Emily Hay Shines a Light on Art and Wellness

Picture this: You’re in a sunlit room coloring in your hardcover book. A woman is directing you to write a poem, but not in the way that you typically would think about writing a poem. No, no. This poem is pulled together from the pages of your chosen publication. No need for rhyme or reason, however, the words somehow come together to relate to a moment in your life.

It’s therapeutic.  This is The Playful Space.

In the spirit of Spring and all things colorful, I got to speak to the always vibrant, Emily Hay. She shares with me the beginning, middle, and present of this growing community turned business.

Where did the concept for “The Playful Space” stem from?

“The evolution of The Playful Space began with struggle. The Playful Space was born as a personal creative outlet when I was battling postpartum depression after the birth of my first child in 2019. I found it extremely difficult to tap into my past creative self. I felt fearful, anxious, overwhelmed and completely lost in motherhood. As I navigated these murky waters, I continued my work as a Special Education Teacher and the stress was crippling. My therapist encouraged me to commit to 5-10 minutes of creativity a day as a form of self-care. It was as if a light switch was turned on. I began experimenting with a technique I learned and loved in college called altered book journaling. I decided to start an Instagram account to express my creativity and bolster my commitment to myself… For 8 years, I had the idea of The Playful Space in my back pocket. I asked myself: ‘if not now, when?’ With the support of my incredible husband and friends, I hosted my first creative retreat in January 2021 and now we have hosted almost 100 events since…all focused on play and creativity!”

What did the steps towards turning that idea to an actual business look like?

“Many growing pains, coaching calls, and trial [and] error turned the idea into reality! COVID to me will always be a blessing because it illuminated my purpose. What started as a private Instagram account during the darkest time of my life bloomed into a business of connecting and sharing the gift of play and creativity with others. My story comes full circle with every woman I meet. What gets me most excited about my business is witnessing women connect with each other, get out of their comfort zones and dig into their inner creative selves. It’s absolutely exhilarating.”

How involved does a business owner like yourself have to be with the community to see growth such as yours has?

“I am hands-on in every aspect of my business. I had to teach myself and learn about building a business through coached zoom meetings and webinars as we navigated the pandemic. I am committed to providing a space of shared stories and creative expression. It wouldn’t work if I was a biz owner behind the scenes. If I wasn’t super involved, I’d miss it all!”

Your business caters to adults (mothers more specifically); how important is it for us to cater to our inner child?

“According to play expert, Dr. Stuart Brown, play is one of the most important parts of being human. Not only is play enjoyable, it’s essential to our health and happiness. As adults we tend to deprioritize play, so I’ve made it my mission to bring more play opportunities for adults to the Bakersfield Community in order to decrease stress, increase curiosity, and build an inclusive creative community. One of my favorite art workshops that we host is “Rediscovering Your Inner Child”. We [finger-paint], draw with our non-dominant hand, interview our little selves, and meditate with a ball of [play-doh], just to name a few of the fun activities! My clients share feedback that they “felt so free, refreshed, and on fire for life” after tuning into their inner child.” 

Some have mentioned your workshops being somewhat therapeutic; is this intentional or does this just come with the territory?

“Prioritizing our own well-being and scheduling time for play and creativity helps us put our best foot forward as a parent, partner, and colleague. So naturally, our events can be healing and therapeutic. Our clients go back into the community with a more positive outlook armed with new skills and fresh perspectives. As I mentioned earlier, creating art helped me heal when I was struggling with my mental health, so I aim to be very intentional about our offerings by only providing workshops, resources, and tools that I personally have experienced. When making decisions around the business, I ask myself: ‘if this helped me heal or if this was fun for me, it’s sure to be fun and healing for others, right?’ My intuition never lets me down. ”

What is some advice that someone starting in your line of work should know?

“Entrepreneurship might seem super glamorous, but it is a giant amount of hard work, failing forward, and sacrifice….but it is totally worth it if you love your trade! I literally run up the stairs to my studio each day; I am that excited to be at work. Also, specifically being an entrepreneur in the art industry comes with a lot of vulnerability and experimenting; be open to your vision changing frequently and share your art, your story, your passion even when it feels scary! Your acts of courage give others permission to be brave!”

Any upcoming events you’d like to share?

“Yes! All of our upcoming events can be found at theplayfulspacebakersfield.com, but here are a few upcoming events for Spring and Summer: Yoga & Art Journaling with Wisdom Mind & Body, Finish It Fridays Open Studio, various art workshops, Summer Art Camp for tweens, and a Create & Connect Women’s Weekend Retreat in Ventura, CA.”

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