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High Five with Elle Crée

High Five with Elle Crée

I think we can collectively agree that a lot of things haven't felt awesome lately. If you find yourself in a need of a mental break from the crushing news cycle, the ongoing Pandemic, daily injustices, and the pressures of life, might I suggest an escape through art therapy? 

According to a 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Art Therapy* Association, less than an hour of creative activity can reduce your stress and have a positive effect on your mental health, regardless of artistic experience or talent.

Aran embraced art therapy this summer and found a little slice of peace and positivity. We encourage you to find your therapeutic art escape with one of the many kits we carry at our brick and mortar; we've got so many to choose from! 

We've especially fallen in love with paint-by-numbers kits by Elle Crée of Portland, OR. Folks, paint-by-numbers is a soothing, brain-vacation-friendly way to truly get away from it all! Elle Crée offers a huge variety of kits from flora and fauna, to famous destinations, and inspirational figures. Recently, I reached out to Elle Crée's founder, Rachel Austen, to find out more about the company. Read on to get the scoop, and visit our Aide-mémoire shop to bring home a kit for you or your family. Let the healing begin!

photo of Elle Cree color palette, Color Specialist Mandi Andersen at left, and company founder Rachel Austen at right

MK: Elle Crée has grown leaps and bounds within the last 2-3 years,  congratulations! As the business rapidly grew, how did you navigate the number crunching and scaling that needed to happen in order to grow successfully, while continuing to maintain the creative heart of the company? 

RA: Sales had been growing steadily in the first three years of the business before Covid hit to the point where I had already hired a part time employee or two, but a few weeks into lockdown it became clear that people were seeking calming crafts - like paint-by-number - in a major way! It was really challenging to figure out how to safely scale up in those first 6 months and I had to turn down some sales opportunities because we just couldn't meet the demand. Thankfully I was able to hire one of my sisters full time to manage operations and a workspace became available near my home so that I could move assembly out of my basement and bring on a few more staff members. Of all the problems that people endured due to the pandemic, mine was the best kind of problem to have and I feel really fortunate that was the case. I had to get better at being able to switch back and forth between my business brain and my creative brain to address what was most pressing at any given time. And, I have a lot of advisors. I talk to my dad regularly - who is a CPA and owned his own firm for 35 years -  in addition to advisers through the SCORE program and other entrepreneurs I've met along the way. Basically, I have an embarrassment of riches where support is concerned.

 photos of Elle Cree paint-by-numbers Fly Agaric Mushroom kit and Succulent in Hobnail bowl kit

MK: For someone new to paint-by-numbers, or for those who haven’t done it in a while, what are some painting tips you can share? 

RA: We actually have some great video tutorials on our new YouTube channel that give lots of painting advice. My favorite painting tip is to keep your brush really clean. Every few minutes you should wash and reshape your brush, even if you're still painting the same color. The paint dries pretty quickly and you don't realize it's building up on the brush bristles and making it harder to get into the small spaces. I also like to take one final pass at smoothing out the lines between the zones after I've completed both coats of my painting. That fine tuning can really make your finished artwork wall-worthy! 

MK: What’s a passion you have that is not work or family related? How do you make time for it? 

RA: I do tend to eat, sleep, and breathe this business and I have to work at prioritizing downtime. I like taking walks with friends. I love having a reason to create things with my hands - like crepe paper flowers. I'm not athletic at all, but I do love roller skating! My favorite roller skating buddy (my niece) doesn't live close by any more so I don't end up going to the rink very often. 

 image of Ruth Bader Ginsburg paint-by-numbers kit, and two women on a road trip doing paint-by-numbers

MK: If you could collaborate on designing a future paint-by-numbers kit with someone who would it be? 

RA: I think it would be really fun to travel back to the 1950s and collaborate with Dan Robbins - the inventor of paint-by-number. He really created such a unique aesthetic that has become iconic. Even though paint-by-number was originally panned by art snobs, it has stood the test of time and made painting as a creative outlet accessible to anyone, which is the legacy we want to carry on at Elle Crée.

MK: Portland, OR, where Elle Crée is based, is a paradise for food lovers. For those of us with a sweet tooth, what's your favorite place in town to treat yourself? 

RA: I love the desserts at Jade Bistro & Patisserie! Their French macarons and Bánh Rán (sesame balls) with salted caramel sauce are delicious and gluten free! For something even more French, Pix Pâtisserie is the ultimate in fancy desserts! Anything on their menu will be the best and prettiest thing you've ever eaten. 

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Rachel, thank you so much for sharing a little bit about your company and paint-by-numbers tips and tricks! Can't wait to get into some much needed art therapy healing this week. 

Readers, if you are in the Seattle area, be sure to visit our Aide-mémoire shop to pick up your very own Elle Crée paint-by-numbers kits. I also encourage you to visit Elle Crée's "How I Built This" You Tube video. Rachel does an excellent job of talking about the business and how it expanded over the years. You can really see the pride and joy in this video! 

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* Kaimal G, Ray K, Muniz J. Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants' Responses Following Art Making. Art Therapy. 2016;33(2):74-80.