Lesli Jeffrey and Sandy Moon shift career gears about as smoothly as a Formula 1 driver does on the racetrack.
The lifelong friends celebrated their grand opening of smART Studio Nov. 1, but if you’d asked them four months ago what they thought they’d be doing right now, the answer would have been much different.
Jeffrey, until late summer, was the owner of Ella Minnow Pea toy store in downtown Chatham, where Moon regularly helped her.
But when Jeffrey accepted an offer to purchase the shop, the two were suddenly left with a burning entrepreneurial spirit, but no outlet.
That didn’t last long.
“We both wanted to do this for some time now,” Jeffrey said. “Each of us has kids who are interested in art.”
So the two double-clutched, burned rubber and took off down a new career path – studio owners.
Their smART Studio offers art classes for people of all ages. It’s fittingly located in a classroom – one of the rooms at the old McKeough School on Forest Street in Chatham, owned by Josh and Nate Blair, the men behind Blairs’ Boot Camp.
The women have been hard at work prepping the space for their classes. The classroom has an excellent atmosphere – high ceilings, large windows, exposed brick in places and a warm feel. The only real splash of colour – aside from the paintings – is a bright blue couch in one corner. It’s part of a sitting area for artists to enjoy when they take a break from their work.
The women said opting to set up shop at the old school wasn’t a hard decision.
“We looked around but nothing else felt right,” Moon said.
“This was just ‘happening.’ It’s great,” Jeffrey said. “This building is filling up and we’re excited to be in it.”
“We’ve seen it evolve,” Moon added. “It just felt really cool.”
Jeffrey said the “old-school charm” makes for a relaxing art studio.
“When we crank the music, two hours can go by in what feels like five minutes. You get lost in your work,” she said.
That work will come in the form of classes and open studio time. Participants can enjoy a structured learning experience in mediums such as watercolour or sketch drawing.
Classes will be led by other local artists, including Sandra Van Raay, Gord Swatkow and Laila Farrell.
“People who come here will get the best of the best (locally),” Jeffrey said. “Chatham is full of amazing artists.”
Moon and Jeffrey believe there is a need for their studio. They said fine art isn’t really taught in local schools any more, but there are still students with an interest in the subject.
“If you come here, there is always going to be a class,” Jeffrey said.
Moon and Jeffrey are incredibly upbeat as they head into their new venture. They see all signs pointing to success.
“Everything has fallen into place. It must be meant to be,” she said.
Their good vibes are contagious.
For anyone wanting to learn more, check out the studio’s website at www.smartstudiochatham.com.