You might think that Santa Barbara moms Agnes Effron and Jana Brody, with seven children under seven between them, have more than enough to keep them busy without plunging headlong into a new business venture.
But that's exactly what they've done, trading on an idea Ms. Effron picked up while living in Hong Kong to launch Artful Studio and introduce something called "Paint Jamming" -- fun, relaxing, expressive and creative communal art.
The two women have arranged Paint Jamming at private birthday parties and baby showers. They staged their first public party in Santa Barbara last night, and they are exploring the potential for events such as weddings, conference workshops and corporate team building.
When you go Paint Jamming, everything is provided -- easels, aprons, big buckets of brushes, large pump-top containers of acrylic paint, a book of illustrations to spark ideas and, most important of all, a blank canvas. What you don't need is any proven ability as an artist.
"This is about expressing yourself in art," says Ms. Brody, who has seen plenty of evidence to suggest that when the bright paint starts to flow, inhibitions melt away, and at the end of the session all participants have pieces of work they are delighted to take home. "It's fresh, creative and new," she says.
For some events, like a baby shower and a surprise 40th birthday party, those attending all work together painting on a single, large, quilt-like grid, each contributing a square. At the end, the group gift is framed and taken home by the guest of honor.
Ideally, Paint Jamming should have around 10 people to make it worthwhile, though the organizers recently staged a session for six women lawyers from Miami Beach.
"They were a bit skeptical at first but soon shed their inhibitions and loved it," says Ms. Brody.
Costs vary between $30 and $75, depending on how long sessions last (they can be between one and a half and three hours) and the size of the canvas, which is either 16-by-20 inches or a sizable two feet by three feet.
Ms. Effron, who grew up in France, was inspired by "Art Jamming" during her five years in Hong Kong and was trying to find a way to introduce the idea in Santa Barbara when she met Ms. Brody last November.
The pair were involved in a preschool volunteer art project and Ms. Brody, an artist, art consultant and art teacher, was immediately taken with the dream of bringing this internationally successful art process to Santa Barbara's social scene.
They started Artful Studio in January and by March had staged their first "jamming" party. Ms. Brody, a 1988 UCSB graduate, says she felt this was the perfect way to connect with the community, share her passion for the arts and "excite the potential within everyone."
The first of their open theme paint parties, celebrating the summer solstice, took place last night at the Westside Center, 423 W. Victoria St., with back-to-back sessions starting at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. Ms. Brody says the venue can handle up to 35 people each time, and at the next event there will be "Fiesta Paint Jamming" on Aug. 2.