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LAB is our Passion!

Updated: Jun 1

How did you start this art and academic studio?

Art has always been my passion and comfort. It was my dream to create a warm and welcoming space where people could come together to create, relax, and connect. I envisioned a space filled with creative knick-knacks and sing-song music, where there were no pressures or stresses—just simple moments of inspiration. My love for art led me to spend my undergraduate years studying Art History, post-modern Art discourse, and painting numerous self-portraits.

Where did you start LAB and why?

LAB (Language Arts Base) was conceived while I was living in the bustling city of Hong Kong. My days were packed with deadlines and meetings, and I needed a space to unwind, collect my thoughts, and feel inspired again. I wanted to create a place not only for myself but also for my friends and family. I was already mentoring and teaching children on weekends, and I realized I could open a studio to alleviate the pressures of scheduling.

LAB started in 2014 in a small 500 sq ft space in an industrial building. With painted blue walls, an extendable table, some easels, and a cozy reading corner, it became a place for hosting parties and events. Despite the limited space in the city, I had about 30 students who loved learning English and Art as much as I did, which was all I needed to get through the early days.

What was it like moving back to Vancouver?

Although I loved my students and work in Hong Kong, I realized it would be challenging to settle down and start a family there. In 2016, I moved back to my hometown of Vancouver. Initially, I returned to teaching and tutoring children in reading and painting, which rekindled my inspiration to restart LAB. In 2018, I opened a pop-up location, followed by a cozy space with a friend who also loved teaching. We created fun lessons that empowered students to explore their creativity, whether through painting or writing. We hosted unforgettable celebrations like birthday parties, bachelorette parties, and casual get-togethers.

What happened in early 2020? Why did we move our studio?

After a year of operating LAB in Vancouver, we needed more space to accommodate the growing number of parties, camps, and classes. A lovely parent-friend informed me about an available space in the heart of a beautiful Richmond neighborhood. I fell in love with it and envisioned all the people and art that could fill the space. Despite the daunting move, I believed in taking risks and having faith in myself and my team.

Why did we pick Steveston?

Steveston Village has the most friendly, open, and supportive community I've encountered in Vancouver. It's a place where families and friends go on weekends to relax, grab ice cream, window shop, and simply enjoy each other's company. The village's welcoming atmosphere and thriving art scene made it the perfect choice for LAB.

Despite the pandemic, we are grateful for the continued support from students, families, and the community, both online and in-studio. We follow Worksafe BC regulations, which means smaller groups and distancing measures, but it hasn't stopped people from joining our creative and educational activities. Our day camps are filling up quickly, and I can't wait to see the possibilities unfold in our new space.

I owe a huge thanks to my team: Creative Carmen, Terrific Tina, Bubbly Bernice, and Trendy Wendy, whose talents and support have been invaluable. Also, thanks to our neighbours and friends for their support, and most importantly, to all our students who allow us to share our skills and passion. We are blessed with good health and an outpouring of love from our community. I can't wait to see how LAB continues to build relationships through art and creativity.

Lots of smiles and air hugs,

Messy Jessy

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