Getting creative with Preston's Little Owl Art Studio: 'Teaching art is completely fulfilling'
On the topic of opening young minds to the endlessness of possibilities in life, the American poet and Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Frost once said: ‘I am not a teacher, but an awakener.’
That statement certainly rings true in the case of Helen Jackson, founder of The Little Owl Art Studio.
“As a child, I always loved making things, but my true passion for art really came through when I was at high school,” says Helen, who is from Chester. “We had an amazing art department and it was just so inspiring and the teachers were so great, so I fell in love with it. From then on, it was always going to be the case that I was going to go into art.
“That passion is something which will always stay with me.”
Well and truly inspired, Helen went on to study Fine Art at Reading University, where she would travel in to London to visit some of the world’s best art galleries, before returning to the North West to do a PGCE in Secondary Art & Design Education in Liverpool.
After qualifying as a teacher, Helen gained over 15 years’ experience in the classroom, including a job in Dorset where she also taught and developed a passion for photography. But, as is sadly often the case, the rigours of teaching started to wear.
“I packed in teaching because I was fed up of the paperwork,” explains Helen, who opened the Little Owl Art Studio in 2013. “It was nothing to do with my subject or the children, I just felt I wasn’t able to teach what I was passionate about.
“It was very scary and I’m not a risk-taker, so to actually hand my notice in was a massive ordeal.
“Opening the studio was a big leap and to become self-employed and not knowing if it was going to work was daunting,” she adds. “It’s built up over the years and the children who started out have stayed on - I’ve been invited to one of the girl’s 18th birthday parties and she was only when she first came to me. That’s just so lovely.
“To see how they’ve grown with their art and in themselves has been great. It’s completely fulfilling.”
Located at Rothwell Barn on the outskirts of the village of Much Hoole near Preston Helen’s studio is based in a former dairy barn dating back to the 1840s - about as peaceful and relaxing a setting as one could hope for and the perfect place for art classes, courses, parties, and various activity events.
Offering children’s and adult art classes, workshops, a photography service including studio and location work as well as wedding photography, The Little Owl Art Studio is Mecca when it comes to cultivating artistic creativity in young people and those looking to try their hand at something more imaginative alike.
Opened in order to provide people with a warm and welcoming place in which to learn a wide spectrum of new skills and to create unique artwork using everything from paints and pastels to mosaic and batik, the studio has also become a great social scene for like-minded artists, with something on offer for all ages.
But, as is the case across the board, the 18 months or so during the Covid-19 pandemic have not been without the odd hiccup.
“Last year, I did virtually no work at all due to Covid,” says Helen, with the studio’s Crazy2Cre8 Holiday Art Club having recently restarted . “It’s been very, very difficult and we’ve had to reduce numbers because of social distancing, but the help from the government has been amazing.
“It’s been a worrying time and I felt like I might have to start from scratch, but it’s not been as bad as it could’ve been,” she adds, with the holiday club running Monday to Friday and helping children work on their own bespoke art projects. “I’m hoping we’ll bounce back. And I’m really enjoying having the kids back in.
“I love teaching art, but it’s also about seeing their different personalities shine through.”