Studio becomes place where children Meddle with art

By Stacy Trevenon [ stacy@hmbreview.com ] | Posted: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 2:47 pm

Courtney Blaskower had always wanted to be an art teacher, but when she was in school herself, she felt constricted in art class.   Like when a first-grade teacher told students how they “should” do art.

But things have changed with the Meddle creative arts school Blaskower opened in two rooms in her comfortable Half Moon Bay home.

One of those rooms is for parents, with comfy chairs and shelves stocked with books for new moms or books on crafts and early childhood education. In the spacious next room, children experiment and create with various media like fiber art, light art and Blaskower’s favorite, painting.

“There’s nothing wrong with guidelines,” said the youthful Blaskower, herself the mom of two young children. “But I want to encourage kids to express themselves in whatever way they feel compelled to.”

With its name drawn from a Pink Floyd album and the song “Fearless” that Blaskower said compels her, Meddle gives kids of all ages a safe space to create, in the child’s own way.

“Art is a mirror, reflecting ourselves and the world we live in,” states the Meddle teaching philosophy on www.meddlestudio.com. The statement describes how Blaskower’s goal is to help kids feel confident and proud of who they are while creating art, and how her process and gentle encouragement is designed to spark creativity.

Classes underway now include a light-art workshop geared for 5- to 7-year-olds. The art involves little Christmas lights or battery-operated candles illuminating shapes in felt or foam.

There are also sewing classes, including an introductory level with hand and machine sewing and a second level of making simple clothes like a shirt or pajamas.

Using sewing machines is closely supervised, but Blaskower said children love working with something that’s grown-up, and she thinks it’s important for children to learn the safe and wise use of quality tools that make things that last.

Summer camps are also underway. One focuses on fiber art for kids age 5 to 8 to master hand-sewing, finger knitting, weaving a rug with cut-up strips from old T-shirts.

Another is a “littles” art camp for ages 3 to 5, in which kids will prepare lunches together, and work on painting or sculpting with Model Magic foam. Still another is a sewing camp for ages 8 to 11.

How her studio exposes kids to art reflects what Blaskower might have wanted for herself. Originally from Los Angeles, she earned a degree in fine art from the University of Iowa. While in college she also headed out to study abroad, at the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland to work in sculpture and photography, and the Studio Arts Center International in Florence, Italy, to study design and art history.

Being abroad, she said, was “about the experience of being in a different country, figuring out how to be present and not too obsessed with being homesick.” She also discovered that immersion in art forged a connection to new people, making her feel even more at home in art.

Resisting the push to specialize, she diversified into areas like sewing and painting, which she felt gave her her artistic voice. And she found she wanted to teach art, as a process to be embraced: “It’s not about the product, it’s about what happens along the way, and what you discover about yourself,” she said.

As a teacher, she says that “I’m trying to spark something, and then I get out of the way.

“It’s important to me that I focus on each child and really connect with them,” she said.

She taught for a semester at the University of Iowa, and with an outreach program through the Triton Museum in Santa Clara. She collaborated with a writer to help kids write their own stories through the Berryessa Union School District in San Jose. She worked as an art director for a branch of the Boys and Girls Club in San Francisco, taught at the Community School of Music and Art in Mountain View, and sampled the corporate world for a few years beginning in 2004. She left Symantec in 2008 when her daughter was born, and opened Meddle in October 2011.

For information on Meddle, visit the web site at www.meddlestudio.com.

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