Artistic Inspiration from a Sloth: A Color Me Mine Event

There are many things about Bethlehem that makes it stand apart from other cities. For example, can you name any other pottery studio that hosts a “Paint With a Sloth” event, where attendees can BYOB, learn how to paint, AND snag a selfie with a real life sloth?

You guessed it – Color Me Mine.

Color Me Mine, a cozy, colorful store on 3rd Street, is pretty hard to miss. It is a paint your-own-pottery studio, but it has since grown into an international franchise after it first opened its doors in 1991.

To learn more about Color Me Mine, I reached out to Tara Nagabhyru, the owner of Color Me Mine Lehigh Valley. She shares that not only are there only multiple Color Me Mines across the country, but that there are over 150 locations worldwide, including studios in Canada, China, South Korea, the Philippines, Kuwait, Lebanon, Panama, Costa Rica, and India.

“Customers are welcomed into a relaxing environment, where they choose their ceramics and enjoy some family time painting together,” Tara says.

Despite being found around the world, Tara believes that there is something very special about being located on the Southside. After moving from the Lehigh Valley Promenade in 2015, the company felt both proud and honored to be part of the area’s major revitalization.

“The Southside of Bethlehem is, after all, a vibrant art district, with The Banana Factory, Sands, and all the eclectic collection of shops and restaurants. It made perfect sense for us to be here,” Tara says.

A Special Visitor

The already comfortable and homey atmosphere of Color Me Mine was heightened even more when Bean the Sloth came to visit Wednesday night. It was an event where customers did not need to be professional artists to come, and the staff members welcomed attendees with open arms and encouraging words. Believing that they should treat everyone as an old friend, the trained staff also helps any budding ceramic artist, as much or as little as they like. For example, custom work, such as logo replication, is offered to customers.

“Color Me Mine has two types of customers: people who know exactly what to do and go for it. Others come in and are not sure what they want to do,” Tara explains. “Usually, young children are so confident and they don’t hesitate, oblivious of any constraints. It is a beautiful thing to observe their process. We help them try to create something they are happy with and proud of. We have many tools and proprietary processes to help their projects look great. Customer satisfaction is our top priority.”

Color Me Mine has had many educational animal visits in the past, since The Lehigh Valley Zoo has partnered with the studio for over six years. When Bean was released from the cooler he was stored in, customers young and old oohed and ahhed as the two-toed sloth, holding onto his handler, gazed about the crowd with his big eyes and the faintest hint of a smile on his face. Bean, who can only be seen by appointment at the zoo, was an absolute hit amongst attendees, who enthusiastically took pictures of the sweet animal. It was fascinating to see how Bean’s movements helped customers outline, and later create, their own branch-hanging sloth, complete with green and pink acrylic paint.

Bean the Sloth at the Color Me Mine event! Photo credits: EV Dundon.

Bean the Sloth was not the only four-legged creature shown at the painting event. The Lehigh Valley Zoo handlers showed off two other “animal ambassadors:” a tiny armadillo and a beautiful small falcon, each with their own stories. The handlers made sure to emphasize how important it is to help save endangered rainforest animals. They suggested buying products that support these environments and to always reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Community Love

The Southside community also returns the love that Color Me Mine circulates. Tara says: “Everyone here, such as all the neighbors and other shops and restaurant owners, have been very welcoming, helpful, and kind to us. We are a tight-knit community, who are all passionate about our businesses and wish to help each other succeed. I love that there is so much love here. Not to sound too sappy, but this is true. Ask anyone!”

After watching the zoo presentation and seeing how happy every attendee was, I was eager to start painting. It was a good thing that we had a demo picture to work off of, because I would have been completely lost without it. After messing with different color combinations and struggling to be as gentle as possible with my strokes, I managed to finish my artwork.

Here’s what the painting was supposed to look like:

Color Me Mine rendition of sloth painting. Photo courtesy of: Color Me Mine Lehigh Valley.

And here’s my slightly more abstract, if not sloppy, interpretation:

EV’s rendition of sloth painting. Photo credits: EV Dundon.

Close, right?

Color Me Mine hopes that with such events like Paint With a Sloth, customers can have the opportunity to not only have fun, but to explore and connect to their creative side as well.

“Our philosophy is art for everyone, no matter your age or ability,” Tara reiterates. “Art is another form of expression, and everyone should be given the tools to express themselves. It is essential to provide art & music programs as part of early childhood education. Color Me Mine is a place you can come convey your artistic ability without judgement. If you can’t come to us, we can bring our art programs to your schools, community centers, churches and offices. Creativity feeds your soul.”

For more information, go to Color Me Mine’s website.

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*Feature image courtesy of Color Me Mine’s website.*

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