One of the first things I do with my son when we wake up – after breakfast and house stuff- is to draw. Or paint. One of the last things we do before going to sleep is the same. Our days flow around art in general – he loves everything related to creativity and crafts, and so do I to be honest. Of course that is no wonder considering I spent almost my entire pregnancy drawing, painting, sketching and dreaming. So when I came accross LoLa – Lots Of Lovely Art– I was so impressed to discover a project that was offering children art workshops and these amazing Boxes that hide all the useful accessories and tools you need to create your personal artwork in the comfort of your own home.
For me, an afternoon filled with art-ing and craft-ing sounds like the ideal mission to embark on when I want to get involved 100% in what my son likes. Because, let’s face it, LoLa, as you will discover, is as much dedicated to the parents as it is to the kids (side note, it is also every mom’s dream as the house will not get covered in fingerprints and paint, but is more likely to stay clean and put).
Each lovely art box contains 3 artist-inspired projects, four process-art ideas to inspire the little artists, and really qualitative materials and tools that enable your kids to be independently creative at home – or wherever they are.
When we first opened our Fantastic Flower Box, we were so impressed by how everything was packed, arranged, organised and presented – it was really like a beautiful surprise box you can take out with you to the park (as we did), or to visit the grandparents, or your friends that have kids, and where you have everything you need in one place – the papers, the colors, the stickers and glues, the ideas and inspiration… It’s all there, ready for you and your kids to get creative.
Our Box? The Fantastic Flower Box, so perfect for the Spring and Summer season.
All the lovely art inside the Fantastic Flowers Box is inspired by some of the most famous artists, such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Warhol and Marimekko. From oversized flowers inspired by O’Keeffe’s still life portraits of blooms, to the abstract multi-media artworks series a la Warhol, to colorful prints and graphic flower shapes illustrated by the Finnish house Marimekko, the box has something for every taste.
My son absolutely loved it! And even though he is maybe a little too young to understand Goergia O’Keefee’s intention or Warhol’s abstract art, he went his own way and imagined his own colourful flowers and prints, and we made little pieces of art that we will be keeping forever. It was so much fun, and such a lovely day out at the park with this lovely LoLa art box.
So we wanted to find out the history behind LoLa, what inspired the founders to create the beautiful workshops and art boxes, and how creativity and art can open so many doors for kids of all ages, as well as for adults who have a “kids’ spirit”.
Who are the two moms and founders of LoLA – we would like to get to know them a little bit. How did you come to the idea of creating LoLA? Was it because of/ thanks to your kids? What was the main inspiration behind LoLA?
Alara set up an art space in Istanbul called LoLA which was an art workshop for children, a shop, and a library with over 3,000 books. After teaching art for 12 years, she built up a long list of art projects for children! When Alara moved back to the UK, as sisters-in-law we would spend many hours chit-chatting about life and our shared belief in how important it is to do art at home with children, and have art supplies ready-to-hand for children to be confident to just pick up and create. Teaching in after-school clubs and in schools limited the number of children we could reach, and so LoLA boxes was born from this desire to support and encourage creativity at home, to as many children as possible! My experience in graphics organically led to creating all the visuals and design for the boxes, so we really do work well as a team!
How easy/ difficult was it to start the business – how did you go along, how did you implement your ideas, how did you promote your business, how much have you invested in this business (not only financially, but also emotionally, time, etc.)
As it is for everyone, starting your own business is a big learning curve! We were fortunate to have each other to discuss and talk things over. We had the idea in October 2018 and saw that the Babyccino Christmas Fair was coming up – we thought this would be a perfect place to launch. So within 6 weeks, we worked in a frenzy to have 2 completely different LoLA boxes ready for the launch, a website ready to take sales, and a fabulous stall. It was a wonderful experience with the thrill of launching and all the late nights culminating in a very successful Christmas Fair.
Because the LoLA projects are so visual, marketing on Instagram happened organically as customers started to try the boxes and post their children’s wonderful creations online. For us, that was the most fulfilling moment: to see children’s artwork online as they created, for example, a ‘Portrait Party’ from the LoLA boxes.
After this initial success we ploughed on, planning out a full year of LoLA projects and tying in featured artists with exhibitions in galleries and museums.
We are lucky to be a partnership of two different skill sets: Alara as an art teacher and Selina as a graphic designer. What we had in common was the same amount of drive and desire to put in the hard work to make the company come alive. Setting up your own business takes more time and effort than you ever think it will. Sometimes we call it the ‘second shift’ – when the day ends, the kids go to bed, work ‘starts’ and there are lots of late nights! However, we are lucky to share the highs and lows together – calling each other with joy when new customers subscribe!
How did you think and choose the theme of each box (tactile, sculpture, abstract, portrait…)? What is in store for the future of the boxes?
Each month has a theme with clear and simple instructions for artist-inspired projects. We introduce the theme as a way to look at different aspects of art. The themes over the year are a mixture of three types: 1) Key elements in art – for example, Colour, Line, Shape; 2) Art Genres – for example, Landscape, Abstract, Portraits; and 3) Art subjects – for example, Animals, Water, Trees. Over a year’s subscription, this gives children a good understanding of art in general.
We look at artists old and new, and we are very excited in some boxes to partner directly with individual artists, where we work with them to create a project. We are looking forward to June when our Lovely Landscape box joins up with Carolyn Gavin (Instagram @carolynj) who helps children to understand block colours in painting.
The summer months are also exciting for us as we will be featuring artists who are in exhibitions. Then families can use the LoLA recommendations to fill their holidays with art trips as well as art projects at home. For example, LoLA’s Creative Colour Box is inspired by the Keith Haring exhibition at Tate Liverpool.
How did you handle founding and running a business with being a mother – and a wife, friend, girlfriend, etc. ? How did you divide your priorities between business and home?
Businesses that grow around home life give so much in terms of fulfilment and wanting to do something worthwhile. But they also take a lot of effort and hard work! Utilising nap times, grandparents’ help, late nights, putting the kids in front of the TV whilst you send emails, are all part of the journey! It makes life full, but also fulfilling!
Having a subscription company keeps us upbeat, constantly moving and creating. We have a monthly work-flow creating new projects for each box. We get excited as we look at each month’s box. We think “oh this one is the best one yet”…and then the next month looks at a different theme, and we think ”oooo, this is definitely the best one yet!’.
It has been invaluable to reach out to like-minded working mothers, and it has created partnerships that support and encourage each other. It has been a joy, for instance, talking with Isabel from Little Grand Tours about our shared love of bringing art into children’s lives. This has led to us sharing activities for relevant exhibitions – for example, our Tactile Texture box is partly inspired by the Van Gogh exhibition at Tate Britain. Connecting with Molly Meg, (a wonderful children’s store in Islington) has also been hugely encouraging and has led to a workshop to launch our Fantastic Flower box in the store.
What does art mean to you and to your children, and how do you incorporate art in your daily lives/ weekends/ free time?
We have a strong belief in art being a part of children’s lives from a young age. In recent years, school curricula all over the world have shifted heavily toward reading and maths – even in primary schools. Creativity, confidence and a love of the arts are not easily measurable through standardised tests. But it has been shown time and again that art education is an important building block in a child’s development. We try and include art as much as we can in our own children’s lives as a relaxed and open-ended activity. There is no ‘wrong’ way to do it, and this approach allows children’s confidence to grow.
As you can imagine, our homes are brim-full of art supplies. Our children feature in nearly every LoLA photo because they (and their friends!) are the test bunnies for all the LoLA art projects…and we take their feedback very seriously!!
What shift do you hope you are making with LoLA in children, teenagers, adults…?
Teaching art in and out of schools for the past 15 years, Alara has seen first-hand how creativity can open conversations, relax children, encourage socialisation, improve fine motor skills, help with maths and language skills, and elicit self-pride and confidence.
The LoLA box is aimed at children aged 4-12, but interestingly from the launch at the Babyccino show, we saw interest from mothers with younger children. In response to the mum’s feedback, we created LoLA for Little Ones. This box focuses on the same art theme and featured artists as the main box each month, but it has shorter tactile hands-on activities (15-20 mins) for Little Ones with a shorter attention span!! This has been very popular for mums wanting to fill an hour at home and do something creative.
Thank you so much LoLa for this interview, and for bringing art in our lives in a different, more appealing and definitely unique way!