How did you start this art & academic studio?
Art has always been my comfort and passion. It was always my dream to have a warm and welcoming space to create anything and everything, and to be able to share it with other kids, friends and family. I envisioned a humbling space, filled with all sorts of creative knick knacks, sing-song music. A place made for people to come together and connect, no pressure, no stresses, just having simple moments and inspiration with a collective group (whether big or small). I loved art so much that I spent my whole undergraduate years studying Art history, the post-modern Art discourse, and painting one too many self-portraits.
Where did you start LAB and why?
While living and working in the ever-bustling city of Hong Kong, when every day (even weekends) was simply jam packed with deadlines and endless meetings, the idea of LAB (Language Arts Base) was born. I needed a space to wind down, collect my thoughts and feel inspired to make something again. I wanted to be able to provide that place for myself, and also for my friends and family.
I was already mentoring and teaching children on weekends to feel some sort of balance with my Monday to Friday office job. It was then when I realized I could perhaps open a studio of my own to relieve the pressures of scheduling! This would be my first time being a business owner. LAB started in 2014, and with the wonderful support from my friends and family it began to thrive. Our first studio was a small 500 sq ft space in an industrial building, with painted blue walls, an extendable table, some easels, and a cushy reading corner… and I was happy to be there. I would have a space to host parties and events for people, and it was great (since space was so limited in the city). I also had about 30 students who loved learning English and Art in the space as much as I did, and that was all I needed to get through the early days.
What was it like moving back to Vancouver?
As much as I loved my students and working in Hong Kong, I knew it would be a challenging place to settle down and start a family with my now husband. I decided to move back to my hometown of Vancouver in 2016. The first couple years back, I found my way to what I was most familiar with, and that was to teach and tutor children reading and painting. I began to feel inspired to start up LAB again, and in 2018, I opened up a pop up location, and then a cozy quaint space with a friend who also loved teaching as well. It was an amazing feeling to be able to come up with all sorts of fun lessons for students, and let them be empowered to dig into their own creativity whether it was in a painting or a written story. We also had so many celebrations like a boy’s first birthday, a Disney-themed bachelorette party, and friends just getting together in this space just because; they were all unforgettable moments.
What happened in early 2020? Why did we move our studio?
After a year of opening LAB in Vancouver, it soon felt overwhelming to be able to accommodate all these wonderful parties, camps and classes. We needed more space! We needed to share more of all these unforgettable moments with our super supportive community! A lovely parent-friend told me about this available space that was in the heart of a beautiful Richmond neighbourhood, and I absolutely fell in love as I had this vision of all the people that could gather, and all the art I could fill the space with. It would be a daunting move, but what is a life worth living without a little risk and having the utmost faith in yourself and your team?
Why did we pick Steveston?
Steveston Village community has by far the most friendly, open, and supportive group of people I’ve come across all my life living in Vancouver. It has always been a place to go to with family/friends on a weekend to take a break from the city, to grab an ice cream, window shop, and just smile and wave at one another. It’s welcoming, it’s gorgeous (especially on a sunny day), and it thrives in art and creativity. It was a perfect choice to move LAB here.
Despite being in the middle of a pandemic, we are ever so grateful for the students, families, and community who continue to show their support (online or in-studio). We are running classes based on Worksafe BC regulations, which means smaller groups and working around distancing markers, but it’s not stopping the families and friends from coming out to join in some fun creativity and learning. It’s only been a month and a half since we opened up our doors, and our day camps are filling up every week for the rest of the summer - which is unbelievable! I can only imagine all the possibilities we can have in this new space.
It is really all thanks to my team who stuck by me: Creative Carmen (my fellow teacher colleague who’s brilliant with her colourful computer artistry), Terrific Tina (our studio’s plant mom and teacher, who always says she’s winging it but is secretly super talented), Bubbly Bernice (our studio’s cheerleader and teacher, who’s constantly beaming with positive vibes), and Trendy Wendy (our booking guru, party planner, receptionist, and one of my closest friends, who’s there to bounce my crazy ideas with, and support me in everything in life and LAB). Also, thanks to our neighbours who pass by and introduce themselves and happily share the news of our opening, and our social media friends have been nothing but sweet and supportive. Last but not least, and most important of all is to all those who have taken or are taking classes with us, and allowing us the opportunity to share our skills and passion. We are blessed to have our health, and the outpouring love from our community. I cannot thank every one of you enough! Can’t wait to see how LAB can continue to be a place for everyone to build their relationships with art, with themselves and with each other.
Lots of smiles and air hugs,