Meet Amber | South Austin Moms
Amber Scardino, mom of 3 (ages 22, 10, and 8), is originally from Slidell, LA but has called Austin home for 20 years. I say she’s earned the “Austinite” title, especially because of the way she has poured into and enriched the lives of South Austin families through art. Amber is the owner and founder of Figment Creative Labs, a beloved colorful art school on Brodie Lane where, pre-stay-at-home orders, she held Creative Pre-K classes, mom & toddler playgroups, birthday parties, STEAM camps and more. I reached out to Amber to not only find out how she got started, but also to learn how Figment Creative is coping in the current health crisis. I’m excited to introduce you to her and share how her positive impact is reaching families even now.

 

Twenty years in Austin. That is a long time! What is your favorite thing about living here?

I really love all the down to earth people I have met in Austin. I feel incredibly lucky to have met all the amazingly loving families through Figment, throughout the years.

 

What do you love to do with your family around town? We like camping and paddle boarding, but you can’t beat the shakes at Alamo Draft House.

 

I’m sure you’ll be rushing to do those things as soon as you can safely do so!

 

What need did you see in the community that inspired you to start Figment Creative?

I felt Austin didn’t have an art studio where kids could create and express themselves through art and making, without a blueprint or rigid project guidelines. We needed a place that focuses on process more than product.  When I was young I went to an art teacher and I absolutely loved her.  Her name was Mrs Bosch. I would come home with art from her class and my parents were always amazed about what I had done.  I felt proud of that at the time, but it wasn’t till later in college when I actually tried to create on my own, that I realized I had always just been copying something an adult was directing me to do.  I had not been putting any of my own self or thought into any of my work.  I knew how to copy something and make it look real, but where was the artistic choices or critical thinking in the work?  I want kids to have a place to come that is like their own art studio where they can get inspired, throw around ideas, make mistakes, and discover their artistic voices.

Figment Creative Labs is helping to prepare kids for the future and learn how to be critical thinkers through hands on learning.

 

 

Wow, that’s must be so fun for the kids to have that freedom under your instruction! So, you saw a need, felt inspired… How did you finally start?

I started teaching art camps and classes out of my garage 7 years ago.  I was doing so many creative projects with my boys, that my friends wanted me to do the same with their kiddos.  I started hosting summer camps, which grew into weekly classes, then art birthday parties.  Now I have a brick and mortar on Brodie Ln. where we have a small creative preschool, host toddler playgroups, have an after school program, day camps/ summer camps, Ladies Art Nights, Art Birthday Parties, homeschooler classes….

I want kids to be able to unlock the door to a world with endless possibilities. At Figment, we help them build a foundation of confidence and critical thinking and we provide an environment in which they can truly explore, experiment and harness their own creativity. I get to see daily how Process Art, Maker Ed, STEAM, all mix together to create this magical potion at Figment.

 

How have you shifted your business strategy to stay afloat and meet the needs of families who are now isolating at home?
This is a hard one that is constantly evolving right now.  When this all happened, we shut down and started working from home.  We stopped charging for preschool, but still do a weekly zoom playdate  so the kids can keep in communication.  I started two Facebook groups called Austin Homeschool With Figment for ages 3-12yrs and Figment Creative Labs Toddler Play Group for ages 3 years and younger. These are spaces where parents can share ideas of what they are doing at home, create community, I share ideas, I do videos and Lives…., I have been blogging more and do a Facebook Live on my main Facebook page every Monday at 1pm.  I have started selling Figment Creative kits for people to do at home.  They are available for purchase on out website and we have curbside pickup. I am working on various video series to sell along with kits for future classes.

What are you doing personally to keep your sanity while isolating?

Personally I think the distraction of work helps me cope.  It gives me a purpose and I enjoy what I do.  Also, everyday I have to go check on the chickens at the studio, and just getting out of the house to go feed them and water the garden gives me enough of a break to step away and breathe on my own for a bit.  I am an introvert and seem to really need time to myself. That has become very clear to me.

 

You and me both! One last fun question: what is something people might be surprised to know about you?

I have always had an extreme fear of public speaking.  A few years ago I was offered the opportunity to go on a local tv morning show to promote my business.  I was deeply afraid, but I couldn’t pass up the free publicity.  I got through that appearance, and have been on countless times since.  It has helped me to get over my fear of public speaking.  It goes to show you that sometimes you have to step outside your comfort zone to grow.

 

Cover photo & Headshot by @jessicagiesey photography

Color throw photo by Courtney Kirkpatrick

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