Tuesday, December 30, 2008

And the "art" goes on...

we did paper mache last summer and Bruce had to make a cycling jersey

When we left Los Angeles for our 1 year sabbatical our biggest concern was our studio. Art-Works Studio has been our baby for 10 years, we have grown it from an art studio with 1 student a week to over 100 a week, winter camps, spring camps and summer camps (our summer camps are so popular people start signing up for them in January). The kids that come to Art-Works are all wonderful, great kids, because they have a passion for art. They choose to spend 1 day a week after-school or on a Saturday coming to our studio. It's a great feeling and something that we are proud of. It was hard to think of leaving the studio and all the kids.

It was almost 1 year ago when we made the decision to take a sabbatical. But it almost didn't happen. We were both feeling a bit burned out, 10 years of hard work, growing a business with the longest vacation being 3 weeks each September, other than that we worked year round, all holiday breaks, spring breaks and summers. 

Bruce is a painter and paints on very large canvas' (you can check out some of his work here), during the spring and summer he'd work in the garage but in the winter he'd have to move inside because it was too cold. I'm a potter and my only choice was the garage. So we decided we'd take some money and remodel the garage into a super cool studio space. We met with a contractor and had it all planned out. French doors, sky lights, heat and sink. It would be the perfect space for both of us to create our art. Then the night before the work was going to begin Bruce and I went to dinner and out of the blue he said to me "the money we are spending on remodeling the garage could be 1 year in France". We both sat there and realized it was true. Will remodeling the garage make us happy, make us less "burned out"...probably not. So, we called the contractor and cancelled the remodel and I began to research moving to France.

Our biggest concern was the business, we needed someone to take it over who would give it the same "mom & pop" feel that it has. Someone to teach the classes who has the same passion, enthusiasm and ability to work with kids as Bruce has. I truly feel that Bruce has a gift, he's an amazing artist, but he is also an amazing teacher. We placed an ad and started interviewing....oh my.  Not good. We interviewed about 10 people and nobody knocked our socks off. Nobody! And then we thought of Travis. Travis and Bruce have been friends for about 15 years, they met through rock-climbing. Travis is an artist and he graduated with a Masters in Fine Art, but he was currently teaching art at a private high school in Los Angeles, in fact he was teaching at Bruce's old High School - Brentwood and his boss was Bruce's old art teacher from high school (the man who basically changed Bruce's life). We felt bad recruiting him away, but he was the only person that we knew would be able to step right in and take over, he looks like Bruce, they have the same personality, same enthusiasm, same interests (cycling), etc...it would be perfect. So we put a package together for him and offered him the job. He accepted. Who wouldn't...same salary for the year, but only working 20 hours a week (after-school and on Saturday) and our studio is 1 mile from him house.

Holy crap...it was official, we were going to move to France for a year. Travis came in and worked with us 6 months before we left, so all the parents and kids would know him, it worked out great. So in September, Travis took over the studio for us. But he doesn't do it alone...we have Alyssa and Kim as his assistants and they keep things running smoothly and Laurel our good friend handles all of the financial stuff for us. It's been 3 months and the studio is running great.

Over the holiday break we always have winter camps (we have them spring and summer too). Kids always ask to do gingerbread houses as one of their projects. We only do this for the holiday camp. We also only take a maximum on 12 kids which makes it nice and intimate. Last week they only had 8 kids, but a good time was had for all. Travis sent us this picture of the kids and the houses.

Travis, Alyssa & some of the kids

Here are some other pictures of some of the work the kids have done in class. Our lessons are usually college-level art lessons , if you present the lesson in a way the kids can understand, the results are fantastic.

So, here we are 3 months into our sabbatical. We love it here and we have met some wonderful people, drank some great wine, visited beautiful villages and cycle as much as possible. The part of the Aveyron region we are in isn't flat! It's hilly, very hilly, steep hills, because there are gorges everywhere, when you go down down you know that you have to go up up.  We went on a ride the other day and the hill we had to climb took me about 40 minutes.  argh!  We miss a couple things though, the warm Los Angeles weather (because it's cold here), a clothes dryer and the kids.

So, what do you do when you miss teaching art to kids...you invite your friends kids over for an art lesson. Our good friends B&A have 2 kids each from their previous marriages (4 girls) ages 6,8,10 and 11. We had them over and brought out the pencils, watercolors, pastels and paper, set up a still-life and had an art class. It was great having them here. I cooked lunch for them and Bruce drew/painted with them. We all had a great time.

art classes in the Aveyron

It's so amazing living here but it's also great to know that our little business in Los Angeles is going strong without us.  Travis and the gang have done such a great job and they treat our business like their own.  We are very lucky.  We just might have to open another studio in another part of Los Angeles (perhaps out in Ventura County - the riding is really good out there) when we come back and have Travis and the gang continue on.  Stay tuned.


Leesa said...

Oh wow!! That just made me all teary-eyed!! I had been a teacher in San Diego since 1992, and leaving everyone behind to live in France was a bit difficult! I had some really wonderful students along with the kids I worked with at the YMCA... (I did that for 10 years- summer and holiday camps!) So, I can totally understand how you feel about everything running smoothly while you are away... God bless Travis and the girls who are helping out...

Michelle said...

What a wonderful post. Having read about your passion for your studio I cn understand why you are going home to LA (one day).

Those kids in LA (and now France), are so lucky to have had the opportunity to have art classes with you.


Megan said...

how nice! Are you sure you don't want to stay in France? :)

Notre Vie Juteuse said...

Leesa - I didn't know you were in teacher in SD before you left for France. Hard hard work, yes? I so admire teachers. Before we opened the studio I was a software sales rep - worked 60 some hours per week, was on a plane every other day but I was never so exhausted until I taught kids. We only have 12 in classes too AND they love it. Can't imaging having a class of 20 or 30 and some that don't want to be there. Teachers should be paid way more $$.

Notre Vie Juteuse said...

Leesa - one more thing. Now I know why teachers need the summers off. You have to refresh and get recharged...we needed to recharge our batteries, so we took a sabbatical instead.

Michelle - going home one day...yes, but I'm loving france too. It's so hard to decide.

Notre Vie Juteuse said...

Megan - you hit the nail on the head. Financially we can't stay in france, we only budgeted for 1 year. But ideally we'd love to do both - perhaps 1/2 in france and 1/2 in LA..that is what we are thinking and the wheels are in motion to hopefully have that happen, that's why the "stay tuned" is at the end of the post.

franke said...

want me to help open the studio in the valley?


Notre Vie Juteuse said...

Franke - you are reading our minds.....as we get closer lets talk! Would be great, you coming back to work with us!

Randal Graves said...

Always groovy to see people so passionate about the creative process. If I knew anyone in LA, I'd tell them to send their kids there so you can make more loot and be able to swing France.

Cindy said...

I got goose bumps reading this post. I love your passion for art! I'm so glad to have found your blog... your enthusiasm is contagious. My husband and I are both artists, he's a photographer and I'm a graphic designer, so I can totally relate to how that creative process can capture your soul.

Heidi said...

Wow!! Thank you for sharing your story. This sounds incredible!

Notre Vie Juteuse said...

RG - ah more loot...why is it always "if we had more loot"

Cindy - you know there were some days that we complained and were tired, but then we would say "wait, we work 20 hours a week, go to work at 2:30 for 2 hours and teach art to great kids"....life is good.

Heidi - thanks for the visit. My story is nothing compare to yours! You are a true inspiration.

Barbara said...

Hi Alicia & Bruce,
Ahhh; It was so nice to read about your work. And glad to see that you are passing on the love of art around you among the kids !

A very Happy New year to you and your dear animal friends !!
Make it a rocking one !!