Chalk It Up
By Paige Wolf
As a preschool teacher at Moonstone in South Philadelphia, Kate Leibrand was always thinking of new, creative lessons to do with her students. After mastering the art of papier-mâché, Play-Doh making, and the always-popular slime, she attempted to make chalk with her class. It was a disaster.
“Between inaccurate measuring and drying times, we were left with mush,” she says. “Not to be deterred by a failed attempt, I went home and worked on perfecting the chalk mixture in my tiny apartment.”
What started as a project in Leibrand’s kitchen has expanded into TWEE, a small-batch sidewalk chalk company with products carried throughout the country. In addition to alphabet and number sets designed to reinforce basic “ABC” and “123” recognition, TWEE is known for fun and whimsical designs like sushi, unicorn horns and frosted donuts.
Leibrand says TWEE products are designed to stimulate a child’s creativity while focusing on their mental and physical growth.
“All TWEE products are specifically designed with special attention to their size and shape, made to perfectly fit little ones’ hands, giving children the opportunity to hold and practice writing and drawing,” she says. “Each of the designs are meant to increase a child’s grip strength and help develop their fine motor skills while encouraging children to engage in creative play and imaginative making.”
TWEE is hands-on with its eco-friendly practices, right up to its non-toxic paint and eco-friendly glitter used to “frost” the sidewalk chalk donuts.
In an effort to reduce waste, Leibrand partnered with Nebinger Elementary School in Philadelphia to donate all of her “misfit toys,” which are prototype testing or slightly irregular. Nebinger Elementary uses TWEE in their art and gym classes, as well as for recess play.
Leibrand received her achelor’s degree in Fine Arts/Art Education from Elizabethtown and a master of Fine Arts in Studio Ar from Moore College of Art and Design. Outside of TWEE, she focuses on fibers and textiles, creating large-scale mixed-media installation pieces exploring the process of growth in coral reefs, fungi and moss.
Her installation pieces, primarily constructed of felt made from post-consumer recycled plastic bottles, have been featured in venues including the Philadelphia Airport for its PHL Art at the Airport Program.
TWEE’s first year has seen impressive sales, with a new maker’s studio on Carpenter Street, enabling her to increase production for sales to more than 150 retailers, including uncommongoods.com.