• Artist Paula Strawn makes corrective helmets for babies fun (Facebook/Lazardo Art and the art of baby helmet painting)Source: Facebook/Lazardo Art and the art of baby helmet painting
"It really is like therapy for the parents. They are worried and sad about having their darling in an ugly helmet, and then we start talking about colours and design, and before you know it they are excited instead of scared."
By
Alyssa Braithwaite

26 Jul 2017 - 11:48 AM  UPDATED 26 Jul 2017 - 11:48 AM

Grandmother Paula Strawn is an artist with a difference. She doesn't paint on canvases or walls - she paints on corrective helmets for babies.

During the early months of their life, some babies develop a flat spot on their head, as a result of lying on the same part of their skull.

Flat head syndrome (or plagiocephaly) affects one-in-10 babies, as their soft skulls are easily misshapen if they are always lying on the same area of their skull. 

Sometimes a mild flat spot can correct itself, but in more severe cases a cranial remoulding helmet is used.

"I want to paint whatever will make parents happy."

Strawn, from Kennewick, Washington, started painting the helmets after getting a request from her daughters' primary school teacher, whose granddaughter needed to wear a helmet.

"She said 'paint this ugly thing!', which I did," Strawn tells SBS.

"Who says no to an elementary school teacher?"

From there, word got around and Strawn's workload quickly snowballed.

She now spends 65-80 hours a week painting helmets for infants, and estimates she has completed more than 2,800 helmets in designs ranging from aviator and motorcycle helmets, to space themes, sports clubs, book-inspired illustrations, and famous art recreations.

"I feel blessed beyond belief that I am able to do what I do. Okay, I'm not curing cancer or feeding the poor or making breakthroughs in quantum mechanics but with my skill set this is a perfect thing." 

"I want to paint whatever will make parents happy," Strawn says.

"It really is like therapy for the parents.

"They are worried and sad about having their darling in an ugly helmet and what will people think. And then we start talking about colours and design and characters and what they want on the front or side or back of the helmet and what font they want and before you know it they are excited instead of scared."

Strawn says this unexpected career twist has turned into her life's work - and she couldn't be happier about it.

"I'm Mormon, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints [so] I have a strong belief in Jesus Christ and of doing good for all I come in contact with," Strawn says.

"I feel blessed beyond belief that I am able to do what I do. Okay, I'm not curing cancer or feeding the poor or making breakthroughs in quantum mechanics but with my skill set this is a perfect thing. 

"I have the privilege of helping parents come to terms with their adorable baby having to wear this thing, while at the same time having a blast myself while i paint them. I plan to do this until I die. Or I can't see anymore. Or can't hold a paintbrush. You get the drift."

Strawn has had interest from people all over the world - UK, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Germany, South Africa, Austrailia, Japan, Canada, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Argentina.

But she has had to stop taking international requests because of problems and delays with customs and shipping.

That, and she just can't keep up with demand.

"I paint six days a week with only Sunday off, so I haven't time for much else," she says.

"Now if i get proper sleep, get to read and play with my grandkids, that's what i do with the bits of time I have off."

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