In mid-December, Oliloli Arts & Crafts Studio will open its doors at 103-23 Metropolitan Avenue, and will be more than a typical art space, as a result of the creative vision of 12-year Forest Hills resident and business owner Sandra Mandell.
The studio will open just in time for last-minute holiday gifts, and a grand opening celebration is slated for 2013. “Inspiring creativity and imagination” is the slogan for this go-to place.
Metropolitan Avenue is up and coming, and offers distinctive charm and more affordable rents than Austin Street. Nearby outstanding businesses include historic Eddie’s Sweet Shop, Danny Brown Wine Bar & Kitchen, and Wafa’s.
“All mom-and-pop businesses end up on Metropolitan Avenue,” Mandell said. “It is a neighborhood where everyone knows one another, and introduces themselves to a new business owner.”
Mandell lives with her husband in an apartment off Queens Boulevard, and is a proud mother of seven-year-old Eva and four-year-old Oliver. Raised in Beirut, Lebanon, she moved to the suburbs of Boston in 1990 at the age of 13, before settling in Forest Hills in February 2000.
Two years ago, Mandell had a vision of creating an art space.
“I love being creative, and I love art and arts & crafts, so I wanted to create something great for Forest Hills,” she said. “As a mom, I felt there were a lot of recreational activities that appeal to families here, but I did not always want to be a spectator.
“Oliloli will be a community space where families and friends get together, unplug from the digital world, learn new skills, get creative, have fun, and connect with neighbors,” Mandell added.
Oliloli (pronounced “Ah lee la lee”) derives from her son Oliver’s nickname.
“For the first time in my career, I am doing something I am truly passionate about,” Mandell said.
Her motivations are her children, her parents, who both started their own businesses, and the community she proudly calls home. In her apartment, she reserved a space called the “arts & crafts area,” where her children create projects with markers, crayons, paint, gems, and glitter, and then display them.
“My kids are always creating, and they are always so proud of what they create,” she said.
Art is universal, and that is certainly true for Mandell’s envisioned multi-generational patrons. Children can enjoy a book at Story Time, and paint a ceramic character from the book. They can build an eco-friendly modular dollhouse, and be designers through painting, coloring, wallpapering, and building furniture.
Wooden peg dolls of various shapes and sizes can be painted to create their own family. Children can also enjoy puppet making. The Oliloli Creative Arts Camp will enrich children’s minds when school is not in session. Adults can get creative too, such as at Parents’ Night Out.
Paint Your Own Pottery offers a large variety of ceramics such as figurines, banks, plates, bowls, and mugs with greater than 45 non-toxic paint colors, and stamps, stencils, and sponges.
“Everyone has a memory of painting pottery when they were young,” Mandell said. “You paint it, and then it is usable in your home, or you can give it as a gift,”
Paint On Canvas features a blank or pre-sketched canvas. Glass Fusing entails layering crushed colored glass to create glass coasters, jewelry, ornaments, night-lights, and bowls, and a great beginning is the Introduction To Glass class, which features glass tools, cutting, grinding, and design.
The Hand Stamped Wrapping Paper Workshop offers eco-friendly wrapping paper, handmade gift tags, paper flowers, and the buzz about stamping techniques, design, and embossing. Other hands-on projects are basket weaving, origami, and paper and wood crafts.
Through the arts, Mandell plans to commemorate all cultural holidays such as Hanukkah, Christmas, and the Chinese New Year. It would encompass an event and project. For example, Halloween would feature a pumpkin-carving event in the garden, while candy would be distributed. Another way of celebrating is by holding a party at Oliloli, featuring the Party Workshops Menu, two teaching artists, projects, and food.
Artistic opportunities do not have to carry a steep price tag. There will be no studio fees, so a project’s price will be all-inclusive, ranging from $15 to $25 on average.
“People should have a great time at a great value, and feel like they cannot wait to return,” Mandell said.
The 1,000-square-foot rustic industrial studio space will be designed for the comfort of children and adults.
“On one hand it’s cool, urban, and sophisticated, and on the other hand it’s relaxed and whimsical,” Mandell explained. “We have large communal tables, so you can sit next to people you haven’t met. It also has a backyard. That was the selling point.”
She visualizes an English garden with pavers, and a pergola with a long farm table and stringing lights.
Bob Staab of Goshen, New York, owns After The Barn, a shop with a mission of salvaging wood to create unique furniture from old barns in upstate New York.
“Bob is designing my 8 foot-by-6 foot communal tables, the checkout counter, and my barn door which will be the entrance to the workroom,” Mandell said. “Communal tables will be situated in the middle, and a decoration bar will serve paints, embellishments, and materials,” she added. “A mini-retail section will offer inspired gifts, such as up-cycled, environmentally friendly glass jewelry and tumblers.”
A range of generations of Forest Hills residents anticipate Oliloli’s opening. Suzanne Ruiz-Halwick, age 14, and her sister Jacqueline Ruiz-Halwick, age 13 feel a family-friendly art space should open in Forest Hills.
“We think more people are interested in doing hands-on things,” stated Suzanne. “I love painting pictures, and want to learn how to draw better. My favorite subjects are flowers and people.”
Sonia Kludjian, an artist and longtime Forest Hills resident, also has high expectations.
“An art center of this dimension hasn’t existed before,” she said. “We really need a creative force in the community. It will be nice to see the involvement of residents and artists, and how holidays will be celebrated through art.”
Mandell’s insight for artists of tomorrow is “Follow your dreams, and spend time doing what you are passionate about.” She considers art as very therapeutic, and said “I let my mind go, and creative projects feed my soul and make me happy.”
Mandell welcomes proposals and feedback from among the Queens art community. Beginning in late 2012, patrons can share a fulfilling experience with family, friends, and neighbors, and create physical memories lasting a lifetime.
“Like” Oliloli’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/OliloliStudio.