Beaming with creativity

Callender woman spreads joy with her 'Urban Rocks'

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Jamie Urban, of Callender, poses with two of the many rocks she has painted over the past couple years. Urban will often give them as gifts or leave them for others to find.

CALLENDER — The words “Choose to Shine” are painted on one of the several hundred rocks Jamie Urban has stored in her home.

Urban paints those rocks with themes like Disney, cartoon characters and almost anything else that inspires her to create. And her rocks really do shine.

For about two years, Urban has been painting them as a hobby and leaving the small stones around for others to find.

“A couple years ago at Fourth of July in Gowrie, my kids stumbled across a painted rock and it was really neat and made them smile,” Urban recalled.

After turning the rock over, she noticed a tag on the bottom.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Colorful rocks with varying themes are displayed on Jamie Urban’s table at her home in Callender.

The rock had made it to Gowrie from Kansas.

After that, Urban decided to follow that particular rock page on social media.

“We thought it would be fun,” said Urban, the mother of Creighton, 14, Malia, 11, and Weslyn, 10.

Eventually, Urban, who said she doesn’t consider herself that artistic, thought she would give it a try.

“The rocks were pretty simple at first,” she said. “I’m not necessarily a superb artist. It was a lot of fun. The kids go stay at their grandparents for a week in the summer and I found myself here a lot, and I just painted rocks.”

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
A unicorn and Super Mario-themed mushroom head are among the forms these rocks have taken on.

Rather than a brush, Urban paints them with a toothpick.

“It’s kind of strange,” Urban said. “At first I didn’t have the brushes. I told my friend I was painting them with toothpicks and she bought me some really nice brushes.”

But Urban said she just wasn’t any good with those.

“I find I have more control with the toothpick,” she said. “With the bumps in the rock, it’s so much easier to control what you are doing.”

Urban is a graduate of Spencer High School. She’s been living with her husband, Shawn, in Callender for over 10 years.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
These rocks are still a work in progress. The rocks often fill Jamie Urban’s dinner table at home, leaving the rest of the family wondering where they are going to eat, she said.

For a family activity, Urban and her children have been placing the rocks around the area for people to find.

“The kids thought it would be fun if people found them,” she said.

Urban tags the rocks with “Urban Rocks” that directs people to a page on social media.

“Some people post pictures when they are found,” Urban said. “Most have been local people.”

When the family goes out of town, though, she takes a bucketful.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Many of the rocks Jamie Urban paints are inspired by Disney or other animated movies.

“We leave them in different cities,” she said.

Urban, who helps run a special needs camp in Okoboji during the summer, said she’s careful where she places the rocks.

“My rule is when the kids help hide them, they can’t be where they will be tripped over and they can’t go in the grass,” Urban said. “We leave them in window ledges or planters — light poles in parking lots.”

She made 100 for the Fourth of July in Gowrie last year. She also hid some at area county fairs.

And in recent times, the hobby has been a nice escape from the negativity surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Jamie Urban, of Callender, looks over her collection of painted rocks. She has found that using a tooth pick to paint them is easier for her.

“It’s been a lot easier to do it in the summer, or now that we have been stuck at home, I’ve been doing more,” Urban said.

And Urban, who works as an associate in a preschool class at Prairie Valley Elementary in Farnhamville, has some big fans at school.

Urban had one particular student throughout the year who wanted her to draw Frankenstein pictures.

“All year long, I drew Frankenstein,” she said.

Since school has been out, she’s been sending some mail to her preschoolers when she can.

She had a special present for the boy who likes Frankenstein.

“I brought him Frankenstein rocks and he loved them,” Urban said. “I brought over several others for his brothers and put them out in front of the house. He watched from his front steps. That was really fun.”

But now there’s a demand.

“He now brings me rocks and wants me to paint more,” Urban said.

In the meantime, Urban continues to paint.

“There’s about 200 in the house right now that are ready to be hid places,” she said. “I take up the table with them and then dinner time we wonder where we will sit.”

Her creativity has inspired others.

“It’s not only a fun hobby but it makes other people happy, too,” Urban said. “There’s another little girl at school that had found a lot of my rocks and if she hadn’t found any for a while she would ask me when I would bring more. I found out she got a rock painting kit for Christmas because she wants to paint as well.”


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