Category archives: peopleofksq

Meet Jan, the founder of AHHAH–arts holding hand and hearts.

1. Can you tell us a little bit  about yourself ?

My life has been a winding road full of many wonderful twists and turns that have all lead me to AHHAH.
I grew up in Nashville and was going to major in psychology but was invited to act in a summer theatre program my senior year and was hooked and changed my major to theatre.  I was a professional actress in NYC for 18 years, even was in a a horror film, Mad  Man where I get axed in the chest and my head shot off (that always grabs the attention of youth in detention when I share that tidbit).  
I have a BA degree in Theatre and a Master’s in Education, my thesis was “Does and Arts Infused Curriculum enhance the academic success of children labeled “at risk”?”
I have two children, Ian who is 35 and a lawyer in Norristown, and Caitlin who is  31, an artist, dancer and the most amazing mother of my 2 year old grandson in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
We moved to Unionville 25 years ago.  I started a ‘Science Alive’ program at Unionville Elementary school when it was a K-3 school when my daughter was in 1st grade and then was hired to bring the program to Chadds Ford Elementary.  After getting my Master in Education, I moved on up to Patton Middle School and  taught English, Science, Life Management Skills and assisted the after school drama program.
My husband had worked at the World Trade Center in NYC.  I had always said when my children were grown and I was a grandmother I would go back to acting.  After 9/11 I realized that if you have a dream, you can’t put it on a shelf and say “one day” but pursue it now.  I finished that school year and once again pursued acting this time in Philadelphia.  
My first day not teaching, I was cast in a show “Snow is Falling” with Philadelphia Young Playwrights. During the rehearsals, when they found out that I had been a teacher, I was asked to be a teaching artist teaching playwriting with children in inner city schools in Philadelphia.  A truly AHHAH moment.  I was a teaching artist for both PYP and the Philadelphia Theatre Company for 8 years.  

I also lead the drama program with the Philadelphia Senior Center across the street from Suzanne Roberts Theatre and was a member of CAAN- Creative Arts and Aging Network.  I was part of the planning committee for a town hall meeting at World Live Cafe in 2002 of the importance of professional arts programming with seniors that was a nationwide movement to get funding for professional senior arts programming. The theme of the town hall meeting was think globally but act locally. 

2. When and why did you start AHHAH? 

I started an intergenerational program called Hands Across the Ages which combined senior citizens at the Kennett Senior Center and teenagers at the Garage to share their stories and break down the walls between the generations.  The teens came to the senior center after school for workshops where we used theatre techniques to build connections.  The next year the seniors went to the high school as part of an after school program.
I brought this program to Philadelphia Theatre Company as part of their “Philly Reality” program.  I worked with the Philadelphia Senior Center and the World Communications Charter School which was across the street.   Fall of 2012 they picked the issue of bullying in school and that we need more arts education not more guards with guns.  The piece they wrote together was, “I AM LIVING”.  December 12 was the Sandy Hook killing.  I AM LIVING was performed to a packed audience at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre.  At the talk back after the performance, young and old shared having been either bullied or being a bully, not realizing the impact of words to hurt a person and became advocates to stop bullying.
Three weeks later I found out that  three of the inner city schools where I was teaching were closing and three weeks after than I found out that funding for the arts of the other inner city schools was being cut.  I said to the director of education at PTC that if the government does not believe that children in poverty deserve an arts education and are just going to funnel them into the prison system, then we need to bring our programs to the children in the juvenile justice system.
The education director said they didn’t go there and I said, ” I guess I have to open my own organization that does.”  I quit my job.
I get up early in the morning 4 am  to meditate ( that’s when my husband starts snoring and I felt it was better to get up and meditate instead of tossing and turning with a pillow over my ears or his head!) and journal.  The day after I quit I journaled and asked  “Ok what do I do now, and as if channelled my hand wrote, AHHAH.  I wrote what does AHHAH stand for and I wrote Arts Holding Hands and Hearts.  I closed my journal and said to myself, “I guess that’s my new organization.”  

3. Can you share some stories from AHHAH programs?

I teach 6 am yoga at Yoga Secrets in Kennett. That morning after teaching I asked, Can anyone get me into the prisons legally.
There was a new person in class who said she was a parole officer and said I need to talk to Carrie Avery and Joe Frankenstein at the Chester County Youth Center.  I said,”Is this a horror film joke, Carrie and Frankenstein! It wasn’t.  I met with Carrie and Joe and a week later I started a weekly trauma sensitive yoga class.  Three months later we started a creative writing program.  That was in 2013.
The first writing program was with girls in the shelter for homeless and abused girls at CCYC. There were 4 girls, all from Coatesville.  The first girl who shared was Sarena, who wrote, “I am the daughter of a teenage mother who was the daughter of a teenage mother who was the daughter of a teenage mother with no father in sight.”  The next girl who shared wrote about being raped at 12 by her uncle while her mother was in the room and the baby crying that stopped him from taking her again but she forgave him because she knew that she would be in prison in her heart if she didn’t forgive.  I knew then that AHHAH had to make Coatesville our base to see how we could stop the youth from Coatesville entering the juvenile justice system.
Our first grant was a 21st Century Learning Center grant and we facilitated trauma sensitive yoga and after school playwriting classes with students at Scott Middle School in 2014.  We then found out that children in kindergarten were being suspended in Coatesville.  We knew if we were going to be more than a bandaide we needed to reach families with children 0-5.  We started a Family Story Time Yoga program for children 2-5 with a caregiver at the Coatesville Library.
One of the mothers in our first class, mother was a teacher in Early Start a program with Head Start.  She introduced us to the director of Coatesville Head Start and we facilitated Storytime Yoga for free to 5 Head Start classes in Coatesville.  2019 AHHAH brings our Storytime Yoga program to over 400 children in Chester County.
 In my research of why so many children in poverty enter the juvenile justice system I found statistics that children in poverty are exposed to 30 MILLION words less by the time they are five than children in a middle class or more affluent household.
2015 was the City of Coatesville’s 100 anniversary.  I spearheaded a “PULL” (Pop Up Lending Library) Campaign to get 100 both indoor and outdoor PULL Stations throughout Coatesville.
2018 the Longwood Rotary gave AHHAH $1500 for materials to build 10 PULL Stations in Kennett Square. The Kennett Square community embraced the PULL Campaign.  AHHAH partnered with the Kennett Library and the Kennett Culture and Arts group in identifying locations, artists, and collection of books.

Please check AHHAH website for more information:www.artsholdinghandsandhearts.com

How long have you been painting? 
 
Coming from a family of creators and performers, I grew up with a love for all things creative. In high school, I was more drawn to music and performance but still dabbled in painting. Visual/fine art was something that I had always loved and when it came time to decide on a career path, the visual side took the lead. I went to Delaware College of Art and Design for my associates in Fine Arts and West Chester University to finish my bachelors. After that I was employed as a photography assistant for an auction house in Downingtown, I now currently work there as one of their lead photographers. Although I loved all of the creative formats that I had been allowed to experience, I felt like there was something else that I could use as an outlet, so I decided to play around with the idea of watercolor.  But it wasn’t until I worked at Philter that I started painting as a freelance artist. The owner, Chris Thompson, allowed me to hang my work in the shop, which received an awesomely positive response and things continued grew from there. 
How did you become interested in watercolor? 
 
The funny thing is, I have always been more drawn to oil paints and heavier mediums. In school, I had a very heavy hand and loved high contrast and texture, so oils and charcoal were always my go-to. The love for watercolor came as quite a surprise. I fell in love with the way each layer influenced the next, allowing you to see a history beneath them. Its such a delicate medium, and I was always told how scary it was to use, so it was pretty intimidating when the time came to try it. I wanted to experiment one day, and after I painted my first goldfish, I fell in love with the medium. I’ve never been one to create clean and crisp work, which is something that is usually associated with watercolor. Through playing with it, I had realized that it was much more fun to make a mess. Watercolors are known to be hard to control, and with this knowledge, I’ve learned to let go of my own expectations through the process and allow it to have an active role in creating the piece as well. Why try to control something that can be so beautiful in it’s own right? That’s where the splashes and drips come in. 🙂 Though over the last 3 years, I have worked in a bigger format, moving to larger canvas pieces. This required a heavier paint to stick to the canvas, so a lot of my more recent pieces are done with acrylic in a watercolor style -which opens up a whole other world of playing and experimentation. But I must say that every time I go back to watercolor, my heart is re-stolen. It is a truly beautiful art form.
What attracts you the most–when looking for potential subject matter? 
Painting is truly an outlet for me. So it really depends on my mood and whats happening in life, as cliche as it may sound, those things really do influence what kinds of works come to fruition. Sometimes when I’m not feeling anything in particular but have the need to create, colorful abstract pieces with come to mind. Most of the time my works consist of animals. I’ve always been an animal person, if I didn’t choose this career path, then it certainly would been one involved with fur friends. So I’d say that they influence my work quite a bit. I love the idea of the spirit animal. I feel like everyone has one that they connect with, so shedding light on that is always a fun adventure. I’m especially drawn to woodland creatures- foxes, wolves, and hawks are some of my favorite subjects. They’re pretty independent creatures, though obviously wolves can be big “pack” animals, I feel like there’s a quiet “loner” side that is easy to relate to as well. Color also plays a huge role in my process. I’m a huge fan of color, and I love playing with it in spots that you may not usually find it- like if something is supposed to appear black or in shadow, in nature if you really look at something that appears black, it actually consists of so many other colors. I think that’s half of the fun when creating these pieces, finding things that you wouldn’t usual see at first glance, but somehow makes it all work. It allows the viewer to really observe, search for, and discover something, creating their own connection to the piece, which is really my goal.
Who were the watercolor artists who inspired you most? 
 
Though I haven’t seen many watercolors by him, Cy Twombly is a huge one….I even nerded out to the point of naming my cat after him. At first I never really understood his work, but that’s what made me fall in love with it. He seemed to be purely about color and placement. Things don’t have to make sense in his pieces but they certainly convey something. Lora Zombie’s works really helped to inspire me in taking on watercolor. Her pieces are super fun and edgy, usually consisting of pop culture subjects. And she’s never afraid to make a mess when it comes to watercolor. There is also a ton of talent in my personal tribe and local community that is super inspirational. I’m extremely lucky and thankful to have so many talented friends who influence and inspire my work as well. Its great to be able to bounce ideas back and forth, get feedback and to really be able to be completely supported and vulnerable with these fellow humans. That kind of connection is important.
What are you working on now? 
I’m currently gearing up for the Holiday freelance season, it’s always a super fun and creative time. There are a few pieces that I have in mind that will need to be put on canvas soon (and possibly t-shirts!), so be on the look out for those! There are also some pretty exciting things that are being balanced with the freelance painting as well – my family recently started the On the Roll Inc, Food Truck, which has kept us all very busy and excited! I am thankful to be apart of that endeavor. I am also currently planning out the holiday display at Philter Coffee. Its always a fun process and its nice to take a shot at 3D work between paintings. So I’m super excited to see what we’ll come up with next!

 

Meet David, the owner of Unionville Saddle. David is a fashion designer, after living in New York for a decade he is bring his love of custom garment making back to here.

What sparked your interest in fashion?

Growing up I always had an interest in fashion, I remember reading GQ or sketching what my favorite pop stars’ were wearing but I was always more interested in fine arts.  I grew up painting and drawing and didn’t begin to sew until I was a senior in high school. I really got interested in fashion when I went to Parsons School of Design in NYC.  While I was studying I realized that fashion was a way to communicate  concepts while exploring traditional construction techniques and making people feel amazing.

What is your brand philosophy?

My brand philosophy revolves around the concept of Your Body Infinite Options.  Studying and working in the fashion industry for a decade opened my eyes to some major flaws in the current fashion system.  From not providing adequate sizing in stores to crippling runway and production costs I have decided to approach the business in a much different way by creating single pieces specifically to a client’s needs.  I believe that clients are looking for something that is made just for them, in the past women would have clothes made for them by dressmakers, working one on one to create something completely original and with a perfect fit for them.  My goal is to make every client feel at home while working with them to create pieces that will flatter every part of them, last, and look modern for years to come.

How do you describe your fashion and style?

I like when there is a mix of minimal clean lines and rawness, I love when frayed edges contrast the perfect fit.  There always needs to be a balance comfort and elegance, weight and lightness, color and texture.

What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work?

Currently, I am working with the concept of my transition from a city life in NYC to life in Unionville.  I have always used personal experience in life as my inspiration for my collections and this transition has been the most shocking and rewarding process of my life.

Talk us through the process of creating a garment. How long does it normally take to create a dress? what’s the procedure like?

Making a garment can take anywhere up to a year, particularly for bridal gowns.  The process always begins with a conversation, what do you need, when do you need it, what will the function be?  Then I will show a client some fabrics that may work with what they need and we begin to sketch. Once a design is selected I drape the piece, make a pattern, fit a muslin, and order the final fabric.  Once the pattern is corrected I cut the garment in final fabric, sew it, and fit the final piece. Depending on how complicated the garment is it may need more fittings to get the correct the fit.

Check David’s website and instagram for more information.

 

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your club?

I started ksqQWERTY very recently.  I am a writer and wanted a way to experience the combined fun of writing with my enthusiasm for the typewriter.  I thought it would be perfect to bring the two together in occasional and random pop-ups in and around Kennett Square. I hope to find other enthusiasts with typewriters to do some type-ins around town…maybe at the Kennett Library where I work or at one of the great coffee shops in town or at one of the many great events and venues Kennett is so prone to having!

How long have you been use a typewriter? and Why?

I had been carrying around a beautiful little portable typewriter that I found over 25 years ago at a thrift store in Philadelphia. I would type on it very occasionally but didn’t know how to maintain it or get ribbons for it and it eventually just sat on a shelf for many years.  Then no long ago, one very serendipitous and providential day, I met someone who was also an avid typewriter enthusiast and that sparked the motivation to actualize QWERTY.  I’ve been typing since.

How many typewriters do you have?  What’s their personality? 

I now have 9 typewriters and, as my son recently pointed out, they are each my favorite! My Olivetti Lettera 32 was my first typewriter – the one I found in the thrift store for $10. The next was a Adler Contessa also found at a thrift store. I have several older typewriter dating from the 40s and late 30s. They are gorgeous black shiny machines with little quirks that make them more easy to look at than type with. My most recent additions (kindly gifted to me by a total stranger who saw me at the Kennett Farmers Market) are a Smith Corona, a sturdy handsome thing that I will most likely use for most of my writing and also a lovely, lightweight turquoise portable Smith Corona from probably the 70s – perfect for taking out for a pop up event!

 

Can you talk a little about your project? 

Typing for the love of typing is fun (as opposed to having to type an over-due term paper full of type-o’s or typing office memoranda for an impatient boss under a looming deadline, also full of type-o’s). I love the snap the keys and seeing the type bars swing up and smack the paper and make the letters that march along forming words. Its like a little letter press! I love the bright “ding”! at the end of the line and “raaap” of the return carrier to start a new line. It makes writing a very physical, active, tactile, whole experience. Also typing is evidence of errors… they happen, you move on. Sometimes the errors have beauty and meaning, which I like. Sometimes they are annoying and uncomfortable, which is a good exercise in humility and living with imperfection.

 I feel connected to the making of the thing when I type. It pushes the process of writing beyond the conceptual/cerebral domain of working on a computer (it also doesn’t have the inherent distractions, such as Google, weather checks, email updates, etc… ) Writing on a typewriter is more emphatic and committed than writing with a pen or pencil. Though I write in all the above forms, and each lends to a slightly different product, I am currently infatuated with writing on and thinking about the typewriter.  Plus they are all just so beautiful!

 

 

Miriam is a Moroccan-American Mom. She loves cooking and baking.I met her through my friend Estelle’s  instagram, we chatted  online about this photo shoot, finally we had made it happen. The Moroccan almond cookie and Mint tea were served to welcome me at her house. That’s my first time to try them, I have to say I absolutely love them.

In Kennett Square, I have met people from all over the world. It’s such a wonderful place to live.

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Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m a wife a mom of two very busy kids, a Moroccan cuisine foodie and a lover of  everything and anything Moroccan. I’m very passionate about Moroccan cuisine and  culture. And love to share my passion with everyone.

I was born and raised in Casablanca Morocco and since I can remember cooking was a very important aspect in my life. My moms made sure I was always present along side with her and my late grandmother in the kitchen. If I wasn’t cooking I was watching and learning. Most of the  authentic dishes I learned and I can say I master now is because of her. I still call her to ask about how to make this or what spices I can add to a specific dish.

In 2008 I moved to the United States to marry the love of my life and my cooking fan  number one, and ever since it has been a life full of adventures and lots of food. It  wasn’t easy at the beginning leaving everything behind and starting a new life thousands of miles away, and there are still times that I get home sick but I always find comfort and refuge in the kitchen. Baking and cooking are for me more of a therapy for  the soul than just fuel for the body. But I can say now that I’m so lucky and proud to call two different part of this earth HOME. Living in the United States has also influenced my taste in cooking. I enjoy a good burger or a Philly cheese steak from time to time, I  would make a Moroccan koufta (well seasoned ground beef) into a juicy burger and there I have the best of both worlds.

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What’s your favorite Moroccan dish to cook and why?

It’s very hard for me to choose a favorite Moroccan dish; it always depends on my mood and what I crave at the moment. Sometimes it’s the sweet and savory chicken pastilla: a festive dish served on special happy occasions. On Fridays I like to make the Moroccan national dish which is Couscous with lamb or beef and veggies, my kids love it. On cold days I like to make hearty dishes like Rfissa: a dish made with chicken, lentils and tons of onions on top of shredded crispy, flaky break) and sometimes a simple lentils soup or harirra soup can do.

But I really have a soft spot for sweets. I love baking and there are a lot of varieties of cookies and a mix of ingredients is used in Moroccan pastries, for instance: the orange blossom water, rose water, dates, almonds and all sort of nuts and just the right amount of sugar.

I like to make the Moroccan almond (ghriba) cookie. it is one of my favorite, It’s soft, chewy and full of flavors.

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Can you give us the recipe of this Moroccan cookie? 

Moroccan almond cookies (ghriba dellouz) 
2 1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder 
1tbs butter at room temperature 
1 whole egg and 2 yolks 

2tbs flour
1 tbs apricot jam
Zest of 1 orange or 1 lemon 
1/8 tsp salt

     1 cup powdered sugar for coating.

      And some orange blossom water to coat our hands

Preheat the oven to 375 f

In a food processor mix the almond flour with sugar and salt until well blended.
In a large bowl combine the almond sugar mixture, flour, the baking powder, lemon or orange zest, the butter and the apricot jam, mix very well with a spatula or your hands. I love working with my hands. Coat your hands with some orange water blossom and form balls about 1inch each.

Coat them generously with the powdered sugar. Place in a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, press slightly with your thumb. Don’t flatten them just a slight push.

Bake for 10 to 12 mins the cookies are done when they form a nice crinkles and take a round nice shape without browning.

 Remove from the oven and let cool before transferring to a cooling rack.

Enjoy with some freshly made Moroccan mint tea.

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How long have you been living in Kennett Square?

We have been living in Kennett Square for almost 7 years now and we love it here. It’s is very safe and diverse and I feel very welcomed and accepted. I made so many friends here and I’m happy our kids are making childhood memories in this town.  Kennett square keeps getting better year after year. New shops and restaurants have opened, incredible coffee places, wonderful houses and neighborhoods, and a great school system. Here in Kennett square I really feel the sense of community and belonging and I couldn’t have asked for more.

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How’s the life in Casablanca different from that of Kennett Square?

There is no way to compare the two. They are different worlds and each one of them holds a special place in my heart.

Casablanca in a sense represents my past that I will never forget. Living and growing in Casablanca among my family and friends is what shaped the person I’m today. It is sure a big city in progress with its own idiosyncrasies and challenges but to me it’s perfect the way it is. Every time I talk about Casablanca I get an emotional melancholic feeling because it’s where my family is, where all my memories and adventures are stamped in every corner and every street.

Kennett Square is home now. It’s my present and it’s where I’m making memories with my kids. It’s for sure a smaller town compared to Casablanca which is the biggest city in Morocco, but it has its own charm and history.  Casablanca is a coastal city. I lived fifteen minutes away from the beach and I used to go to the shore at least once a week. I remember my dad taking us for breakfast every Sunday in one of the so many coffee shops and restaurants in the shore followed by a long walk to admire the ocean and get a nice breeze away from the polluted city.  Now instead of going to the shore I take the kids to The Longwood gardens in Kennett square and it’s just a piece of heaven on earth. The scenery is just amazing and that’s something we lacked in Casablanca. There are almost no green spaces in the city.      

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What do you think of Kennett Square?

I love Kennett square and we are so happy that we chose to purchase our first home in this town and to raise our family in a safe place. Kennett Square is very pretty with rolling hills and lots of farms where I can find a lot of local products to use in my cooking. There are Lots of local amenities and very diverse restaurants. What I like most about Kennett square is all the talented people that live in this town and I’m so happy that I got to know them either via Instagram or Facebook or met them in person, like my sweet friend and blogger Estelle stacy. She was one of the people that encouraged me to follow my passion for cooking and I thank her for featuring me in some of her videos posted on her blog.

You can follow Miriam’s instagram: @everything_moroccan

 

 

  1. Iza said:
    What an awesome representation ! Stunning beauty!! Inside and out!!
    Bravo!!!
    December 15, 2016  5:35 pm
    Reply