Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Draw Your Picture, Eat Your Art Supplies, Feel Great!

(Please DO NOT eat any art supplies on purpose. But if you licked or even swallowed these – no worries – they are 100% non-toxic, natural ingredients. So, happy crafting!)

Did you know that you actually can eat your art supplies and ... still feel great? Before, it would be a joke for me. Now, however, my two-year-old plays only with such creative tools.

A few years ago at one of the shows for healthy products, I was passing by one booth that was so barraged by attendees that I could hardly peak into the heart of the space to see what this ado was about.

Everybody who was crawling out of the crowd was showcasing a free gift – something of color and of weird shape. I didn’t know what it was, and my curiosity couldn’t get my physical body through the crowd, believe it or not. I just continued to the next booth.

A couple years passed by. Another show. Another huge crowd like never before. Decidedly, I squeezed through it. I couldn’t believe my eyes: Those weird-shaped colorful whimsical creations were staring into my face. One time more.

And this pleasant, soft-spoken woman with a huge infectious smile was quickly showing how to use all that she had at her fingertips.

That was my first contact with Diana Mercer of Clementine Art.
Meeting such women like Diana who actually create products, always makes my mind go crazy with questions.

What is Clementine Art?

What made Diana create Clementine Art?

She answers answers exquisitely eloquently to these probing questions.

Q. What got you started on the path of developing Clementine Art products?
A. I have always been interested in children and art. As everyone knows, art can be messy. One day at Clementine, my children’s art studio in Boulder, a mother and I looked over to see a toddler with a paint brush in her mouth like a lollipop. Aghast, we mopped her up, but the parent’s worried look, and question “Is this ok?” got me thinking.

The status quo for safety in children’s art supplies has always been limited to ‘non-toxic’. I had grave doubts that the non-toxic standard was high enough for children. Why didn’t I know what was in the product?

Why wasn’t there a choice for children made from simple, wholesome and clean ingredients that are better for children, and better for the earth?

Q. What was your life before you started this company ... and after ...?
A. For the past 20 years, I have been in the field of education. After receiving my Master’s in Education from CU Boulder in the early 90’s, I began a rich career in the classroom at a small, progressive school that placed a high value on the arts.

I spent the next 10 years up to my ears in professional development experiences; training with some of the nation’s best educators, and studying child development. In 2001, I moved to Aspen to serve as the Director of Education at the Aspen Historical Society.

While Aspen was a hoot, I missed Boulder and moved back to Boulder in 2003 to open Clementine Studio, a creative art space for children. At Clementine Studio, I provided open-ended arts workshops, camps and classes to the Boulder community for 5 years until it was acquired in 2008 by a local, arts education non-profit.

The idea behind my new business, Clementine Art, was to bring the open-ended, high quality and creative art experience from the studio into people’s homes.

As Diana was sharing her hero quest for the best green and edible product on Earth, I was admiring her determination to fuze safety and creativity into children’s lives.

A. Currently, I am finding my way in a new career that has me stretching, jumping, and learning every day. I am surrounded by very clever mentors who are patient with my retail inexperience, and luckily, I work hard and learn fast.

I’ve been writing about the importance of creativity for children, and demonstrating the benefits of Clementine products at events all over the country. I’ve also been making paint in my KitchenAid, researched natural colors, and learned more about p.H. than the average gal. I’ve also had to learn to Twitter.

Q. Who are those remarkable people that influenced your creative, professional, and personal life that lead you to starting and sustaining this company?
A. The educator with the most influence on my teaching philosophy has been Bev Bos. I call her the ‘Queen of Process Art’, but she is so much more. Bev is a child development guru who runs the most inspiring school in Sacramento, CA. She has written two books on child development called Don’t Move the Muffin Tins and Together We’re Better.

Bev will go to any length to make certain her students have what they need including;  trucking in snow from Northern California for her children to experience, filling her play yard with Evergreen trees in pots so her children can play in a ‘forest’, and filling the inside of her school with a deep, pile of sand that her children climbed on, in and around for a month.

She invents wacky paintbrushes, colored water contraptions, and sound experiments that engage her young learners fully and with all their senses and enthusiasm and she has been a deeply inspiring model to hundreds of thousands of preschool teachers across the country.

Todd Woloson, who is the founder of Izze beverage company and a veteran in the natural products industry, is an original founder of Clementine Art and has been instrumental in bringing the vision for Clementine to life. 

Q. Has your involvement with Clementine Art products and company changed your self-image, and your relationships with family, friends, romantic involvement?
A. I think my sheer excitement about the possibilities for Clementine is somewhat catching, and all of my friends and family, certainly, are rooting for me and helping to spread the word.

As for my self-image, I have moments of feeling humbled and terribly naive, and other moments when I am able to embrace my unique expertise and find a place for it in this quickly growing company. It depends on the day.

Q. If you had to do it all over again, would you? And why?
A. Absolutely. It’s exciting, it’s challenging, it’s totally unique, and I have an opportunity to influence the creative lives of large numbers of children in a manner that I haven’t before. I am excited to make a difference.
With this humble, yet determined outlook into her life, Diana strikes me as a person with persistent drive to find a solution to whatever a situation calls for. Rare and valuable find.

As I was throwing more questions at her, Diana only seemed to get more excited about sharing more of her and her hero quest into edible art supplies. This is not the end of it. This is just the beginning of conquering the world with edible, colorful, whimsical art pieces.

Diana's Culmination as a Creator
Discover Great Kid's Craft Recipe from Clementine Art

VP Programs Development, ScaleDown for Life
VP Education, GoZonkers Inc.
Founder, CelebrateLifeNutrition.com
Curb Your Appetite – Stop Your Cravings

©2010 Laura Gontchar. All Rights Reserved.