Growing up in Little York, Ashley Pearson would notice the intricate interior designs and details businesses would make, from paint to layout choice.
“I realized that I was alone in that I would look around and see all these things and no one else really noticed them,” Pearson said “I never really talked about it with anyone but then I realized that, yeah, this is my thing.”
Now her thing is helping other people with their thing, in a studio on Main Street in Cortland, Cheerful and Creative, where she helps artists find their vision.
It’s a growing trend, nationwide and in Cortland. Several shops at the old Cortland Corset Factory on East Court Street offer similar services. Magpie Custom Creations teaches sewing and fiber arts; Cinch Art Space offers classes and workshop space tucked into its inventory of local art and artisan work. Instant Artist provides paint-and-sip classes.
The canvas was blank in 2007 when the first paint-and-sip franchises began to color the landscape. Paint and sip went from one shop to 70 in five years; Painting with a Twist saw sales grow 37 percent in two years: Pinot’s Palette has more than 100 franchises since it started in 2009.
It’s a trend with its feet in research. “Four studies demonstrate that people derive more happiness from the anticipation of experiential purchases and that waiting for an experience tends to be more pleasurable and exciting than waiting to receive a material good,” researchers, including two from Cornell University, wrote in their 2014 study in the journal Psychological Science, ‘Waiting for Merlot.’
“We found these effects in studies using questionnaires involving a variety of actual planned purchases, in a largescale experience-sampling study, and in an archival analysis of news stories about people waiting in line to make a purchase,” they added. “Consumers derive value from anticipation, and that value tends to be greater for experiential than for material purchases.
It can also just be fun. “I’m surprised every day by the talent in this area,” said Tammie Whitson, co-owner of Cinch with Tina Minervini.
For Pearson, the business recalls time spent drawing with her father that fostered her passion for art.
Her commitment further solidified when she won a silver medal at the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards in Washington, D.C., while in high school.
“That was a really big deal, not just for myself, but for my art teachers because they never had anyone go to national or win and so that was a really big moment,” Pearson said.
While Pearson struggled with other topics in school, art was what kept her grounded through college.
After graduating from SUNY Cortland with a degree in studio art, she went to Australia to reconnect with family and was introduced to Florence Broadhurst’s textile designs. Broadhurst’s bold and bright patterns were exactly the style Pearson said she needed in her life and those patterns later inspired Pearson’s work in graduate school at Marymount University in Virginia. It also inspired her art studio, which opened in July 2017.
“I think a lot of the time we’re surrounded, as we get older, in offices or schools where the colors have been taken away from our lives and to infuse color, whether it’s a painting here or even being in this studio can bring out that whimsical, that colorful side of people and that’s my goal,” Pearson said.
Art is essentially therapeutic, she said. Her studio focuses on do-it-yourself projects and she’s often inspired by other artists or videos people tag her in social media. She teaches a wide range of classes, from painting to flower-crown making.
“Some people are just getting a little stale with doing another paint-and-sip, that’s not sustainable for a business, so that’s why I also decided I needed to work on my creative muscle and start bringing fresh ideas and exciting ideas that people want here,” Pearson said.
She said the studio is just an open space where people can take risks:
“I want them to learn that, not to judge themselves or compare themselves to others because art is so subjective.”