We love creativity here at Cat's Pajamas so jumped at the chance to feature Chandos Atelier as part of the Businesses Built on Passion blog series. Chandos Atelier are also part of the the Small Business Saturday #smallbiz100 2020 so it was great to get to hear more from founder Emma Wreyford.
Chandos Atelier - Emma Wreyford
Tell us a little bit about your business.
We offer un-prescriptive, exploratory, art & making experiences to everyone. There are so many tick boxes in today’s world, so many chances to get things ‘wrong’. We really believe that creativity shouldn’t be like this.
We don’t teach art - we facilitate learning through art. Offering opportunities to create, we invite people to explore, to think for themselves. We start a process, offer thoughts, plus ideas and tricks learned along the way. Giving space and encouragement we try hard to share the belief that there are not really mistakes in the process of making art, just chances and opportunities that we wouldn’t’ve otherwise come across. We need creative thinkers - we’re giving those creatives confidence.
What inspired you to set up your business?
I was a props and costume maker for more than 20 years, moving home to Bristol and with my young daughter starting school I wanted to work with fewer manic deadlines and weeks away.
I had a workshop space so I changed it around and asked a few of my daughters new classmates if they wanted to come and explore - and they did! It took off from there, realising I was offering a completely different angle on making and creativity, I started offering after-school clubs to schools which were really well received.
It's quite an antidote to the way the curriculum is often taught, my way is to encourage the process rather than the finished product - that doesn't mean there aren’t masterpieces created though!
What gave you the final nudge/ push to go for it?
It was a slow burn really. I was still taking on costume work to supplement my income, until I realised that the sessions were making more money and taking up all the time I had available. I'm so lucky to have been able to use my workshop to sustain one business, and help create another.
What has been your biggest challenge to date?
Without a doubt it has been COVID-19. My entire business closed two weeks before lockdown at the end of March this year. I couldn’t go in to schools, I couldn’t accept anyone into my workshop, and I'm still not able to.
I have pivoted and pivoted! My daughter and I started a video series for IGTV which we then transferred to a Youtube channel. I started sending out Art Club Takeaways which have now progressed in to the Crafternoon Packs that I'm marketing for Christmas.
I’m hopeful that we will be back in schools before too long, I know the children are hopeful too, but until then I’m grateful for my creative thinking - the thing that got me here in the first place - and actually I've been preaching that if something doesn't go to plan don’t be disheartened, just change the plan, and now I’m doing it myself.
Describe your greatest success/ the thing you are most proud of?
I think I'm most proud of my ideas.
Because I’m not a teacher, not an artist and not trained in a particular field, I'm a maker who has spent years learning, exploring and trying things out, I’m in a unique position to offer ideas, experience and I can really build confidence in the children I work with because I'm not expecting them to ‘make one of these’.
My head is always buzzing with ways to create or methods to explore, and that’s what I have to share.
What motivates you to keep forging ahead with your business?
I think it really matters! To be able to be creative without expectation, to try and try again and learn from ‘mistakes’ rather than be terrified of failure. And to play! Children, and adults, need these opportunities to explore and to create. What Chandos Atelier offers is really important.
Thank you so much to Emma for sharing her story with us here at Cat's Pajamas. We always feel inspired hearing about the journeys of others.
If you would like to find out more about Chandos Atelier you can visit:
Instagram - @chandosatelier
Facebook - @chandosartclub
Twitter - @atelierchandos