Long-time pals and fellow Park Slope moms, Julia Austen-Brown and Melissa Vaughan (who live just two blocks away from each other and both have two kids a piece,) hit on the idea of doing a pop-up craft pow-wows in people’s homes when they realized that, well, no one else was doing it.
“There are many fantastic birthday party options in Brooklyn, but we weren’t aware of anyone bringing craft parties into peoples homes so that was how the idea for Art Table came about,” says Melissa – who also co-penned The New Brooklyn Cookbook. They wanted to provide something which could be tailored to suit the whims of their crowd. “Our very first party was for a group of eight-year-old girls who wanted to learn to sew,” says Julia who is also an events planner. “It was a thrill to see them design and hand sew their own pillows.”
Although they dip over to Manhattan occasionally (teaching at Paradigm Kids, a forward thinking new preschool in the Financial District) they have found a buzz of demand in local homes, hosting parties in Cobble Hill brownstones, Dumbo lofts and even in Prospect Park – which will be the setting for two of their outside workshops: Recycled Spring Art, June 5th, 10:30am-11:30am and 12pm-1pm; and a July 7 to July 10 art drawing class which runs from 10:30am till noon each day.
Here are their tips on how to ace a craft party for your own kids:
It’s ALL in the prep: We are obsessed with meticulously prepping and organizing our supples before each party. This helps when we set up the project for the kids and keeps things flowing. Cover your table surface with something simple – we use clear plastic. Stage the craft. This keeps the kids focused and gives them a chance to explore each step, process and material. It also keeps them excited about what’s to come.
Get a DIY smock: Crafts can get messy, so we’ve make our own smocks out of colorful t-shirts. Cut off the hems and cut it to make one large strip – this is the belt. Then cut four sets of 2 slits each around the middle of the t-shirt and thread the hem through. These keep the kids clothes well protected and are easy to wash.
Have some sure-to-please crafts ideas up your sleeve: If we had to pick one that’s always a huge hit it would be winter watercolor pictures – perfect for the 3-7 set. Simply tape out the shape of a tree, then paint around the tape and peel away when dry it to reveal the “snowy” white tree. We then get the kids to make their own frames out of recycled cardboard and tin can cutouts that we diecut ourselves. Other popular crafts are marble and rubber band painting for under twos. For 3-4 it’s wood block construction. The 5-6 age group love puppets of all kinds – wooden spoon, clothes peg, sock. Kids love making the new friends! And for 7 plus, it’s making Duct Tape Bags.
Cleanup: We stick to all-natural cleaning products – cleaning down surfaces with distilled vinegar and isopropyl alcohol. Great for getting rid of markers, paint and glue.
Get inspired online (and locally): We spend lots of time perusing Pinterest and particularly love handmadecharlotte.com, artfulparent.com, redtedart.com. But there’s endless inspiration right here in Brooklyn. We can’t wait for the Renegade Craft Fair which is coming to Brooklyn on May 18th.
Have a just-in-case-of-a-rainy-day box! Every parent needs a well-stocked craft box. Our five must haves are: Mod Podge, Toilet Paper Tolls, both Washi and Duct Tape and Tacky Glue. We buy wholesale from Darice, but also love online art supplier Dick Blick.
A bespoke craft party with Art Table costs $350; arttablebrooklyn.com.