(A or THE) PERFECT PLACE TO FIND OUR INNER ARTIST
This month we meet a woman who has made it her mission to allow others to discover the joy of creativity. Elestr Lee meets Art Jam’s Sherrie Tuhy.
Many homes in Caversham are nowadays adorned with lovingly painted glazed bisque pottery, gifted to parents and grandparents, and created in Sherrie Tuhy’s Art Jam Studio. However, if you step a little further into the studio, you will discover that painting pottery is just one of the many creative arts on offer – and that Art Jam isn’t just for the kids!
As everyone who has met Sherrie will know, she grew up in the USA in Ohio, where she studied art at university. “In the States, you have to choose between fine arts or art education, so I chose education,” she explains. Sherrie duly became an art teacher, relocating to Caversham in the 80s and, apart from a break when she had children, worked at both Highdown and Hemdean House schools. She had long wanted to create a studio where she could offer the chance for all ages to discover their creative potential – and the offer of redundancy meant that, in April 2017, she finally realised her dream.
“I had always talked about it, but actually making it happen was a big step. I was worried that I didn’t have a business head – after all, I was a teacher! But, on the advice of silhouette artist Charles Burns I joined Reading Business Club. They have a mentoring scheme, so two experienced businessmen took me under their wing. They put me on the right track, and I was determined not to let them down,” Sherrie recalls.
Lockdown aside, Art Jam is nowadays a space where people of all ages can go and be creative, from glass painting and fusing, sewing, crocheting and knitting, painting, or making pots on the wheel – the list is endless. Local artists, crafters and teachers lead a range of workshops – or groups can choose to book the studio for themselves so they can work alongside each other.
Besides children’s parties, Sherrie offers hen parties and small corporate functions, as well as her popular Painting and Pinot, and Pottery and Prosecco evenings for adults. “These are not too serious – the idea is that people come along to enjoy themselves, and are able to try something a bit different,” she says. “It has been full on. When the first lockdown was announced, it felt good to have a break!”
During the full lockdowns Sherrie’s studio has been closed. However she came up with the idea of ‘takeaway boxes’ which contained pottery pieces and paints which could be decorated at home. Sherrie delivered these within a 5-mile radius of Caversham, then later fired the pottery, so adults and children alike could continue to enjoy being artistic despite being stuck at home. As lockdown has eased, her after school clubs have been allowed to re-commence, and more activities are re-starting, though with restricted numbers. Some of the changes enforced during the past year have actually proved beneficial. “For example, due to Covid, it is ‘booking only’ now, whereas originally people could just turn up. The booking system is a lot more practical!
“Once the government announced its support for businesses, I wasn’t so worried,” Sherrie recalls. Watching the effects of the pandemic unfold, Sherrie very much wanted to show her support for the NHS workers in a creative way. “I had some bisque angels left over from Christmas, so I contacted my supplier and bought all the remaining angels in stock,” she remembers. “With five members of my Saturday staff, we decorated 72 of them, each with a special message, and my son’s girlfriend, who was working as a physiotherapist on the Covid Ward, gave them to staff at the hospital to show our appreciation.”
Sherrie is concerned that, despite schools reopening, children are getting reduced opportunities to experience the creative arts. “Art Jam has been brilliant. It has achieved my dream of bringing art to Caversham, and to give everyone of all ages the chance to create. And I know everyone is desperate to get back. My mission has always been to serve Caversham – the place which has been my home and community, and which has supported me since I came to the UK.
“I love teaching and helping people of all ages to reach their potential through creative means. Encouraging others to try something different – it’s all about having a go!”
To find out more: artjamstudio.co.uk