When the pandemic closed her school’s classrooms, art teacher Robin Torres turned her unique shed into an inspiring virtual learning center for her students.
A couple of years ago Robin Torres, an elementary teacher in La Crescenta, California was holding her art classes just like every other TK-6th grade teacher, in a typical classroom filled with drawings and supplies. She yearned for a separate spot at home where she could pursue her craft and work on her art lessons. Gazing out to her wooded back yard, Robin mentally “drew” a studio that was bohemian, rustic and rich in color.
Bringing the Classroom Home
Sometime later on, Robin was walking through nearby Descanso Gardens where the 2019 Pasadena Showcase House was taking place when she came across She Shed Living and their “shed shop” that was made by A Place to Grow SLO. She loved the old look of it and also the multitude of windows that provided plenty of natural light.
“I knew I couldn’t afford it right away,” Robin recalls. “But I was going to do whatever it took to raise the money and get one of these sheds in my back yard.”
Saving for her Dream
For the next six months, Robin did everything she could to put money into her “Art Shed” envelope. She took every side gig that came along after school, including private art lessons for kids in her home. She baked cookies, frosting them artfully and selling them wherever she could. Cleaning out her garage and closet, Robin then sold items on Facebook Marketplace and other apps. The envelope of money grew and grew.
Robin was also acquiring antique stained glass windows, bargaining for her favorites at salvage yards and antique shows. She knew that A Place to Grow would frame the walls around specialty windows as long as they were structurally sound.
Finally, with enough saved for a deposit, Robin was ready. She and her husband took the money and the windows up to the builders, worked out the wall designs and then in December 2019 the shed arrived.
The Prettiest Little YouTube Art Class
Three months later, the schools shut down. At a loss and disheartened by the abrupt change, Robin tried to figure out how to teach her kids online. In order to do that, she had to do something very challenging for herself: learn video production and improve her social media skills. “Normally I would have 650 kids flowing through my classroom learning how to draw,” Robin says. “Now I was teaching myself how to film and create a YouTube channel at the age of 57! I had no idea what I was doing and needed a place to film.”
With its homey interior and abundance of natural light, the shed was ideal for creating a little classroom, even if the kids weren’t actually present. Robin set up the room with a large wooden table and hung lots of completed art lessons on the walls. She ended up being very natural in front of her camera and speaks to her “kids” with enthusiasm and confidence. The series was a hit and the kids loved getting glimpses of her charming art studio.
Now, nearly 100 videos are available on her YouTube channel, with topics like “Behind the Mask” and how to draw sea-life creatures. Robin hopes to give small group lessons for her students in her shed now that COVID restrictions have eased. Her fellow teachers are also hoping for an invite. “I’m thinking about hosting an evening “Sip and Paint” event,” Robin says.
Robin’s art shed was featured for the month of September in our 2022 calendar. Enjoy many beautiful examples of backyard sanctuaries in our 2023 calendar; available here.
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