Our little studio has been very affected by the global pandemic; our entire business model had to change. As difficult and scary as it has been, it has also provided us with the opportunity to work on projects that we have long dreamed of but never been able to devote enough time to. One such project was our programs and workshops. With the studio closed we were able to design our Baby Basquiat, Frida’s Friends, Art Labs, and the long awaited Small Fry Sewing Society.
The beautiful building that we now call home began it’s life as The Raymond Sewing Machine Factory in 1875. Although the factory closed in 1922, it left behind a legacy of beautiful and widely accessible innovation. We like to think The Children’s Art Factory is continuing that legacy in our industry-leading best practices in the field of early childhood education.
There is something truly magical about teaching young children how to sew using machines in the very place they were being built 135 years ago. In our studio we embrace child-led and play based learning; in our Small-Fry Sewing Society that means children are given a foundational knowledge of how to use their tools and then are given the freedom to experiment and explore with support from their Society Leader, Joy. Step-by-step projects have their place, but it is not here. Here we celebrate innovation, unique designs, and perfectly-imperfect hand drawn patterns. Society Members have proudly designed and made their own home décor, clothing, and stuffies.
Too often adults focus on teaching children a specific skill without imparting a love for that skill. We believe that it is more important to empower children in their creativity than worry about how their final product looks (although their final product is often amazing!). This may mean that their skirt they have sewn may be unevenly hemmed (or not hemmed at all!), it might be sewn with odd stitch patterns and cut out of old drapes, but they have done the seemingly impossible: they have made something from nothing. They have taken a flat piece of fabric and with their own hands carefully crafted it into a garment. They see with new appreciation the clothing they previously thought just appeared in the store. They can do something so many adults no longer can. Any frustration is forgotten as they model their new clothing and joyously begin planning their next project.
This feeling of accomplishment is why we do not instruct children on what to make. We do not all sit down to sew a bag in the same way and at the same pace. Each child enters our space with unique ideas and we do everything we can to support them in realizing their goals. Does this require smaller group sizes? More preparation? More materials? More patience? Yes. But seeing a child glow with pride as they hold aloft their hand made stuffie (or pillow, jacket, bag, hat, or anything else) and declare, “I MADE THIS,” makes it worth every ounce of effort.