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Cristal Chen’s art and craft workshops offer a respite from Silicon Valley’s fast pace.

 

We can all agree that paint-with-wine nights are a hoot, but for graphic designer-turned-artist activist Cristal Chen, they’re pretty one-dimensional. “Milton Glaser was a big influence in my career, and reading Steven Heller and Veronique Vienne’s book, Citizen Designer, while working on my master’s thesis reinforced my views on how art can impact society,” says Chen, founder of SweetBloomsCo. “As artists, we have an inherent responsibility to create a dialogue between the work and the participant.”

For the last year, she’s been teaching art workshops out of her home in San Mateo’s Bay Meadows and at Palo Alto’s West Elm. (A modern calligraphy and floral drawing session recently took place at the latter location.) Her classes, which cover calligraphy, soap making, terrariums and block printmaking, attract people looking for a little break from the Valley’s fast pace.

All of Chen’s classes start with an introduction into why she is so passionate about her workshops and what she hopes students get out of them. “A lot of my repeat students tell me about the ‘power of art,’” she says. “I love to teach, and these classes—in addition to on-site and off-site team-building events for companies like Box, Facebook and Google—not only provide a small escape, but build confidence. I want people to come away feeling happy and empowered.”

 

Originally published in the July issue of Silicon Valley

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