By Jodi Bryant
Jessie Rose would constantly receive emails from parents asking if she would teach their children art and, for a long time, she sent back the same answer.
"I said 'I'd love to, but I'm not at all trained so therefore I can't'," says the Kamo local.
But in the midst of replying to one of the parents with her usual response, Jessie took pause and had a re-think. The message was deleted and, instead, she replied with: 'Actually, yeah ok, if you can get a couple of her friends together, I will look for a wee place to do it'."
The venue was found - a shop Jessie, in fact, used to walk past every day to school - and, two weeks later, having taken a gamble and left her job, Inspire Art with Jessie Rose was born. Classes filled within days and the first term was a huge success.
"From that, I quickly realised there was something in this. My students wanted to come back – I had a 95 per cent return rate and I saw results happening before my eyes," says the self-taught artist.
"By making that mindset change, it opened me up to the possibilities and things fell into place."
Jessie says the fact she isn't trained hasn't mattered in the least – instead, it has worked in her favour.
"If anything, I am now grateful I haven't had any formal training as, if I had, I would be teaching from what I had been taught, rather than teaching from what I have learnt along the way – the knowledge and experience I have gained from my years as an artist."
And it's not just the kids who have been learning: "They have taught me that I, in fact, do have something of value to pass on. I have tried to teach these kids through my own experiences to just be themselves and that it is ok to do that."
More than two years on, there are now over 100 students a term. Jessie believes her classes are aptly named because they are literally inspiring her students to use their creative voice and express themselves through art, which will help prepare today's youth to take on the world with passion and creativity.
"To know that anything is possible if they dream big, letting them know it's ok to be different – it is giving these kids such confidence, realising they can be themselves and that they can express their feelings - no matter what those feelings may be.
"My goal was to make an inspiring, creative and safe haven for children to create, learn and grow. I wanted to do my part as an artist to try and make a difference to Northland youth of today, through the beauty of art.
"And I could have never ever believed these amazing results. I have got some life-changing stories and I've had the privilege to watch first-hand the change in these kids. Kids that were shy or bullied or withdrawn, are now confident, self-assured, happy, on-to-it kids, all finding their value in art."
Inspire also offers a sponsorship program where local businesses can sponsor a child anonymously living in hardship to attend classes. During each course, the students produce their own canvas painting, which goes on display to the public in an exhibition.
In addition to Inspire, Jessie Rose offers day classes to home-schooled children, and adult day-time drop-in classes, along with a boutique shop displaying her own work.