Several years ago at the Maker Faire, Suzanne Allen met Joyce Bottone. As Joyce described her Riverside Avenue studio, Suzanne was impressed by her gentle manner, enthusiasm and philosophy of teaching art.
Two years later — searching for an art class for her young son — Suzanne remembered Joyce.
“Every week I look forward to my commute from work on I-95 — hard to believe! — because I can pick up my son at her studio,” Suzanne says.
“It’s a lovely, small, intimate space with peaceful views of the river. Joyce is kind, patient and fun. She keeps my active 4-year-old engaged, even at the end of the day.”
When Joyce picks him up he is covered in paint, glue and foam. He can’t wait to show off his latest “masterpiece.”
“Joyce loves to create,” Suzanne says. “She encourages children to use their own curiosity to explore materials in their own way. There are no cookie-cutter projects.”
She adds, “Moms and babysitters don’t make the art. I’ve seen that in other settings!”
Joyce grew up in Westport, and always loved art. After graduating from Staples in 1982, she went to college to become a teacher. But graphic design became her passion, and she got a job with a tech company.
She stayed home after her kids were born. She began scrapbooking, stamping and planning children’s birthday parties.
Her oldest is now in college. When Joyce heard about vacant space next to Junior’s Hot Dog Stand, her husband encouraged her to snag it as a studio.
She calls it Joy2Crafts. Joyce organizes small classes, sets up stations, and lets youngsters create.
Her role, she says, is “helping people discover their inner flair. Everyone is so driven around here. The gift of art lets you think on your own.” She loves “seeing kids being quiet, doing things by themselves and then sharing them.”
Some children dive in, mixing every color together. Others are meticulous. She lets each child discover his or her own style.
The other day, a boy drew pumpkins. Then he added faces. As he worked, he sang.
“The kids are so excited,” she says. “It’s humbling for me to see.”
She clearly strikes a chord. One boy’s parents drive him every week from Darien.
But the future is uncertain. Joyce barely makes her rent. There’s no insulation, so her winter heating bills are huge.
She’s an art teacher, not a marketer. She hasn’t gotten the word out about her studio, and not until the end of our conversation does she mention that it’s the perfect place for birthday parties.
But Halloween, Thanksgiving and the holidays are near. And Joyce has some fantastic projects in mind for the kids who come.