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Using Art to Create Joy and Inspire Others (Ep. 110)

AOEU Writer Sarah Krajewski joins Nic on the podcast today to discuss the importance of making our own art, and how we can use that art to create joy for ourselves and inspire the people around us. Listen as they discuss artmaking and experimentation, collaboration, and how Sarah became the Art Room Glitter Fairy. Full Episode Transcript Below.

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Transcript

Nic: How many times after introducing yourself as a visual arts teacher, have you ever been asked, “And what kind of art do you create?” At one point in my life, I would respond with, “Well, I did a lovely project sample the other day of a little piggy in the foreground and the background. What medium do you ask? Well, of course, crayon with a watercolor resist.” That’s not what they were referring to. They are wondering what I create in my own life, in my own time, to feed my own soul. Most of us went into art education because we love to create, we love to make. But throughout life perhaps, the time or the energy or the passion has reduced in our own personal artwork.

Today, I have a treat for you because we are bringing in Sarah Krajewski. You might know her better as the Art Room Glitter Fairy on Instagram. And she’s going to talk today about her art that she creates, why she creates it, and what it does for her soul and specifically, mental health. Her message today is going to be inspiring, so make sure that you block off some time after listening to this to create on your own. This is Nic Hahn and this is Everyday Art Room.

Today I have a treat for you. We are going to be interviewing Sarah Krajewski. Not only a friend of mine but I’m a huge fan of her artwork. Sarah, please introduce yourself.

Sarah: Hey, I’m so excited to be here. So, I am Sarah Krajewski and I currently teach kindergarten through fifth grade art in Cambridge, Wisconsin.

Nic: Great. And you’re not a new teacher, you’ve been teaching for awhile here, right?

Sarah: Yeah. So I’ve been teaching for eight years. I’ll be entering my ninth year teaching. And I was actually four years at a previous school, which was K-8 and I loved it. It was kindergarten through eighth grade, so I had elementary and middle and then I have just finished my fourth year at just an elementary school. So I’m really excited about the two places I’ve been and all the things I’ve learned along the way.

Nic: And people would probably recognize you from your Instagram because it’s amazing. Can you please tell us a little bit about your Instagram account?

Sarah: Absolutely. So you can find me on Instagram @artroomglitterfairy. And the irony of that name is that it’s actually kind of funny but it’s more of a classroom management technique for me too. So, when we use glitter in the art room or when I use something that only I can touch and the students can’t use it. Like maybe if we’re doing stapling or something where I’m in charge of it, I’ll just don myself a glitter fairy or a fairy. So I’m kind of in charge of that specific material. Art Room Glitter Fairy was kind of what I called myself anytime I used glitter. And now I dress up and the kids get super excited when we do glitter because I’m all dressed in a tutu and a crown and a wand and it’s kind of ridiculous. So that’s the origin of my Instagram name.

Nic: I love that. That’s really cute. I’m sure that brings a lot of excitement in your classroom.

Sarah: Absolutely.

Nic: All right. You know what? I’ve followed you online but I’ve also met you several times. You work for The Art of Education, isn’t that correct?

Sarah: Yeah. I’m currently a writer for the Art of Ed. So you might’ve seen a few of my articles posted but we have a few articles out each month.

Nic: Yeah, absolutely. And you’ve recorded a bit too, right? I think pro packs maybe.

Sarah: Yeah, I have. So I have one released right now that’s Art Club, so anything you need to know about art clubs, you can find it on the Pro Pack library. And then I also just finished recording two more, one on mindfulness in the art room. And then one on art room hacks, kind of inspired by the art teacher infomercials that I do on my Instagram. And then I’ll also have a black light pack that’ll be released that I recorded during the same time as the art club. So lots of awesome information coming out through the Art of Ed.

Nic: For sure. Sarah, I absolutely love using the Pro Pack. I can’t wait to see yours but do you use that in your classroom a little bit? Do you find some resources on Art Ed Pro?

Sarah: Absolutely. I actually just started talking to my district a little bit about it. They were like, “Wait, can all of our teachers get this?” And they were so excited. So I can use the certificates for professional development. It’s really, really awesome. And I’ve learned tie-dye from Abby Schukei and all these different things that I was like I just want to know a little more. So Pro is super, super cool.

Nic: Oh, thanks. I know we kind of went on a tangent here. Why I brought you on to Everyday Art Room today is actually because I wanted to know more about your art and why you are making what you’re making. You are an artist as well as an art teacher, which let’s just say we can all own that and we’ll talk about that later, I’m sure in our conversation, but I want you to first describe verbally, I guess what you do, what you make, and the art that you create.

Sarah: Yeah. Really awesome question. So, it actually kind of started from me asking myself, “What is my art?” So, to move it backwards a little bit, as an art teacher, I had a student that actually put on an artisan market a few months ago, maybe six months ago. They were asking me, “Hey Mrs. K., do you want to have artwork for sale in our market?” I was like, “Yeah, totally.” I went home and I thought to myself, “What is my art like, what do I want to make?” And it was kind of hard because most of the time as an art teacher, your art is like your student examples or posters or different things for your classroom. So you don’t, at least in my experience, don’t always make time to make what you want to do as an artist.

So after thinking a little bit about it, I settled on two things that I was really drawn towards or that I really wanted to kind of experiment with. The first one is something that I call happy abstracts. Those are really just super bright, colorful, kind of crazy shape-based artwork. I’ve experimented a little bit with making some different kind of abstract rainbows. So they’re really bright and colorful. Then kind of took that style of abstract painting, which I’ve always loved, and started putting it on different materials. I’ve collaborated with a friend of mine and she makes these really awesome ceramic plant holders. Then I would just do my abstract style on a plant holder. I’ve done some murals. So, I kind of just took a little time during that artisan market to decide what I really liked.

To boil it down, it was happy things that are shapes and colors and excitement and abstract art. I started making my own version of that. So that’s how my paintings came to be. Then I was also really inspired by some wearable art. And I had kind of experimented with it a little bit in the past but wanted to try polymer clay because I know polymer clay is so, so lightweight. So, I started following some really awesome artists on Instagram. Then started practicing some of my own shapes and some of my own color mixing. And then started creating these really awesome lightweight earrings. So I have a bunch of crazy colorful studs and different things as wearable art. Actually, another cool collaboration is that I have a friend that is a mechanical engineer and she’s going to be doing some 3D shape cutters, like 3D-printed shape cutters for me to use. So, it’s kind of cool to reach out to other artists and other people to make my art come to life through them.

Nic: Oh my gosh, I love what you’re describing and all the collaboration that comes along with that. That actually leads us into our next question a little bit. What or who has inspired you on the path that you have been on so far?

Sarah: Awesome question. So, I’m obviously pretty active on Instagram and I like sharing things and I like helping people. My husband always says, “Who are you talking to?” And I’m like, “I don’t know. Just talking to another art teacher that has a question.” So, I like chatting with people a lot. And I realized there was so many awesome artists online and amazing people that create polymer clay and stuff that’s not like mine online. So, what I’ve recently been doing within the past couple of weeks has been highlighting some artists that I follow, specifically abstract artists because in that same kind of sharing community and trying to say if you like something, share it. And that was really, really important for me to think about.

So recently, I’ve kind of highlighted a couple awesome abstract artists. A few that come to mind would be Heather Day. She has wonderful murals and she has some really, really awesome tools that she use and layers things. Andrea Soos’ art and then Hola Lou. Those three women are some of my favorite artists but there are lots of them online. I have an entire folder saved in my Instagram. So, a lot of times I look at different beautiful shapes and different beautiful colors. And then take that idea and turn it into my own abstract art.

And then another really cool thing for the polymer clay is that there is some super successful awesome women and their Instagram handles are tidyclutterings, shop31suns, and sigfusdesigns. And they started a collective of people that can kind of ask questions or share ideas about polymer clay and that’s called the Clay Hive. So I’ve been following their journey and any time that I’m looking for new ideas or want to just be connected to other artists in that world, they have been doing a really awesome job about sharing tips and ideas for new people. So that social media community has been really, really awesome for me. But also trying to get myself out of that a little bit too. And remember that there’s things kind of in my everyday life that I can use, this stuff in my classroom or again, a color combination I see out in the world. How can that inspire me?

The other cool thing that I really like is that reminder, if you haven’t already read the book, Steal Like An Artist, you have to. It’s super amazing. And it’s basically a reminder that if you see something, you can share it but basically start somewhere. So it’s by Austin Kleon. And he is a writer that has this book filled with different kinds of graphics and text and illustrations about how to start something and to show how you can steal from many people and be inspired because we all like to make things.

I had a really interesting inspirational kind of moment with an artist that was visiting my classroom. I had an author come in. And she was saying that there was somebody that was creating a book that was in the same kind of collage-style as her. She was like, “Yeah, people kind of thought that was weird, like would I care? And was it a problem?” And then she was like, “No, actually I think that’s awesome because people are creating. And I just am excited that people are going to make something.” So, that’s why that book was really important to me because it reminded me that I can create, I can make things, and there are so many people in the world making things that are probably close to each other like abstract art or shape-based art that we all just want to encourage each other to continue creating. So that was a really awesome inspiration for me.

Nic: Yeah. What a celebration and just a way to connect with other artists, being inspired by them but also finding your own path through the inspiration that you just described.

Sarah: Totally.

Nic: Sarah, it’s been fun to hear about all your inspiration and where your jumping-off points have started for you. But I’m curious to hear a little bit more about why making art is important to you. What does it give you? What does it mean to encourage other people to do the same thing? Why would you tell another person to do what you’re doing?

Sarah: Yeah, that’s an awesome question. I’ve had a few other art teachers reach out to me and say, “Hey, I started making art because I read your article.” Or maybe you saw that you are making art. And it’s so funny how simple that is to just make something. But how it can kind of be really encouraging to share and to say, “What did you create today? Or how did you show your artistic voice as an artist?” A couple of things that really stand out to me are quite honestly, it’s like therapy to me. I didn’t go to school for art therapy but I have found more recently how important it is for me to make. So sometimes I’ll be driving home either from school or most recently, since I’m on summer now, I’m just getting excited to create in my studio. And I’ll have ideas as I come home or I’ll say, “Ooh, I want to try this, painting this on wood” or “I’ve got a new kind of material that I want to try.”

So, being excited to create is something that I honestly kind of didn’t have before because I didn’t have a specific style of art I was making. That gives me a whole new sort of perspective on my life and my creation a little bit is thinking about a way to be excited and a way to kind of relax a little bit. When I really need to get in the zone, when I’m not maybe on my phone or I’m not a doing a house task or something. Really trying to take the time to just use it as therapy for myself. I also really, really love the ownership that it kind of gives me too. So it has me having a little bit more of my own kind of voice and something that I have to say or to share. Maybe if you were to ask me a year ago, what do I like to share as an artist or what would I quote-unquote say as an artist? I’m not sure I would have had an answer.

But now, I can say I really love creating happiness for people and really getting them excited about colors and getting them excited to kind of create and be inspired, whatever that might be. So, finding that voice and being excited to say something through art really has meant a lot for me. And then also just kind of keeping it simple and tying it back to our classroom. If just making art is a way to model being an artist for students, that’s pretty simple. But most of the time, students think you’re artists because they think you’re an artist because you’re a teacher. And they’re like, “You’re the best artist I’ve ever seen.” But they maybe don’t realize that you make other things besides teacher. So, I really love the idea that if a student asks me like, “Mrs. K., what kind of art do you make?” I have an answer for that. And that’s a really awesome way to model artistic behavior for students and for my peers.

Nic: But it really sounds like it’s been a journey for you. It has been. And would you say that it’s a journey yet to unfold for you?

Sarah: Oh, absolutely. I’ve already kind of been thinking back to when I first started. And I shouldn’t say first started making art because of course, as art teachers we’ve been making art since we were probably like four years old, right? But I-

Nic: Right, right.

Sarah: Since I officially kind of was finding my voice a little bit as an artist. So that was super, super recent. And I’m even kind of looking back at where I started and thinking, “Oh, wow, I’ve already grown so much.” And the cool thing about it is that you don’t have to and probably shouldn’t be perfect at something right away. This is what we teach our students. This is what I really struggle with myself because I like things to work really well the first time, as I’m sure most people do. But kind of reminding you that your growth is the most exciting thing. So, really knowing that you kind of starting from somewhere and just making something, whatever that might be, that you’re kind of drawn towards or want to experiment with. And then moving on from there can make you be such a strong artist because you’re making something that’s your own choice to create.

Nic: You kind of hit on this next question a little bit. What are some things that kind of scare you in this endeavor of creating? Sometimes we hear that inner voice kind of bringing us down. How do you keep your inner voice positive?

Sarah: Yeah, that is super, super hard. Quite honestly, a lot of what helps me as a person that has always had anxiety and always kind of struggled with being really strong for myself. It helps me to know that I’m not alone. So, knowing that as much as you might see my highlight reel or you might see my Instagram about what I’m doing and what I’m working on, I struggle with things just like the next person. But it’s super important to try to acknowledge how you feel and sort of move on from that. So, I guess going through a couple of things that have helped me. First of all, acknowledging that it is scary to share because you’re putting yourself out there. It’s like your student having something in an art show and realizing that they’re nervous about it. It’s kind of putting yourself on your page and saying, “Do you like this or do you like me?”

So that is a really scary thing to do. But to ask yourself “what is my art, what do I want to share? How do I want to create and continue to grow as an artist?” can be scary questions but can also be super, super important questions. Kind of reminding yourself that you necessarily don’t need to think like, “I’m not good enough yet” or “others are more talented than me.” I mean, that competition part in your brain is so, so dangerous. And I struggle with it often. But it’s something that I’m really working on is saying, “I’m strong. I can be really good at what I do and love what I’m creating.” And that can be enough because there’s always going to be people that are there to support you. So, trying to keep that positive inner voice and just remember that anytime you’re making something, you can benefit from it.

A couple of other things too. Plugging away at mental health. A few things that have recently helped me too, and I’m a huge advocate for and I’m not afraid to talk about it like Instagram or wrote a couple of articles for the Art of Ed, but knowing that your mental health and your mental toughness is super, super important as a person and as an educator. So, I’ve been going to therapy in the last year or so but have gone in the past as well. And I really focus on making sure I stay positive and not letting the things that I might get sucked into a little bit, not letting that take over my day.

So, I’ve actually started a couple of years ago or a few months ago, I would do some meditating. And the coolest thing that I learned from that was to kind of acknowledge your feelings about how something affects you and just say, “Hey, I noticed that thing is making me feel this way.” And then let it move on kind of like a passing car. So instead of letting something that you feel upset about eat you up inside, just acknowledging that it upset you and then letting it be a thing of the past is really, really important. Because we just don’t have time to be negative in this world. So, I’m really excited about encouraging people to go to therapy and really make sure that they have that positive inner voice inside of them.

Something that I, kind of branching off a little bit about that. So, acknowledging something so that you’re not really going to spend too much time on negative things. This one is kind of a special story to me is my mom about three years ago, gotten incredibly sick and was in the hospital and took her nine months before she was able to exit the hospital. She had Guillain-Barre syndrome. And something she told me when she left was or when she came out of the hospital was, “Don’t waste time.” So I have that phrase in my room above my closet and it just reminds me you just don’t have time to waste on worrying about what other people think. So, I could go on about that all, for so long, Nic. But I just want to tell everybody, yeah, it’s hard and you’re not alone, and I feel that too but it’s okay. You can acknowledge “I feel bad” from something. And then really, really challenge yourself to practice your positivity and to practice getting better at being strong for yourself.

Nic: Wow. Thanks for just taking the time to explain all that. Because I think that gives us a little bit more insight, especially when people are going to jump on and take a look at the work that you create. They’re going to see happy because you really do, you explain that visually in your work. One thing that I know, after we let this out to the world, people are going to want to know about the logistics of your art. What materials are you using, what technical aspects? We don’t have an entire podcast for this even though I know that we can or could. But could you just kind of highlight some of the top tips and tricks? And then also where they can get more information or where they can contact you if they have further questions?

Sarah: Yeah, awesome question. So I actually have probably one of the most asked questions that I get about my paintings is what kind of paint is that? Because I actually use kind of a non-traditional paint. So, I just use Behr brand paint samples. So I go to Home Depot and I pick out paint sample chips. Then I just go up to the counter with 14 paint samples and I just say, “Hey, can I have a bunch of tiny jars of this?” And then they kind of roll their eyes or they smile and giggle about it. Then they give me a bunch of new paint samples. But those actually are my favorite paints to use because they’re a lot more liquid. And I can get really bold specific colors without having to mix a lot like I might with acrylic that could be a little bit thicker. So Behr brand paints is my favorite thing.

And if I’m being honest, there’s something that I really love that’s kind of nostalgic about opening up a new can of paint. If you get a sea foam green or something and you crack the top off with the screwdriver and you just peel the top of the paint off. And then there’s this super shiny, beautiful saturated color. There’s something sort of nostalgic and amazing about that, which is probably why I’m drawn to the paint samples. So, that’s the kind of paint that I use. And then in almost all of my paintings, I have gold paint as well, which is Testors brand enamel paint. So it’s kind of what you’d use to put on model cars but it’s the best gold I’ve found.

And then I often use black ink and neon liquid acrylic. So it’s the acrylic that’s in those little droppers. If I want to add it to my paint samples then I can just drop in a couple neon yellow drops as I’m mixing it. And then it makes those colors super, super bright. So, I love bright colors. I’ve been trying to dull down my palette sometimes because I know some people don’t love bright colors as much as me but still kind of like the palette. So, those are the painting tools that I use often. And then the earrings that I make are just simply polymer clay, so like Sculpey or Fimo that you might find at your local craft store. Then the cool thing about that is you don’t need a kiln. You can just use a toaster oven and maybe a few cutting tools or a roller. So you can make earrings or necklaces or anything out of polymer clay, like in an instant. It’s pretty awesome.

Nic: Great. Where can people contact you if they want more information on your art?

Sarah: Absolutely. So, I do have a website. It’s artroomglitterfairy.com. And like I said, you’re welcome to message me on Instagram @artroomglitterfairy. On my profile, you can find a link on my website that is to my Etsy. Admittedly my Etsy, I probably don’t update every month because I’m a working educator. And I usually do kind of an update of my Etsy a couple of times a year. So you can stay tuned about that if you’re interested in purchasing anything.

Nic: Well, Sarah, I got to wrap this up because I’m completely inspired to go make something right now. Thank you for that. But I also just… Is there any final words that you just want to make sure our listeners leave with in this conversation that we’ve had today?

Sarah: Yeah. I mean, I guess bringing it back to that mental health component. Because I know that is something that really that I’ve worked on a lot too and I would really love to encourage others to work on as well. Maybe just think a little bit to yourself like that wasting time moment about don’t waste time. Do you feel like you’re wasting time living in negativity or do you feel like most of the time you’re positive? And can you kind of identify where that is? Just knowing that self-care of your own mental health and self-care of creating art can make you way stronger for others and for yourself. So just really envision what kind of legacy you want to have out in the art world.

Nic: Oh, I love it. Thank you so much for chatting with us today.

Sarah: Thanks, Nic.

Nic: As mentioned earlier, Sarah and I are friends. We have met at the Wisconsin Art Ed conference but we are also coworkers through The Art Of Education. And we’ve met several times and we’ve had many discussions about art education and creating our own artwork. I was happy to share some of the passion that she has and the positivity that she’s concentrating on and continuing to work on creating as part of her practice and her life with the rest of you. I love her work so much that I have actually commissioned a piece from her. I have it hanging on a wall that I call the welcome wall. And I commission artists on Instagram, friends, family to create an eight-by-eight piece that I hang all together. There is one color, blue throughout the whole, all the pieces. But otherwise, they’re all individual artworks from master artists as well as beginner artists.

I highly encourage you to do two things moving forward. I encourage you to find that passion. You heard Sarah say that it takes a while to really find your own style and find your passion. Go ahead. Start looking for it today. The second thing is celebrate, purchase, and look at other artists and connect with them. Go ahead and look at what they create. If it’s for sale and you love it, purchase it. Celebrate that. Hang it on your wall. This is what keeps all of us connected as artists and inspiring each other. We’ll talk to you next week on the everyday art room.

3 months ago
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