Why "All Hands Art?"

Subtitle: HandyGal, it was great being you.

I've been "HandyGal" since 2008 when I left the daily world of teaching school to start my own little micro-company. I identify with HandyGal, as I enjoy variety in my work life, and take pride in knowing—or figuring out—how to do lots of practical things. And some impractical, oddball things, too.

HandyGal and I had a good run for six years. We offered many services. Really, HandyGal existed to be that helper you needed for that project you had.

Look at all those services! I really did do them all, too.

Look at all those services! I really did do them all, too.

We painted some bedrooms, filed lots of papers, designed a few business cards, helped newbies start websites, hung wallpaper, consulted on what to do with the backyard, touched up living room walls, wrote and edited articles, scraped and repainted front steps,  hung pictures, and helped organize many a home. I even fixed someone's door latch that wasn't locking. (That was the most handyman-ish job I took on.) I met lots of great clients and most of the time I felt very useful and challenged. Those are two great gifts to receive from any job.

At the same time, and almost by accident, I was creating my first public murals, leading summer art camps for neighborhood friends' kids, collaborating with teachers on classroom projects as a Visiting Artist, teaching informal collage and mosaic workshops at a friend's studio, and doing more of my own artwork.

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

"An artist" is the earliest answer I remember having, as a young child, to the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I just needed about 40 more years to let the idea germinate and grow. HandyGal was the conduit for getting me there.

Before stepping fully into the title of Artist, I needed to:

1) Get past all the voices in my head that told me "you don't have any creative ideas" and "you can't make a living as an artist" and "your art is not edgy enough" and "art is just something people do for fun, not for a career" and "art is just for kids" and "you're not a real artist because you didn't go to art school" and on and on, ad nauseam. I still struggle with the voices sometimes. But I've become less attached to other people's opinions of what I make, and more focused on spreading the joy involved in actually making them.

2) Teach! That's the Real Career Path I set out on, starting as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya, right out of college. Then for a short time in San Francisco. Then at Bella Vista School in Oakland, where my heart landed for 15 years teaching kindergarten and first grade, and where I began creating public art and murals.

I still visit lots of classrooms, but now just for an hour at a time.
I still visit lots of classrooms, but now just for an hour at a time.

I'm so thankful for my time and experience as a classroom teacher. I worked with the most amazing array of humanity in the heart of an incredibly vibrant city (well, two cities and a tiny fishing village), under challenging and often ridiculous conditions. Along with lasting relationships, I developed resilience, patience, the ability to fly by the seat of my pants, and my "teacher voice." I also lost my fear (mostly) of public speaking, and of making a fool of myself when trying new things. (Five year-olds are THE BEST audience for a beginning guitar player, for example.)

3) Let it in. I started taking art classes again about 15 years ago. And I started an after-school art club at my school. Then I began carving out little places to do art in my home. Then a big life change (divorce) gave me freedom and license to paint my new walls gold and turquoise and hang red curtains and mosaic spirals in the entryway and collage maps on the bathroom walls and transform the garage into a well-stocked studio to open to my neighbors and friends and their kids and their kids' friends.

4) Take risks. In 2008 an acquaintance (now my good friend) named Dawn asked me to paint a mural in a pee-smelly, graffiti-laden stairwell at Bella Vista Park, adjacent to the school. "I don't know how to do murals," was my response. She was persistent, and she also had a design idea, some funding to pay me to do it, and some folks who would volunteer their help. Before long, we changed this:

Bella Vista Park stairwell, early 2008
Bella Vista Park stairwell, early 2008

into this:

BV Park stairwell almost-finished mural

BV Park stairwell almost-finished mural

5) Practice. As Macklemore says in the song "Ten Thousand Hours,"

... You see, I study art: The greats weren't great because at birth they could paint. The greats were great because they paint a lot.

Malcolm Gladwell would tell you the same thing. (Now it seems pretty obvious, right? So why all this silly talk about "I'm not artistic..."? How about "I haven't practiced much" instead?) I'm busy working on becoming great at art, and at teaching—by practicing a lot.

6) Change my biz name.HandyGal no longer describes what I do, which is: invite all kinds of "regular people" to make things with their hands. All Hands Art is much more fitting, don't you think?

However, I'm happy to say that HandyGal Studios still exists as the brand name of the whimsical up-cycled goods, vintage treasures and craft supplies that I offer. I'm still participating in local craft fairs several times per year, and actively running my online shop. Visit anytime!

What Else I want to BE

What I want to be, both in my business and my life, is CREATIVE and INCLUSIVE. With the new working name All Hands Art, I aim to share the fun and beauty and healing power of art-making with YOU. Think of me as your creative mentor, or your artistic-brain-for-hire. Together we can make your creative projects come true!

I invite you to take a look around this new All Hands Art website (thank you Bob of Flying Seal Systems!). Explore the myriad ways we can collaborate to bring more color, whimsy and beauty into your world. From small custom plaques to large public murals, I hope you'll find something that sparks your desire to MAKE. Like Julia Cameron says,

Art is not about thinking something up. It's the opposite: getting something down.

So get in touch and tell me what YOU want to put down.