As lockdown learning takes its toll on children, families and teachers, we’re all looking for ways to get the kids out-of-doors, reduce screen time and make home schooling more fun.
Laura Bird understands more than most. Laura runs Miss Bird’s School of Art for all ages and abilities from her garden studio.
INTRODUCING MISS BIRD’S SCHOOL OF ART
Following the events of the past 11 months, we asked Laura to share how life has changed from a teacher’s perspective and how her garden art studio has helped to provide a flexible learning space…
CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF?
I am a mother to a very lively and lovely 3-year-old and an art teacher for over ten years. I left teaching in a secondary school (which I loved) to set up my own art school a few years ago, which I’m still doing today. I have always loved art and couldn’t imagine a better job than teaching it. I also love to make art and paint whenever I can.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO TEACHING ART?
I always wanted to be an art teacher weirdly but didn’t get into it until my late 20’s as I wanted to get a bit of life experience before teaching children. I worked as a Visual Merchandiser at Habitat for several years before embarking on my teaching career. I then worked on my portfolio and got into Roehampton to complete my PGCE.
Secondary school was great, but the paperwork and marking load wasn’t, so I really wanted to cut that side of teaching out, so decided to start my own art school. I have taught so many amazing people from 5-year-old budding artists, to 80-year old’s who wished they’d done more art. I love the freedom I get with running my own art school and there is never, ever a dull moment.
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO BUY A GARDEN STUDIO?
My main goal was to have a space outside that I could teach in, so that my family could still hang out indoors. I wanted my space to be calm and beautiful so that my students would never want to leave.
As my garden space is so small, I needed the studio to be as big as it possibly could be, especially in length, in order to fit a group of ten children. I chose the one I did mainly because the I loved the way it looked. I actually love looking at it when I’m in the house as it’s so beautiful!
HOW DO YOU USE YOUR GARDEN STUDIO? HOW IS IT STYLED?
Ideally, I wanted to teach a whole group of students in the studio, but Covid of course has changed this. I mainly use it to either teach zoom art lessons, or as a painting studio for myself when Wren (my daughter) is at nursery. In the summer, the doors are constantly open for everyone to use. Wren loves to paint in here with her mummy, she calls it my house.
I got a friend to make me a bespoke tabletop from Ash to fit some beautiful vintage table trestles that I bought. I also got a lovely blue English floral fabric from Ralph Lauren and got my mum to upholster cushion pads for my 10 Ikea stools. I added bookshelves and painted the walls in School House White by Farrow and Ball. A rug, some lighting and some of my own art were added to finish it off.
WHAT DOES YOUR WORK DAY LOOK LIKE IN 2021?
A working day for me has always been a juggle between parenting and working. It was only recently that Wren started nursery for two days, so I would have to plan lessons during her naps and teach in the evenings and weekends.
Now my husband’s at home as he works in tourism, we kind of share the parenting tasks and I get to paint more and teach a few lessons in the week. I normally arrange when I’m teaching, and we all work around that. It’s not perfect, but it works!
Although no one could have predicted what was coming, having a garden studio has honestly been a godsend. I’ve been able to continue my work without disrupting my family as well as hide away from them when it all gets a little too much. The timing was perfect, and It is worth every single penny and more for what I’m gaining from it.
HOW HAVE YOU MANAGED TO STAY INSPIRED AND THINK OF NEW IDEAS IN THESE TIMES OF LOCKDOWN?
During the first lockdown, my fellow art teacher friends and I sent each other mailart, which was so lovely to make and receive. I had no choice but to make the art as it would mean someone not receiving it, which was a brilliant motivator!
Honestly, I’m so lucky that I teach art as it is literally all around you. For example, If I want my students to record a tree, there are so many ways to do this and so many artists to reference. I like to keep the subject matter simple, and really focus on a few key skills. My students build on their skills a little each time, which is the best way to make progress. I think any kind of creativity has been so important for a lot of people in this time.
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP TIPS FOR WORKING & TEACHING FROM HOME?
Routine is key! at least a little!
Get out of bed at the same time and make it! Making the bed in the morning is one of those weird things that gives you huge satisfaction as it ticks off a task off your list straight away which kind of sets you off for more tasks. I like to have a list of things I’m planning to do and when I plan to do them as it makes it more likely that they’re going to get done.
If you’re teaching, imagine that the kids are still in the room with you and keep the atmosphere fun and upbeat, they will really appreciate this.
Follow Miss Bird’s Art School on Instagram here.