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Small-town sisters turn a love of art into a full-fledged business

LEHI — To Cami Adams and Sarah Payne, the act of creation may be just as important as who you're sharing it with.

Self-described "small-town folks," Adams and Payne are sisters who grew up in a "tiny town in Arkansas."

"We took lessons from the same lady for years, and we loved it," Adams said. "We've been painting ever since."

Sarah Payne and Cami Adams both developed a love of art at an early age.
Sarah Payne and Cami Adams both developed a love of art at an early age.
Family photo

They went to separate colleges — Adams got her art degree from BYU — and pursuing a career in art was never really a consideration. Then, Adams' daughter expressed an interest in doing the same thing her mom once did as a child.

"My second child asked to do art lessons," she said. "I started searching, like any mom would do, and could not find anything where the price was right. And so my husband just suggested that I paint with her at home."

Word spread throughout the neighborhood. Every night, Adams' basement was packed with kids looking to get their hands on some paint. Eventually, she decided she'd need a bigger space, which led her to opening her own studio in Lehi called My Little Paintbrush.

Of course, Adams needed help — and she turned to her sister.

"We've always painted together," Payne said. "So being able to do it together again has just been a lot of fun."

Adams admits that most every town in Utah has a place where people can go for a "paint night," but she wanted something different. She wanted her place to be geared toward kids from the beginning.

"We wanted it to be educational," she said. "That's why we have the screen up here, so the kids can see up close what's going on."

My Little Paintbrush, pictured on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, is located on Lehi's Main Street.
My Little Paintbrush, pictured on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, is located on Lehi's Main Street.
Ray Boone, Deseret News

That "screen" is a large television, connected to a camera above an easel. On this particular night, it's where Payne sits, complete with a microphone and a set of plastic cat ears, as she's leading the instruction for a packed room of children looking to paint their own Halloween cat.

"Every time we do a class, we pull in something — a new brush technique, a new tool, a different surface," Adams said.

"Watching the kids that come regularly, they excel and they learn," said Payne. "They get better every time, so we're always trying to implement something new."

To Adams, the classes aren't just about painting — they're about teaching children to be creative.

"Creativity is in every direction your child's going to go," she said. "If they want to be a chef, if they want to be an artist, if they want to go into the tech world. To build the confidence for what you create to be accepted, I find that that's the biggest thing for kids."

But even though their plans had been a success in Adams' basement, there was certainly no guarantee it would translate into a full-fledged business.

"We were terrified," Payne said. "And every month we wonder, are they going to keep coming back?"

Cami Adams hands out some pointers during a class at My Little Paintbrush in Lehi on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018.
Cami Adams hands out some pointers during a class at My Little Paintbrush in Lehi on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018.
Ray Boone, Deseret News

On the 25th of every month, the business opens up its new schedule — and so far, there's been no shortage of undersized customers.

"It's just a blessing," Adams said. "From the beginning, it's kind of been placed in front of us, and every step of the way, we're just continually surprised by the support and the success of it."

Because to two sisters from a small town, this is isn't just about creating — it's about finding someone to share it with.

"We never thought when we were younger that this would be something that we would do, but it's definitely been kind of a dream come true," Payne said.