Pip leads the art-K Maidstone branch. After joining art-K in 2019 (when things were very different!), Pip has gone on to become one of our first Senior Club Managers. We spoke to her about her journey into teaching, and how things have developed in her three years at art-K.

What led you into teaching?

It’s a bit of a cliche, but I’ve always been interested in teaching. When I was young I really enjoyed school and had a lot of inspirational teachers who I looked up to as role models. My mum also works with children, so I saw how rewarding teaching could be through her experiences. Through my teenage years I volunteered as a leader with my local Beaver Scout group – I found it so rewarding and still volunteer with them now.

After my Fine Art degree I studied to be a primary school teacher, spending a year working in a school alongside my university training. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching, but found myself missing being creative. Due to the heavy focus on core subjects in the national curriculum, there weren’t many opportunities to work on art projects with the students. By the time I completed my training year I knew I needed to incorporate art into my career: I really wanted to enrich children’s experiences of art and inject fun and energy into lessons, the way I could in my Scouting role.

What made you work here?

When I came across the role at art-K, it was everything I’d been looking for. I was so excited to find a position which incorporated teaching and art in such a fun, creative environment. Since working here my confidence in teaching has really flourished – I’ve found the positive and constructive feedback from managers inspiring. Running my own studio has given me space to be independent and feel a sense of pride and ownership. The programme of projects that we teach is exciting for the students, giving them space to use their own imagination and creativity to create pieces which are completely unique, whilst allowing me to teach new techniques and skills. For me, working in alternative art education has grown to be a really fulfilling career path: I’ve been able to inspire my students and see their progress as well as broadening my own skill set.

You joined art-K in 2019; how have things developed in that time?

So much has changed – when I first started at art-K we had a total of 5 teachers! The growth has been phenomenal since then. As well as opening many more studios, we now have the benefit of a central support team who have streamlined the running of the clubs, giving teachers more time and offering specialist advice when we need it. As the business has grown, staff salaries have increased and continue to be reviewed regularly, and more opportunities for progression have come up in the company. In 2021 I moved into a Senior Art Leader role, managing a group of art leaders from other clubs alongside running my own branch. Taking on more responsibilities has been really rewarding: I’ve gained new skills in people and business management and feel like a very valued member of the team. I’ve always enjoyed designing new projects, and as part of the Senior role I’ve helped to coordinate the creation of new projects for holiday workshops and online classes. I always love to see everyone’s creative ideas and enthusiasm enrich our curriculum with such an eclectic mix of projects.

Tell us about your own practice!

I love creating and spend most of my free time on it. I don’t have a concise practice, which is usually expected of an artist. I’ve tried several times to mould my work into a more cohesive process, but every time I feel like I’m stifling my creativity: I enjoy experimenting and trying out new things. Continually learning and playing with materials is my favourite thing about art. Currently I’m looking at art more broadly, working with textiles to design and create unique clothing pieces. Recently I’ve also been working a lot on pencil sketching, sculpting models, oil painting and watercolour painting. Although I’ve never felt like my own work has a linear path, having such a broad experience with art mediums has helped me to teach a varied curriculum and feel confident to share tips and tricks with my students.

What’s the highlight of your week?

The highlight of my week is always seeing my students improving their skills and growing their confidence. I overflow with pride when one of my students works on a particularly challenging project and produces a beautiful piece at the end. I love to compare my students’ first projects with us to their current ones, and show them how much they’ve learned since they first joined us. Having projects which teach core skills and also allow space for the children to inject their own imagination means that every finished piece is different and the children can get really invested in a project that they love. Several of my students are currently working on a 3D house project and we have designs for a lighthouse, monkey treehouse, castle, horse stables and a UFO! A parent recently told me that she was so pleased with how creative her daughter could be in our classes, and how much it improved her enjoyment and interest in learning new skills.

You can follow Pip and her students’ creative adventures in art-K Maidstone on Instagram @artkmaidstone.