Our First Art Party is in the Books: Feedback + Lessons Learned

arti supplies and custom postcard featuring artist RobinLK's orginal art

Sunday, February 25, 2018, RobinLK Studios hosted our first-ever Creative by Discovery Mixed-Media Art Party.

Our project:   Mail Art

Our party experience:   Wow, it was a LOT of fun!

 

My party experience: Wow, it was a LOT of fun and a LOT of work before and after, but very much worth it(!).

Like any good party, details matter. This event was no different. Three weeks of intense planning and preparation led to wonderful feedback from guests. Here’s what they shared with me in text messages, Facebook comments, and before leaving that day:

  • “It was sooooooo much fun!”
  • “…a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon with friends”
  • “…such an enjoyable time… making stuff and meeting new people”
  • “…a wonderful day of creating!… cannot wait ’til the next time!” 

I was thrilled to see guests playing with art supplies and making messes like a Kindergarten class. It was absolutely as I envisioned it:  loosely structured, creatively encouraging and inspiring, an opportunity for folks to leave their inhibitions (and To Do lists) at the door, and focus on Just.Having.Fun.

With more than 10 different types of art supplies to work with, everyone had plenty of options. When invited to ‘pick what spoke to them,’ they quickly surrounded the tables of supplies and began looking, touching, and selecting things they liked. I stood back and smiled.

Armed with their colorful selections, guests headed back to their seats.

They placed drink and food orders and began thinking about how each piece might fit together. They moved pieces of scrap paper, images, fabric, text, and organic materials (twigs, sand, seashells) around, tested color combinations, and shared ideas with friends – old and new.

Before long, any chance I had of sharing tips and samples with them was long gone! As one guest (a teacher friend) said, “Your students are so engaged, they’re ignoring you!”  🙂  She was absolutely right!

I remember the ‘teacher’ part of me feeling a little concern…. knowing after 24 years in my chosen profession, that giving no instruction can lead to all sorts of outcomes – desired or not. At this point, I had to just go with it… and make mental notes about what to do differently next time. The fun, creative atmosphere outweighed my concerns for the rest of the afternoon… mostly.

I walked around and answered questions. I watched how guests used the art supplies, how they pondered their choices, and how they interacted (or not) with those around them.

For a gal who enjoys the process more than the product, this was an amazing afternoon of watching, listening, and learning!

I made mental notes as I moved around the room – things I’ll share at the start of every party from now on:

  • use tools lightly: no jamming, squishing, or smashing
  • use supplies sparingly: paints, adhesives, and other media dry fast. Ink glumps.
  • basic purpose of tools/supplies: adhesives, paints, gesso, and ink + various tools for applying all those good things
  • use clean-up supplies while making art (not just after):  water jars, brush buckets, trash cans, ink removers, paper towels and baby wipes
  • the location of our water source + time to fill water jars and brush buckets
  • samples of the project and time for everyone to look at samples and ask questions before jumping in

I also noticed that while most guests were quite happy being left to figure things out (the nature of our art parties: why-to vs. how-to), a few might have preferred more How-To, which left them feeling a bit dissatisfied (I think).

I believe I can address that in two ways:

  1. Be even more clear in my art party description that our events are more why-to than how-to.  Hopefully, this will help everyone make an informed decision about joining us. I felt it was clear in the first party invite but I’ll review the wording.
  2. Ensure we go over the topics listed above before everyone gets started.

When we neared our final 30 minutes together, I mentioned how much I enjoyed the afternoon and hoped everyone did, too. Guests began collecting up their new projects… in most cases, several pieces. They told me how much fun they had, and a few even offered to help clean up. As any good host would do, I assured them that was not necessary, and wished them a safe journey home.

source: pxhere.com

Then came the clean-up. It was then, really then, that I realized what no directions or expectations could lead to… guests took my  invitation to “come make a mess!” literally (which was great), but I was faced with huge clean-up and many damaged or thrown-away art supplies and tools. Oh, nooo!

Two hours later, after cleaning matted brushes and sponges – several rescued from the trash, and seeing how many broken tools there were, the remaining 7+ boxes and crates of art supplies were finally packed in my car and I was heading home.

So, what will I do differently for future art parties, now that I’ve had time to self-assess?

  • Organize more thoroughly – less fluff and more function in containers and packing – save the vintage containers (no lids, really heavy/really fragile, or awkward shapes) for other art events
  • Streamline set-up so everything is ready on time
  • Use the first 20 + last 20 to get everyone set up and cleaned up, collectively
  • Talk about how-to and why-to keep our work area clean as we make a mess – just as I do in my own studio
  • Include more How-To and Why-To (tips and techniques) at key points along the creative way – a “creative pause” maybe… ??

Our first Creative by Discovery Mixed-Media Art Party is in the books, and I’m over-the-moon thrilled!! A HUGE thank you to everyone who joined us for the first party. Many are friends and brought friends. Thank you, thank you, thank you for supporting {and more importantly} being a part of my (now: our) creative adventure. I appreciate each of you so very much and look forward to more Sunday afternoons together.  🙂

The Tavern at Rock Springs Ridge

I also want to extend a special Thank You to Mike and his team at The Tavern at Rock Springs Ridge, who have opened their restaurant to us for our Sunday afternoon creative messes. Fair pricing, terrific food and beverage, and lovely accommodations all make this a wonderful B2B relationship.

Supporting local businesses is an important part of who I am as a consumer. Being able to support (and benefit from) local businesses as a fellow small business owner is also exciting! My sincerest thanks.

*If you haven’t yet stopped in to this neighborhood gem, I encourage you to. The food and atmosphere are terrific now, with the new ownership!!

Finally, thank you Bob, for asking me back in 2015 what I was going to do with this interest in art.  I know you’re watching over me and I know you’re proud. I wish you were still here so we could talk about it, but I know you’re guiding me. Please – keep leaving me signs. I’m listening with a heavy heart.

Sharing the joy of creating and inspiring others to discover their own creativity is what it’s been about for me since the beginning. Finally, I’m figuring out how to share that message and get others involved. I have finally discovered how to make magic…..

Want to know when our next art party is happening? Follow us on Facebook for the latest details.

Author: RobinLK

Robin is a lifelong learner, seasoned educator, writer, artist, and US Navy veteran. She writes and creates to quiet her noisy mind while trying to figure out this crazy thing called life. Some days, it's clear... other days, not so much!