Coco’s Closet

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With school holidays fast approaching, many parents are often looking for activities for the kids. We speak to Kristie Banham from Coco’s Closet about her creative workshops that encourage individuality and a whole lot of fun.

Tell us a bit about your creative journey.

I have been creating ever since receiving my first Crayola Caddy when I was five. I have drawn, painted, sewn and created art my whole life. My most recent adventure as an artist now spans over 10 years. I am the face behind Coco’s Closet. I affectionately refer to it as my happy place. I tend to hashtag that a lot! It is a funky little space, that has transitioned in the past three years from retail store to an art studio where I teach art classes and workshops.

You are obviously a very artistic person; what inspired you to open Coco’s Closet? 

Making and creating inspired me to open my own retail store in 2008. My children, Rourke and Mackenzie were both at primary school, and the space that is Coco’s was empty and the perfect size to house my creations. Fast forward 10 years, and Coco’s is now the funky studio space that empowers creatives through making and nurtures their love of art. Art that moves them and makes them smile. Art that encourages them to be the best they can be. Art that inspires hope. Art that helps them be brave and promotes kindness, and we share that kindness with each other and the world.

What led you to teaching with children?

I originally started with mixed media workshops for adults and then added mixed media workshops for children. These were both really popular, as there was very little offered in our area. I then decided to develop a term program and run After School Art Classes for six – 13 year olds. Each week my creatives complete an artwork using different mediums and processes in my studio. 

Every term I pick a woman of grit for us to study; she can be anyone who has made a difference in the world, stood up for what she believes in and never gives up. We’ve studied artists, pirates, Egyptian Pharaohs, storybook characters and surfers, just to name a few. I love showing my creatives the power of never giving up through great women and art. 

I also love drawing inspiration from other cultures and their art processes, so quite often you will see that reflected in an artwork we create. The term then culminates in an art exhibition, where my creatives see their art hung at Coco’s. My little artists beam with pride, as they can show their work to family and friends.

It’s taken me a really long time to be able to say I am an artist, so when I teach children it’s one of the first things we declare. I believe the more they speak it, write it, paint it, they will indeed own and continue to declare it, affirming to themselves and everyone around them. I know it helps them believe in themselves and their creative ability.

Children often have incredible imaginations. How does this inspire you as an artist? 

I love the view children have of the world; they are full of adventure and have no preconceived ideas on what does or does not constitute art. Thier honesty, love for colour, paint, mess making and exploration constantly inspires me to think of new creative journeys to share with them.

Being creative is fundamental to our children’s development. Tell us some of the benefits.

Being creative teaches children about self expression, and it fosters mental growth by providing opportunities for trying out new ideas, new ways of thinking and problem solving. It is essential in helping build fine motor skills, as well as their hand-eye coordination. 

My art class also encourages individuality, having fun, making bold choices, working out solutions, embracing beauty, making mess and cleaning up, appreciating differences, encouraging ourselves and each other to have a go and that anything is possible.

Kids are often at a loose end during the holidays; do you have any workshops during this time? 

I have some great creative workshops on offer in the holidays. Some workshops on offer will be my Kindness Warrior workshop, a groovy owl and a Peter Cromer inspired koala painting, plus others. All materials are supplied. Artists will draw, create and paint their very own artwork. Workshops run for two hours and are suitable for children aged six – 13 years, unless otherwise stated. Each workshop is $35 per person.

What can kids expect when participating in your classes?

An opportunity to have loads of fun making. They will explore their creativity in a safe, supportive and friendly environment. They will leave with their very own masterpiece, oh and we have homemade cookies. Because, what’s art without cookies?

What kind of mediums do you enjoy working with?

I love using and exploring lots of mediums; personally, mixed media is my favourite, but at art class we use a huge variety of different mediums like paper, watercolours, canvas, acrylic paint, pencil, markers, clay, wool, oil pastels, paint sticks, paint pens and glue, just to name a few.

Do you have any top tips on how parents can entertain their little ones during the holidays season?  

I love, love, love drawing and writing on rocks and leaving them for people to find, so I think that would have to be my number one thing for parents to do with their kids. Or, simply pack some pencils, paper, watercolours and head to the park or the beach and draw or paint what they can see together. It’s fun to see the world through the eyes of children.

How can we find out more information about your workshops? 

Keep up to date with what’s on offer on my FB page Coco’s Closet, Instagram cocos_closet or simply call or text 0410 577 050.

Thanks Kristie.

Interview: Bronwyn Davis.

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