The art of making spaces- The classroom and beyond…

I’d say I’m not your average lifestylist/ writer/ creative entrepreneur. Fortunately, or unfortunately … depends which way you want to look at it… I come from an education background.

Art and Design is my subject and 2010 was my qualifying year. It’s worth knowing that initially I actually trained as a Design Technology Teacher, but I found myself more interested in the splashing of paint and dripping of inks than the sawing of wood and making of boxes. I was seduced by the allure of creative freedom. So, I got in…

I think one of my most memorable career moments was three years in…   I found myself just about to take on a new post as Subject Leader of Art and Design… in a PRU!  For those of you who may not be aware…  PRU stands for Pupil Referral Unit or…   School for pupils permanently excluded from mainstream education… usually due to social & emotional difficulties, challenging behaviour and/or special educational needs.

Let’s just say this… before I actually started the role.  I was seriously starting to wonder what on earth I was thinking … I toyed with the idea that someone may have spiked my drink on a night out or maybe they had put me under some sort of hypnotic trance and coerced me into the whole thing… applying for the role, going to the interview, signing the final contract…

It was all me though. I applied, I interviewed, I got the job, now I just had to do the job! Gulp!

I remember first arriving at the school and being introduced to my new tutor group, a class of teenage boys with a no-holds-barred approach to telling me exactly what they thought of me, the school and the education system.  They also had a penchant for screwing up small paper balls and launching them for target practice… Can you guess who the target was?

I remember my first set of art lessons and being asked lots of questions! “Why are you here”… “Where has the old art teacher had gone”,” How long are you gonna be here?”  Why don’t you have any eyebrows?” 😵  I Also recall being told in no uncertain terms that art is a dead subject and that it would not be needed for any future development so there really was no point in doing any work.

I was accused just being in it for the paycheck… of telling lies and selling dreams.  They remained unconvinced. At this point…so was I.

I needed to do something and fast! After all, it was I who would be solely responsible for their progression in this ill-perceived and decidedly irrelevant subject. Hmmm…

That evening after school, I decided to take action. I cleared the art room from top to bottom. I moved table chairs, desks and even large wooden cabinets… At the time, I didn’t have much work to put up on the walls but what I did have, I displayed proudly with glittery stars and coloured backing.


Let us take a little detour shall we…I’m curious … which of the following classrooms do you think would inspire the most creativity from within you?



Jumi Awomosu The School of Artful Living
A. The highly stylised artistic space which quite literally blurs the entire boundary between art and interior design.


Jumi Awomosu The School of Artful Living
B. The bright and airy space with original features and a few energising pops of colour.


Jumi Awomosu The School of Artful Living
C. The Space with large windows bright white lighting and not much else going on really…


The next day, as students entered the classroom I noticed a subtle but noticeable change in the energy in the room. I was met with the same (albeit slightly softened) hostile glares that were now unmistakably laced with an air of curiosity… “Why did you change the room” one of them asked … “Is that my work on the wall” said another “I don’t like my work on display”. “Why have you moved the table’s” some demanded.  It wasn’t quite the reaction I was hoping for but…  during the course of that lesson I noticed something was starting to happen… I started to see a shift…

It might have been something to do with my having taken ownership over the classroom, or to do with the shock of the big change, but the seemingly unconnected act of upgrading the classroom environment actually went a long way towards me building better relationships with those students.

They started to work… and more consistently too! Many of them without even complaining! In fact, some of them even started tell me that they were looking forward to their art lessons! Score!

There was just one tiny problem… after a while, I started to wonder if I had created too much of a good thing. I soon had students scrambling to find their way into the room at every hour… literally. It usually happened when they were scheduled to be in Maths, Science or something or that sort. I also remember two young students barricading me into the room with the tables because they wanted to carry on with their art instead of going to break…  I was meant to be on break duty… 👀

Anyway, the point of my story is this, having a space for creativity and self-expression really is of the utmost importance, not just for young people but for all of us! Even those who do not necessarily believe in its place, its purpose or its value. In fact, … I’d go as far as to say they are some of those that need it the most!

As an individual I am hugely passionate about interiors, I believe that our home ’s should be designed in such a way that they inspire not just our thoughts, but also our dreams. Interiors should be simple enough that they allow us to think clearly and with just the right amount of colour to inspire our imaginations! They should also be comfortable, comforting and should be a distinct reflection of who we really are.


Another detour: Again I’m curious…which of the following interior spaces do you think might inspire your creativity further?

Jumi Awomosu The School of Artful Living
A. The space with little pieces of art, plants, raw walls, light airy curtains and books; lots and lots of colourful books.


B. A room for lovers of pink and lots of it.


C. All white everything!

For me the interior space is at the very core a reflection of us; I’m a strong believer in the idea that the home should be an expression of individuality;  a reflection of … our tastes, our values, our way of life.

Our lives are massively shaped by our experiences, and the world around us,  thus we must make it a priority to create new and interesting spaces and seek new experiences.  In doing so, I believe that we create room for new passions, new skills and new ways of thinking.

When you really think about it… at the end of the day, when all is said and done… our experiences, our memories and the spaces we inhabit are the things that make us who we were, who we are and who we become.

Be creative

Be colourful

Be authentic

Seek art in the act of everyday living…


18 thoughts on “The art of making spaces- The classroom and beyond…

  1. Such an interesting post, Jumi. I hope you managed to have that break! One question, just out of curiosity, what desk layout did you use in your classroom? I remember some of my teachers liked “all front”, whilst others arranged the desks in a U shape.

    1. Wow thanks for reading this one Juan! It certainly is an interesting topic! Over the years I have experimented with classroom layout! I have taught in many a classroom so honestly it very much depends on the shape of the classroom and the size of the room… it also depends on the size and height of the tables too! For teaching art U- shape is more open but it make’s physical demonstrations difficult! I prefer to put all the tables together to create one large table… that way I’ve got a solid expanse of space to work form and so do the students… and in terms of that break….I’m still working on that one but getting closer! I’ve started private English tutoring alongside my writing to make the break! 😉 wish me luck

  2. I’m so glad you stuck it out. Art is able to move people, change people, and connected people! Having the right environment to encourage creativity is so important.

    I’m also glad you explained the terminology, since we call things by other names here in the US.

    1. Ah Christine, so glad to have an American on board and reading my blog! I’ve got a lot of family over there and yes the US terminology is very different!

      Right now I’m working on the perfect combination of art, education and interior design so do stay tuned for more posts as i’d love you to be part of my journey! Thanks for commenting!

  3. Another very insightful post, Jumi. And what a challenge – ‘challenging’ teenage boys are never easy but it’s a great reflection on YOUR creativity that you managed to turn the situation around. And for the record, Classroom A and Living Space A. 🙂

    1. A & A what fabulous choices I can tell you are a creative! Yes I’m telling you Tamsin, before I got there it was one of the most scariest times in my career… and even when I got there in the beginning it was hard!I had an Education Psychologist come in and watch one of the kids lessons and she gave me feedback afterwards which was very encouraging… she told me to take the onus away from following the rulebook regarding behaviour management and focus on connecting with them as individuals… that is a lesson I take with me to this very day. I learnt a lot about life just from taking on that role. I think we learn the most when we challenge ourselves to do something different… Something I’m hoping to develop even further with the birth of The School of Artful Living! Thank you so much for commenting!

        1. It’ so true… It seems I learnt my best piece of business advice in the classroom! Thanks so much for responding to my comment!

  4. I totally agree with you here about the role of our homes. I also used to teach dance in schools for years and saw the power that creativity has on people. It’s so important! Not just for students but for all of us. Loved hearing about your journey x

    1. Thank you so much Donna! It means a lot that you read this as this post is very close to my heart! Yes it really is so important they we all have a space to express our creativity. Thank you for the lovely comment!

  5. You are amazing ! I remember at school we were always drawn into the creative lessons and we had 2-3 teachers who like you helped us a lot and we loveeeed spending time learning with them – thanks to them my love to history , art and biology grew rapidly 😍
    In classrooms like the example 1 i could sit all day – becouse its inspiring x

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post Pati! I agree I always say that art is the best subject… but of course, I am biased! I can never see how one could become bored in an art lesson! I love a buzzing environment where everybody can inspire each other!Thanks for commenting!

  6. Fantastic post Jumi. Took me right back to my school days and had me questioning what it was that the most successful teachers at my school did differently. I think you’re right. They treated us as individuals. Classrooms have so much potential to improve the learning environment but they are often boring and uninspiring. Such a shame.

    1. Thank you, Stacey! Yes, It’s so true I remember visiting my old school for work experience before I actually started teaching and being told off by another memeber of staff who must have thought I was a student! It really made me think about the way we treat students in schools… in my opinion respect is a two-way thing! Thanks for reading!

  7. Hello, A great inspirational message in this post! To answer your question I’d choose twice Image A – this would be the most inspirational space for me. X

    1. Marlene thank you so much for your wonderful comment! This post is close to my heart so it means a lot that you appreciate it! A and A are both very good choices! Thanks for reading!

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