Ali Groschl, Founder of smARTsy
On a mission to make the art of glass fusion accessible to all
I was a primary school teacher for 22 years – having come relatively late to the profession aged 27. I absolutely loved my career and had the pleasure of teaching in a number of schools across Leicestershire. If someone was to split me in half, they would have seen the word ‘TEACHER’ written through me like a stick of rock!
As art co-ordinator, I wanted to provide more opportunities for the children to experience the therapeutic nature of Art, but my hands were tied. I grew frustrated.
I wanted to indulge my passion in a setting where I wasn’t clock-watching, so five years ago, I had the idea of setting up a small art school in my shed. After teaching 40 people in just two weeks during the Easter holidays, I gave my notice at work and opened a new, exciting chapter.
Today, I’m out of the shed and in a vibrant house extension my partner Pete helped to build – teaching glass fusion to more than 60 customers a week.
I have four children and two of my daughters, May and Lucy, work alongside me at smARTsy. May is a glass fusion tutor and is brilliant at running workshops – allowing me to deliver larger events and focus on behind-the-scenes work – whilst Lucy serves refreshments to clients through her bakery business Bakerlu, which is located on site. May also runs her own mobile service, Glass Roots Leicester. To see my daughters flourishing in their own right as entrepreneurs – and being an integral part of their mum’s venture – makes me very proud.
Although I now teach adults, which is wonderful, smARTsy was initially founded for children. When I had my leaving assembly at school, I asked a hall with 550 pupils sitting in it: “Put your hand up if you really love Art.” My friend, who was watching at the back, snapped a photo as a sea of hands went up in response to my question. Whenever I look at that picture, which I have grown to treasure, it is a powerful reminder that I made the right choice to follow my heart and create a business that enables me to share my passion day in, day out.
Photo credit: Annabell Ison