In In the Studio

I wish I could say that opening small hands big art is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream and passion for me, but I’d be lying.  While I’m definitely passionate about this new venture, it isn’t quite that simple.

In the summer of 2007, I was riding my bike a lot after work.  I’d often ride from south Charlotte down to Waxhaw – a nice, flat ride out and back.  I’m not really athletic but enjoy getting out on my bike – once I get going, I have no choice but to keep pedaling because getting off and walking is actually a lot more work!  It’s a peaceful and quiet ride except for the screaming cicadas on really humid evenings, and it’s a popular route for local cyclists.  Most of them speed by me from behind, and then wave at me again on their way back.  For reasons that must have to do with the labored sound of my breathing, occasionally one will shout across the road to ask if I’m ok.

On one particular night, I rushed home from work so I could squeeze in a ride before dark.  It often seemed impossible to find enough time do things I enjoyed.  I had relocated to Charlotte about six years earlier to work for one of the big banks, and had worked in financial services since the early 90’s and really enjoyed it for the most part, but the last few years had been spent writing and re-writing policies and procedures in my sleep, which lately had averaged about four hours a night.

By the time I reached the park benches by the train tracks that run through historic Waxhaw that evening, the light was fading fast and I only had a few minutes to rest before heading back.

A man suddenly approached me with a notepad.  He was a reporter who wrote a regular column in a local paper, the premise of which was that “everyone has a story to tell.”  He was on a deadline and asked if I’d tell him my story.

I gazed up at the water tower, thinking surely I could drum up something clever to send this man on his way.  But within seconds I could tell he wasn’t going to let me off the hook that easy.   He wanted my story and he wasn’t leaving without it!   So convinced he was that I had one, he patiently tried to coax it out of me.  I drew a blank.  I thought hard, I really did, while he stared at me expectantly, pen in hand.   My mind raced through the last few years – mentally flipping pages of the calendar like a scene from a cartoon, searching for something memorable worth re-telling.  I was getting uncomfortable.  I glanced over at the Crossroads Coffee House.  The wooden front porch was packed that night – someone was strumming a guitar in one of the rocking chairs.  I suggested he’d have better luck over there but he was reluctant to give up on me just yet.  I awkwardly sat there for what seemed like an eternity.

I don’t know what would have happened if it wasn’t getting dark and I didn’t have a good excuse to leave.  Maybe with a little more time I could have thought of something.  Maybe not.  But I do know that I was really unnerved by that encounter.  I spent a long time afterwards trying to pinpoint what circumstances had led me to be sitting on that bench that night, without a single meaningful story to tell such an attentive listener.   After much reflection, I eventually realized it’s not that I don’t have stories to tell – oh trust me, I have plenty – most of which are pretty amusing if I do say so myself!  But I don’t have THE story yet.

The idea and name for small hands big art literally came to me out of the blue not long after my encounter with the persistent reporter, and all the pieces just seemed to fall into place since I’ve always loved children and art.  But this is our first blog post – and a long one at that! – so there will be more to come about those topics later.  By the fall of that year, I was spending all my spare time working on a “plan”.  I didn’t know when I would do it, or how, but it turned out some of those tough decisions were made in serendipitous ways that make me believe this was just meant to be.

I’m not sure how my story will go.  Or if this is even “the one.”  But I can’t wait to find out how it begins!

What’s your story?

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Showing 7 comments
  • Greg Genova

    Awesome Jen!!!! I hope for all the success for you. Riding with you during the MS 150s, I know you have the motivation to make this work and touch the lives of children. Again good luck and best wishes!!!

  • Jacque

    OK. So Jen, you might think you have no stories to tell, but over a span of almost 20 years (can you believe that?!!) you have kept me in stitches with your stories and (mis)adventures 🙂

    You have always been an inspiration to me from the very day we met. Always motivated and such the go-getter. I know the artist in you was tucked away, but now you have emerged to create this fantastic endeavor to share with young minds and live your dreams. I am so proud of you and the little lives that you will inspire will have a solid creative foundation for their future.

  • Jerry Doyle

    Jennifer, it has been great working with you over the past almost two years. You are as prepared as can be having put in enormous time in preparation. Success in right around the corner and many children will benefit from your inspiration, energy, and vision! All the best and I look forward to seeing the studio when you are in operation.
    Jerry Doyle

  • Sue Fahey

    Jennifer, this is a wonderful concept that will benefit, entertain and bring out the creativity in so many children. You are such a creative person yourself, with such a love of children, that I know this will be a truely great place for children to come, spend some time and discover their own creative talents. Great idea and only the beginning of your new story!!

  • Anne Irwin Ward

    Jennifer – very inspiring first blog entry! I am so excited for you and know this will be a fantastic place for children to explore and demonstrate their artistic creativity. I can’t wait for our baby to be old enough to join in the fun. Your store and the website looks amazing, too!

  • Patty Ross

    Jen – three people in my life have inspired me to “be more than you can be”….my dad, Michael, and YOU!!…and I know you will bring that inspiration to the little hands and little hearts that you will touch. I am so proud of you and the direction you’re headed. Congratulations on this new chapter in your life. You deserve all the happiness that I’m sure it will bring you. And let me know when you’re ready for a visit…I’ll be there!
    Love You,

  • Chad Champion

    Great website! Great concept! I’m very proud of you. I look forward to bringing my girls over in the near future! Wishing you nothing but success!


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