If you want to know how to craft a life you love, just ask South Fulton’s Ashley Nicole Daramola. The Westlake alumna opened the doors to her new business, ArtzyBella Studio + Shop in East Point earlier this year. It’s a cozy and colorful spot for painting, DIYing and creating away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
But while it might look like other art studios, it’s actually unlike anything in the area. Daramola is using her background in mental health to chart new ground in how art is used as a tool for self-care and coping with trauma.
“I want to encourage people to incorporate art into their daily routine like yoga or healthy eating because it just helps you process,” she said. “We’re all under stress, especially if you have a job or a family, and I’ve been able to use art as a therapeutic tool for myself and my mental health clients.”
Plus, she’s working to give other creative professionals opportunities – ones that she didn’t know as a young aspiring artist ever existed.
Daramola was interested in the arts long before she delved into the mental health field, but no one ever told her that she could make a career out of it. She said while growing up in South Fulton where she attended A. Philip Randolph and Camp Creek Middle schools and played sports at the recreation centers, there just wasn’t much focus on art.
“Everybody was telling me you’re not going to make any money as an artist, that’s something you just do as a hobby or for fun,” she said. “You have to get a real degree.”
“I felt that if back then parents and families had more access to art and an opportunity to see what artists are able to do professionally, talented kids in our community would have gotten more encouragement and nurturing,” she continued.
It was that lack of encouragement that led to Daramola quitting her creative pursuits at the age of 18. She earned an advanced degree and has spent 10 years working as a social worker, behavior aid and coach for sex trafficking survivors. But, fortunately, it was during this time that it occurred to her that she could pursue a career as an art therapist. And just five years ago, she picked up painting again for the first time and enrolled in art school.
Now, having fused her career in mental health and her passion for art together, she’s a source of inspiration for kids wondering if they have a future in the arts. She’s excited to be part of the growing arts presence in South Fulton and help create an environment where young artists have the support they need.
“And maybe they’ll open up an art studio in their 20s and not when they are 34,” she quipped.
But joking aside, Daramola is realizing her dream as a working artist and her business is doing well. One of her studio’s most popular offerings is the relaxing sip-and-paint parties. But Daramola also offers classes on everything from how to make jewelry and stationary to how to scrapbook and bind books. She also has a DIY video series.
“The subject matters, the materials we use, the projects that we work on are all meant to help people calm down, release stress and have some visual stimulation,” she says. “Even if you look at the work I create, the attention to detail, the colors, my hope is that people look at it and feel better and inspired to try new things.”
For the holiday season, Daramola has lots planned for ArtzyBella Studio + Shop customers. She’ll host a studio tour on December 8 and launch a month-long painting and holiday movie series. She’ll have Christmas crafting classes on Mondays, two midday vision boarding sessions for entrepreneurs and a small business pop-up shop on December 20 and 21, perfect for last minute Christmas shoppers.
In the New Year, Daramola’s business will get a boost from the Georgia State University’s Main Street Entrepreneurship Seed Fund program. She was one of 21 entrepreneurs to be accepted. The fund was established with a grant from the Marcus Foundation, and the program provides mentorship and funding to entrepreneurs in underserved local communities.
“Scaling my company, acceptance into accelerator programs and implementing other strategies to help me grow my business are all going to help me to do more work in the community and help artists get jobs, which is really important to me.”
More information about ArtzyBella Studio + Shop is available at www.artzybella.com. Memberships are available for community members, artists and arts enthusiasts.
Photo Credit: ArtzyBella Studio + Shop
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