At a house that looked as if it had been abandoned for years and was barely noticeable from the street, chickens and cats roamed the yard, and inside, two individuals with a passion for very different topics operated under one roof.
Jay and Denise Clayton run a multifunction workplace called Spread the Weird Studio, where they teach classes in graphic arts, cooking and other specialties. They live in a detached home in the backyard.
At their home and workplace near the southwest corner of Fifth and Garfield streets, colorful and disorganized rooms have been distinctively designed for the many classes they offer. The pair chose the studio space so they could live close to where they work.
Jay Clayton typically offers classes in design, cartooning, animation and drawing, as they are his specialties. His wife, Denise, works as a personal chef and small-event caterer and teaches cooking classes at the studio.
The studio space accommodates the couple’s many activities and hobbies, assuring “a place and room for everyone,” Denise Clayton said.
Denise Clayton also offers monthly card and stitching clubs as well as weekly crafting and sewing classes.
“We all get together, and normally I offer dinner at a cost, and then it’s free for them to get together and hang out and share ideas,” she said.
Many of the design classes are for all ages and skill levels, allowing kids to feel like they have something to contribute, Jay Clayton said.
“I don’t charge for the cartoon classes,” he said. “It’s more just of a casual hangout. I mostly have people who come regularly for that.”
Many times, students leave artwork from classes out on tables for others to work with, Jay Clayton said.
“Someone else might add animation or voices for the characters,” he said. “That could be the end of it, or it could turn into something new again next week.”
Aside from the regular schedule, the pair also offer a baking series and an annual tamale-making course.
The baking classes run three hours with a group of up to five people, Denise Clayton said. By asking the students to rate themselves on a scale from one to five, she customizes the classes and is able to adjust each course for different groups of people.
The tamale-making class is an eight-hour crash course in the art of tamales.
“They leave with 3 dozen tamales, and we make everything from scratch,” Denise Clayton said.
She added that students usually go home with a container of ingredients and are able to experiment on their own using skills learned in class.
People attending the Claytons’ classes range in age from their 20s to their late 60s.
“It’s homey,” said artist Crystal Daigle, 46. “They have so many different supplies around. That really inspires me. I wanted to learn how to collaborate. They both have so many different skills I feel I can learn from.”
The couple works together every fourth Friday to offer an event they call Dinner and a Song, which includes live music from a traveling artist paired with dinner.
Traveling artists from across the country get in touch with the Claytons through a website called Concerts in Your Home, and the pair house the artists the night they perform.
The shows, generally performed in the front yard, are free to the public. Small donations are accepted, and all proceeds go to the performer.
The couple recently began working toward a summer kids’ camp, targeting ages 12 to 18, but only one child enrolled due to the lack of immediate planning and marketing.
“We wanted to try and get our feet wet with it,” Denise Clayton said. “We’ve publicized it; we just haven’t gotten a lot of responses.”
The Claytons are convinced that what they offer is unique because of their ability to treat kids as equals, Denise Clayton said.
All programs used in the studio incorporate free computer-software programs, which “most kids wouldn’t have access to otherwise,” Jay Clayton said.
The close community the Claytons have established inside their studio is based on the idea that they don’t feel the need to overcharge people.
“We can still offer a really good value and still make a good living,” Denise Clayton said.
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