Project Studio in west Cobb is barely a year old, but its crafting classes are already selling out and the studio’s enormous popularity has led owner Jill Alford and Amy Griffith asking, “What did west Cobb women do for fun before Project Studio?”
The studio specializes in hand lettering classes, teaching its “students” how to turn their handwriting into works of art. The style of putting quotes, Bible verses and names on everything from burlap to barn wood has skyrocketed over the past few years, especially since people have discovered they can create the décor themselves.
“We’re less about the building and more about the hand lettering and the art of it,” Griffith said.
“We don’t want everyone’s stuff to look just like ours,” Alford added. “We want your artwork to look like your artwork. We don’t want to say, ‘OK, now everyone do it exactly like this.’ We want to take your handwriting and make it look fantastic. I want it to look like you. Art is an extension of oneself, not a copy.”
Alford and Griffith first met several years ago as artists for the Marietta-based home goods company, Glory Haus. Griffith painted what they call “burlies,” which are burlap pieces painted with messages and artwork. Alford did mostly canvas work so the two were constantly creating, and found they enjoyed creating most when they did it together.
“We found that when we would be working on a deadline, it was much more fun to do it together. We always would joke, ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be fun if we had a place and we could just hang out and do art together.’ So that’s what happened,” Alford said.
In 2015, Alford experienced a sudden upheaval in her life after her husband, Jimmy, passed away from a heart attack at age 56. With one son in college and another about to leave the nest, Alford knew she needed something to keep her busy and occupied. She turned to Griffith and asked if she would like to open a studio and Griffith replied, “Absolutely.”
“I like to say this is his little gift to us,” Alford said, of her late husband. “When you go through something like that, you need to feel you have a purpose, to have a reason to get up in the morning and, outside of my faith, this has been that. It’s been sheer joy and I’ve enjoyed connecting with other women. There are plenty of people who have a story like mine so I think when you get together, it helps. Art is therapeutic, in a sense. It’s really calming so it’s fun to see women come in here and learn that and come together in that process.”
Griffith, on the other hand, is wife a mother of five, ages 14 to 21.
“My parents always lived a long way from my grandparents so we had lots of car rides and I would doodle all the time. When I started having kids, I started thinking, ‘I used to could draw, I bet I could do some of that to make some money so I could stay at home with the kids.’ So that’s what led me to Glory Haus, and now Project Studio,” Griffith said.
In addition to teaching hand lettering classes, the pair also host open studio hours for two hours at a time, where friends and family can get together and work on a specific project, using the studio’s artists and resources to assist them. Alford and Griffith said they originally thought the retail shop portion of the studio would be just as profitable as the studio itself, but the classes and studio hours have become so popular, they have slowly scaled back the retail portion and continue to grow the studio space. The two artists also create custom pieces for weddings and gifts.
“We’re really trying to morph with whatever the new trend is. Our hope is that we won’t just be a one-hit wonder, and that we can morph into whatever is popular next,” Alford said.
The two said they look to Instagram and Pinterest often to help them forecast what the next trend will be, but they still have to follow the lead of their customers.
“You can read magazines and look at sites and say, ‘OK, purple is going to be really big this season.’ But if people don’t like purple, it’s not going to be the next big thing for us. So we have to follow what our customers like as well,” Alford said.
As far as what the next big thing will be, the pair said the farmhouse style is still here to stay, thanks to the popularity of designers Chip and Joanna Gaines and their knack for farmhouse-chic décor, but that it will be farmhouse with a twist.
“We’ve gone from this ultra-modern farmhouse and we’re still there, but I think everything went so neutral I think color is going to come back in a big way. Abstract design is going to come back in, along with a lot of patterns. You’ll see bohemian comes back around about every five years so we’re starting to touch on that again,” Alford said.
“It will still have that farmhouse feel but with a flair to it. So think bohemian farmhouse, Moroccan farmhouse, that sort of thing,” Griffith said. As artists, they both said they were happy to see color making a comeback as neutrals have reigned over the past year.
As for the future of Project Studio itself, Alford and Griffith said they have plans to expand and will be making some major announcements for the business in January.
“We’re surprised at how fast it took off,” Alford said. “We’re really busy, and that’s a good thing. I want to sound humble when I say that, but we’re really surprised and excited and we can’t wait to expand.”