Tuesday, August 11, 2015

TOP STORY >> Crafty startup has first class

Andrew Russell and Josie Pringle paint their wooden cutouts at Beyond the Canvas’ first class held Saturday in Sherwood.

Leader staff writer

Laughter and smiles abounded at the first-ever $35 Beyond the Canvas public painting class held Saturday evening in Sherwood.

Participants enjoyed painting wooden cutouts of the state, an owl, the University of Arkansas Hog, a “Gone Fishin” bobber and a fisherman.

They had two options, a blank canvas or one with a template “like a coloring book,” according to co-owner Heather Meadows.

Meadows, a detective in the city police department’s crimes against children unit, and artist Kristi Alberson founded the business.

They met through a “Wives Beyond the Badge” Facebook group for law enforcement spouses. Alberson is married to a police officer from a neighboring town.

She was making pieces at home to sell, but had become overwhelmed by the demand. When the two women discovered they both enjoyed painting and crafts, Alberson suggested a side venture, and the idea for Beyond the Canvas evolved from there.

“She’s the business sense. She doesn’t like big crowds. She doesn’t want to be in front of people, and she doesn’t instruct. She’s not crazy about instructing,” Meadows said of their partnership. “So she will do the hard work all day long. She just wants me to stand up there and talk to everybody and go through and help people.”

The police detective took art classes in school and is a certified instructor.

The business took about six weeks to set up, Meadows continued.

The two women have partnered with her friend, Mark Osborne of Southern Coating and Nameplate, for their space at 6200 Getty Drive off Landers Road.

Meadows said she and Alberson are looking at a 90-day trial period to see if Beyond the Canvas takes off before planning a big open house. The next class is at 5 p.m. Sept. 5, but they will be held every two weeks after that unless booked for an event.

With 14 participants in the first class, held on a day when temperatures climbed and mostly stayed in the 100s, the business seems to be well on its way to success.

One customer, Amy Brown, said, “It was a really fun experience, and, in the end, I was surprised at how cute my project turned out since I am not crafty at all. The tools they had actually made it easy. I liked that there was a template I could follow, yet I could customize it with a different pattern or color.”

Meadows said Beyond the Canvas would be available for private parties, like bachelorette parties, and have different themes each night — couples’ night, kids’ night, police appreciation and more. The business will travel if those booking have an appropriate space.

While the duo is sticking with wood cutouts for now, other crafts will be offered in the future. “We just want to see if anybody will start requesting and what kind of crowds we can get,” Meadows said, adding that holiday crafts are in her plans.

Their goal was to be more affordable than other art classes the police detective enjoys participating in and also to give patrons something that has a function in the home rather than the themed paintings she winds up with that don’t fit in.

Alberson said she began painting because she was home all day with a young child and needed a pastime. “You can only watch so much TV,” she joked.

Alberson started selling them after running out of room to display her pieces at her house. She enjoys painting because it’s “relaxing, creative. You walk away with something saying ‘Hey, I did that and it’s not too bad looking.’”

Beyond the Canvas also gives Alberson the opportunity to get out and have fun with other people, she said.

Meadows said she paints to unwind from her high-pressure job. “I have a lot of hard nights, and I just need to be able to relax…Painting and drawing were always something that gave me an out. It’s like my fun time, my down time where my brain stops thinking about everything else, and it just thinks about being creative and fun.”

She added that people who are interested in the classes should know, if money is an obstacle, the business hosts several contests for free entries on their Facebook page. Groups of five or more receive a discount, while 10 or more get in free.

Meadows said., “This is worth (your time). This is time where all you do is laugh. All you do is get creative.”