Jen Pierce, 32, said she has always been an artist – so much so that she didn’t think she had another choice.
She is also an art teacher, having taught for 8 years at Loris High School and now Myrtle Beach High School for two years.
“I kind of stumbled into that because my mom was a teacher,” she said, adding that some of her mother’s stories almost made her think that teaching wasn’t the best choice – but when she was getting ready to graduate from Coastal Carolina University’s Art Studio program, some of her friends were pursuing their master’s degrees.
At the same time, her mother was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer – and for that reason more than any, Pierce wanted to stay in the area.
“I started a master’s program [at CCU], and after my first practical, I absolutely loved it and really never looked back. It’s my calling and my dream job.”
Pierce said she never got to take an art class herself until she was a senior in high school. But that exposure made a definite impact, propelling her on to become an art major. As an artist, she currently works in mixed media – which she says is a lot of painting with stitching added into her canvases.
She teaches all grade levels, freshmen through seniors.
When she was at Loris High School, Pierce taught digital photography and animation, and said she was brought on board at Myrtle Beach primarily to teach digital photography there. When she started, there was no such program in place.
“Digital photography is my thing, but I like painting on my own,” she said.
But how are the students responding?
“It’s just something natural for them because they all have phones now – and if you can teach them good composition, it doesn’t matter what kind of camera they have. They can take really good photos. I love editing, Photoshop and trick photography – where they are levitating in the air. It’s a really engaging class, and I don’t have to fight them too much because they like it.”
Last fall, Pierce started a business called Crayon Mustaches [www.crayonmustaches.com], which she said is a variation of the brick and mortar “wine and design” outfits, but with a twist: She makes house calls.
“It is my little paint party business,” she said. “I go to the people’s houses. Usually it’s a group of women getting together. I bring everything they need to get creative. Some people are a little intimidated to go to those things, but if they are in their own environment, they feel more comfortable and kind of open up a little bit more.”
Crayon Mustaches is being so well received that she is booked through July, just by just word of mouth.
“It’s not something I have to do, but I enjoy doing it – and it’s not like work when you are going out and hanging out with a bunch of women, painting and stuff. That’s not working to me, but it’s nice that I get paid for it.”
She admits that her schedule can be a bit daunting at times.
“There is always something going on at the school or some kind of outreach – other than other just teaching – that we are working on all of the time.”
Pierce is also busy on the board of directors for the South Carolina Art Education Association – and recently put together a mini-conference with colleagues Kelley French and Sandi Snyder, which included a kayaking adventure in partnership with Pawleys Island-based Black River Outdoors Center.
Kayaking is a part of her decompression routine, and she is currently training to teach yoga at the newly-opened Amala Yoga Studio in Myrtle Beach.
“Yoga really is more of a spiritual thing for me – self-reflection,” she said. “My life is very fast-paced, and according to my friends I am way too busy and need to learn to slow down. It does a check for myself to slow down and enjoy the moment, and that’s definitely been my life work right now. I have two small kids [Bodhi, 8 and Harlow, 6], so I am trying to enjoy every minute I can with the people I love.
We asked Pierce for her take on the local art scene.
“If you are looking for it, you are going to find it,” she said.