Visiting downtown Laramie merchants, a shopper will find businesses selling goods and services that provide vitality and variety essential to keep the area thriving. Shoppers can find coffee shops, kitchenware, outdoor equipment, restaurants, barber shops and more.
There are a few places, however, that when visitors step through the storefront door, they become the product. If the customers don’t find their experience enjoyable, even memorable, the small business owners know they won’t be coming back. So what’s a businessperson to do?
“We offer empowerment,” said Lisa Sherrodd, owner of PopUp Paint Party. “And fun.”
The concept of her business is a place to go and create paintings, no art experience needed. All the supplies are provided. Sherrodd shows her original artwork for people to copy and then takes them step by step through the process to create their own version.
“Painting sessions are a guided workshop where participants can reach their inner creative side without any judging, or boundaries, or anything like that,” she said. “I don’t want them to follow me exactly.”
Sherrodd started her business a few years ago as a part-time enterprise that showcased her skills as a graphic designer and art director. She hauled supplies and equipment to locations throughout Laramie and towns like Rock River, Saratoga and Encampment.
The demand for her parties kept growing. It wasn’t long before Sherrodd came to enjoy hosting parties more than she did her full-time job.
Also, the idea of being her own boss again was attractive.
“I had my own web development business before I moved to Wyoming, so I had experience in running my own business,” she said.
Walking by an empty store on South Third Street in Laramie, Sherrodd paused.
“It was opportunity presenting itself,” she said. And she went all in, renting the space and setting up a permanent location for her business.
From her previous experience owning and managing a business full time, Sherrodd said she knew the challenges she faced. Paying rent, electricity and taxes, ordering supplies and arranging schedules are just some of the things that any small business owner oversees.
But, “You know what I’m doing now? It’s so much fun. It’s a party,” Sherrodd said. “I mean, that’s in the name of the business. And to empower other people is huge for me.”
Sherrodd recalled one experience with an elderly woman at a party that showed why her work is so rewarding.
“It was a big party with 60 people,” Sherrodd said. “I walked around, helping everyone. And as I walked by her, I saw she was crying, big, big tears. I felt really bad, like, ‘Oh, no, your painting is amazing. Don’t cry, don’t cry.’”
The woman replied that Sherrodd didn’t understand.
“I’m crying because I actually created this wonderful painting,” the woman told her. “And my teacher told me when I was in grade school that I should never paint, I was a terrible painter. And I never did until now. And I’m so proud of what I did. And you helped me do it.”
“That kind of reward is amazing,” Sherrodd said.
She expanded her business to include classes on making custom wood signs, another project where a person needs no experience, but ends the workshop with something they can display proudly in their home.
Find out more at www.popuppaintparty.com.
Science Loves Art
For Rene Williams, offering a unique art experience with a science connection provides her customers a fun and educational experience. Williams owns 4th Street Studios, which houses her gallery and Science Loves Art (www.sciencelovesart.org).
“Science Loves Art (SLA) is about bringing science and art together,” Williams said. “That’s where we really kind of separate from other types of business that are similar.”
Williams began thinking about the business, which just received its nonprofit status, while on a sabbatical in Europe with her family. She immersed herself in the different kinds of materials used in building historical structures and the natural patterns formed in nature.
Her experiences showcasing her artwork at events such as the Cherry Creek (Colorado) Arts Festival also started her thinking about the need for a place in Laramie where artists could work and display their creations.
She added her interest in making science more accessible to the general public, and came up with the idea of Science Loves Art. With the help of scientist friends at the University of Wyoming, Williams was able to apply for and receive a National Science Foundation grant to take her concept throughout the state, including the Wind River Indian Reservation.
“I take science and figure out ways that people can incorporate that into art,” Williams said.
One of the popular workshops is incorporating glass into creations that reflect science, even going as far as to include a fossil in a quarter-sized work. Williams has two kilns available for glass projects. Other projects include paint pouring, alcohol ink and paper marbling.
Microbes are the topic of the next series of projects Science Loves Art will be offering. One upcoming program is a pop-up art walk and fermentation party Sept. 6-8, where Williams said participants will learn about the fermentation process and taste a variety of goodies, including beer, cheese, bread and sauerkraut. Live music and photographs of microbes at work will be featured.
To encourage others to enjoy connecting science and art, Williams said project kits are being put together for distribution to schools and groups throughout the state.
Response to the programs has been very positive, she said, reaching participants 3 to 98 years old. To meet the demand and expand Science Loves Art offerings, Williams said artist Ivy Thompson has been hired as program director.
Art & Soul
Walk-ins are welcomed at Art & Soul Paint Your Own Pottery and Art Studio, which provides customers with kiln-fired, individually hand-painted creations they can use or display.
The studio opened three years ago and is owned by Caley Meyers. Her daughter, McKayla, a 2019 Laramie High School graduate, has been helping at the studio from the start.
Caley Meyers said it’s a three-part process for customers to get started.
“First, they pick a piece of white pottery from our display on the wall,” Meyers said. “Everything is included with their selection – the paint and the kiln. Then they select the paints they want to use. Then they paint whatever they want.”
Pointing to sample pieces, Meyers said people paint some colorful things using mugs, plates, dog bowls, vases and other pottery designs as a base.
Firing in the kiln can take a day or two, and finished items are ready to pick up within a week.
“When they see what they created after it’s glazed, they’re pretty happy,” Meyers said.
The studio hosts groups and special events.
Visit www.artandsoulpottery.com for more information.