertson
There are two types of people in the world: the stressed and the people who help the stressed relax. Offering a space for you to work with your hands, these woman-owned businesses tap into creativity, connection, and community to help people unwind.
Painting a painting is all good and well, but what about pouring one? Mother-daughter duo Pat Gillam and Kim Carpenter of Swirly Girl Arts say that acrylic flow painting — where motions like pouring, dipping, and spinning replace a paintbrush — lends itself to relaxation. “This type of art has very free-flowing movement, and it’s extremely relaxing and stress relieving,” Gillam says. She has spent hundreds of hours mastering techniques like the flip cup, the open cup, the dirty pour, the ghost pour, and the balloon dip, “and that’s just the beginning,” she says.
From Girl Scout troops to corporate teams, even for those who think of themselves as novices, Swirly Girl clients surprise themselves with their creations because the art is so hypnotic and mesmerizing. Carpenter remembers how amazed she felt while pouring her first painting, and her following wish to share that kind of feeling by teaching the method to others. “There are so many benefits that art has to help people with their everyday lives that I think are so important in today’s charged society,” she says. “I think if we could even bring a little bit of that to somebody’s life, it’s worth it.” Gillam’s love for the art style and Carpenter’s passion for teaching create a natural dynamic that flows as freely as the art itself.
Ever start a do-it-yourself project only to end up with your fingers glued together and a half-finished spice rack? People can take matters into their own hands while being guided by a professional at AR Workshop, a national chain with two locally-owned locations in Lexington and Columbia.
Ashley Bonte brought the store to the Midlands because she and her husband wanted to plug themselves into the community, knowing that the crafty, DIY people of this area would be up for it too.
A majority of AR Workshop’s projects involve wood, which means that customers get to have fun using power tools on an endless supply of interesting projects. “When people run out of wall space, we now have things that go on their table. And when they run out of something to go on their table, they have a jewelry holder for the bedroom.”
Bonte has managed to grow her staff into a cohesive family so that customers feel at home in her business, and the store feels at home in the community. “We just want to be in the community. We want to be a resource for people, and we want to be somewhere where they can come, relax, hang out – not feel the pressure,” she says.
Fire It Up
While running her business for over two decades, Margaret Nevill of The Mad Platter has collected lots of stories about the value an object holds when a person makes it themselves.
“You can go buy a mug at Target or T.J. Maxx. But when you put some love into it, that piece means a million times more,” Nevill says. There was the mother who built a collection of dinnerware from the dishes her children made over the years. And the father whose twin boys painted a mug he drank out every day until the day it broke. By then, the boys were in medical school, so they came back and painted him a new one.
With six kilns at the store and more in Nevill’s garage, The Mad Platter gives customers a space to try the fired arts — ceramic painting, glass fusing, clay work, and more. In order to keep the pressure low and the mood casual, Nevill made a point to set up her business as an open studio. “You can try this anytime,” she says. “Have fun, be thrilled with it, and go from there.”