SPRING HILL — Michelle Margotta left an administrative job to pursue a passion to which she was born and reared, painting and teaching it to others.
The high-energy, 53-year-old Margotta said she contemplated her age and decided: "If not now, when?"
A significant number of Hernando County residents are pleased with the result: Artful Possibilities, a teaching studio stocked to the roof with ceramics, bisques and paintings on canvas. The business celebrates its first anniversary this weekend.
Margotta's talent lies in both genes and environment. She grew up in her parents' Massachusetts ceramic studio. Her teaching methods stem from her college degree in child care.
She opened the studio as her own painting space with evening and weekend classes for the public and a gift shop of artwork.
The popularity of classes in ceramic painting and acrylic painting on canvas soon usurped the gift shop.
"It got to the point the studio wanted to grow," Margotta said.
She continued to work her day job, but said, "I felt I was leaving my baby in child care."
Since July, Margotta has served as full-time "possibilitarian" — her term — with assistance from her husband, Mike, and clay artist Karen Valiquette.
"We're not a traditional studio," Margotta said. "We cater to immediate gratification."
The women conduct classes in painting ceramic bisque and plaster figurines that students will finish in an hour or two and take home as finished decor. For a functional food-grade, heat-tolerant ceramic piece, glazing and overnight kiln firing are required.
Classes for adults painting on canvas have been her most popular. Many of the enrollees have never painted previously.
"They're taught step by step," said Margotta, who explains and demonstrates each technique. "I try to do samples, to inspire them and give them ideas. Your imagination is your limit — or my imagination."
One of the most fun classes, she said, is Wine and Whimsy, a weekend offering during which adults bring their own beverage — wine, coffee or water — while she supplies everything else, including smocks and corkscrews.
For toddler poster painting classes, tots as young as 2 sit on kid-size chairs at tables turned easels.
The studio hosts Friday evening Pizza and Paint parties for teenagers.
Pick It, Paint It, Take It Home walk-ins draw children through adults, often entire families.
Students are encouraged to not worry about a spill or a splotch.
"Being my guest enables you to enjoy the environment without worrying over the mess it creates," Margotta said.
Private parties, including children's birthday celebrations, can be accommodated in one studio when a class occupies the other, always with an instructor at hand.
"We try to keep reasonable prices," the proprietor said. "I want people to come."
Classes, including a subject piece, range from $16 to $35. A class schedule is available on the studio's website.
For today's anniversary party, Margotta is offering free ornament painting from 1 to 5 p.m. for the first 200 attendees. Artisan items from the gift shop will be offered at sale prices.
Beth Gray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.