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Introducing the ‘craft lady’

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Party time: Irene Richardson has been planning children’s craft parties for the past three years. The long-time educator and nanny is pictured here with soon-to-be two-year-old, Ella Kent (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

In certain circles, Irene Richardson is affectionately known as “the craft lady”.

For the past three years the long-time eductor and nanny has been hosting craft parties for children at private and corporate events throughout the Island.

Her secret weapon for keeping youngsters entertained for hours at a time? A hefty supply of coloured markers, glitter glue, pom-poms, stickers — and anything else you can think of.

“You name the type of craft and I can get it,” Ms Richardson said. “The children love it. They are happy while they’re creating and get to leave with something they’ve made on their own.”

Just seeing children using their imagination and flexing their creative muscle is rewarding for the 60-year-old.

“The children are like, ‘Oh wow!’; they run up to me or their parents and say, ‘Look at mine!’ We’ve had as much as 30 children participating in crafts at a time. They range from toddlers to preteens.”

She started collecting craft supplies for children in 2003.

She was running a popcorn stall at the Farmer’s Market and noticed there was nothing for children to do while their parents shopped.

“At the time I loved rock art, it was something basic and natural, so I just started collecting some rocks from the beach and gave that to them so they could paint or colour with markers,” she said.

“Parents were appreciative and wanted to give me money. I’d tell them it’s okay, but they started to buy my popcorn and would just give me a few extra dollars on top of that for entertaining their child.

“People would see us at the Farmer’s Market and say, ‘You need to do craft parties’. When I was first told that I had never really thought about it. I figured it would be hard, but they encouraged me, so I said, ‘Let’s do a party’.”

Her first official event was in 2012. Since then she’s also been hired to entertain little ones at corporate events.

“What happens is I bring everything with me when I show up,” Ms Richardson said.

“It’s everything from Sharpies to paint, markers and glitter glue, so it’s not the loose kind that gets everywhere. Even the glue isn’t Elmer’s glue. We use glue dots so it’s a hands-on activity and there’s no mess.

“Children take what they want to decorate — be it a ceramic piggy bank, foam mask, wooden car or boat, Christmas decorations or picture frames — and then they colour and design it.”

Ms Richardson has been working with children since she was 18. Her first job was helping out at a nursery school, she later went on to nanny and taught at Purvis Primary for ten years.

In 1990 she gave up her day job so she could look after her own daughter, who was born significantly premature. Two years later she opened up her own home daycare.

“My grandmother cared for a senior couple who lived in Point Shares and my mom was kind of a carer and housekeeper as well, so I’ve been around people who are nurturing my whole life,” Ms Richardson said.

“Then when I was a teenager I needed a job one summer and saw a nursery school job advertised. Since I like children I just went for it.”

Since then she’s found joy in sharing her love for the arts with young people.

While at Purvis she bought three students art kits to help them build on their skills. She ran into one of those former students recently, they remembered her.

“One of the little girls, I met when her family was going through a hard time,” she said. “She was interested in art, but didn’t have access to all the tools she needed.

“Now she’s a student at Berkeley, but she remembered me and approached me recently to tell me she’d never forget me and how kind I was to her. That meant so much to me.”

Another plus about working with children is they’re like “little sponges” and are keen to learn new things.

The parties also force Ms Richardson to think outside the box. When she can’t find the supplies she needs and can’t manage a trip overseas before a big event, she makes her own.

“For an Easter party I did, I had to buy sheets of foam here and cut those into Easter eggs and hats for the children to decorate,” she said.

“As long as I have something planned for next Christmas I’m thinking ahead for the next year. I try to incorporate Bermuda themes into the activities as well. When I did a party for the boat parade I decided to make boats out of Bermuda cedar scraps I found.

“I guess that’s why some people call me the craft lady. I think the name is great. I see it as a compliment.”

• E-mail irich22@gmail.com or call 595-3031.

Sharing a love of art: Irene Richardson has been planning children’s craft parties for the past three years. The long-time educator and nanny is pictured here with soon-to-be two-year-old, Ella Kent (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Secret weapons: Irene Richardson says a supply of coloured markers, glitter glue and stickers are vital for keeping youngsters entertained (Photograph by Akil Simmons)