Tinkering Spaces | Turn a porch into a Family Art Studio!

TinkerLab Maker Space Interview

I’d like to introduce you to Cristi Wuenschel of The Keeper of the Memories for today’s Maker Space Interview. I was initially struck by how well organized this studio is, and was then blown away by Cristi’s ingenuity in turning a porch into a functional family art studio. This is part of the Tinkering Spaces series of informative chats that center on designing kid-friendly creativity spaces, or tinkering spaces. If you can’t figure out where to put your children’s art materials, need a plan to turn laundry room into an art room, or want inspiration for making your art classroom shine, these interviews are sure to give you food for thought.


 

Tinkering Spaces Cristi Art Room

Welcome, Cristi! I adore your bright, clean, and incredibly organized studio and I’m so glad you’re here with me today. Can you start by telling us about your family?

It’s just the three of us right now. My husband, the little guy, and me. My husband is the entrepreneurial type who also happens to have a knack for all things engineering. If you can dream it, he can design and build it. I’m the creative one. I love mixed media & art journaling as well as scrapbooking. And E just turned two. He’s definitely a mover and a shaker, but most toddlers are. He loves books, art supplies, and puzzles.

Home art art studio organization

Your creative space is so inspiring! Can you describe it for us?

Sure. The studio is approximately 12ft. x 24ft. and was designed and built by us, so a true labor of love. It took us about a year from breaking ground to wrapping up. I worked right alongside the guys in the pouring rain helping to prep the footer the night before the truck was due to pour the foundation. Way to wait until the last minute, right? And I can’t even begin to count how many nights my husband and I were out there well into the morning painting and sanding and trimming. Lots of awesome memories. And lots of arguing over windows and trim… All in good fun, though.

My original space was a spare bedroom, which ended up being E’s room, so we had to figure out something else, preferably sooner rather than later. I’m sure you know how that goes. We talked through our options and decided to redo our existing enclosed porch and turn it into a sunroom, which would ultimately be my studio. And then I had the little guy and he started spending a lot of time in the studio and somehow it ended up being less mine and more ours. No surprise.

Although things seem to spill over more often than not, the little guy’s half is fairly straightforward. Mine is a bit more like organized chaos, but there really is rhyme and reason to it. I swear.

What do you think makes your creative space unique?

The distressed plank wall! Everyone loves it. There’s actually a really funny story about the plank wall. I hated it. I’m talking ready to tear it all down and start over hated it. Either that, or give the entire studio a bath in white paint. It was that bad. My husband convinced me to give it some time. You know, because he thought it might grow on me. Yea, it did. Sort of. I ended up spending several hours with a power sander distressing it until I was happy. Needless to say, that was a long process, but so worth it.

Magnet Wall Toddler Art Space

I adore the look of the distressed wall! It brings so much personality to the space. What else do you love about your space?

I love having everything organized in a way that I can find exactly what I’m looking for. Our creative space has been a work in progress for what feels like forever, but it’s finally at a point where I’m more or less happy with it and calling it done. Although, that’s relative because when is any studio ever really finished? I’m one of those people who has to be able to spread out as well as leave things out. That’s just how I create. When I started planning things, I made a point of creating separate workspaces. I have a mixed media & art journaling workspace as well as a scrapbooking workspace. And most of the time, things still end up everywhere and that’s fine with me.

E is almost always into something and, for the most part, I let him have at it… Even if that means he’s wrecking all kinds of havoc on my stickers, which seems to be his favorite thing to do. I bought him his own, but mama’s are obviously a lot more interesting. That’s just how it goes when you’re sharing a studio with little ones and you know what? It’s awesome! I love each and every one of his projects. There really isn’t much that’s off limits. I want more than anything else to encourage creative thinking and problem solving skills, which means I’ve made a point of giving him free access to as many supplies as I possibly can.

Home Art Space for Kids

Take us to a moment in time in your space. What does it feel like?

The early evening hours are almost always magical around here. That’s when the little guy’s side of the studio gets the most awesome, natural light and it’s also usually when we get home and sit down together. Sometimes, we make stuff. Other times, we read. Either way, it’s our time together and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s serene, to say the least. I know that probably sounds crazy, but it’s one of the few times during the day that my rambunctious toddler is anything but.

Do you have any tips for those of us who want to make our homes havens for making?

Take your time. Plan your space. Create an inspiration board. Have at least an idea of what you need versus what you want before you buy anything. Ikea is awesome for inexpensive, high-quality furniture. And if money is an issue, repurpose what you already have and don’t forget that a can of paint goes a long way. I’ve spent years piecing things together. My sawhorse desk and Copic organizer were both handmade gifts from my dad. My husband and I built the galvanized pipe workbench. Everything else has been bought a piece or two here and there when things were on sale or with a coupon. It’s totally doable to create an awesome space on a budget.

Another thing to keep in mind is how old your little ones are. If you have really little kids, you have to be a lot more careful what you keep within their reach. As it stands, all of E’s stuff as well as all of my paper and our washable art supplies are on lower shelves. Anything sharp or permanent or that might be a choking hazard is stored a lot higher.

Books and Storage Kids Art Space

What three supplies are indispensable to you and your children at this moment?

Choosing only three is almost impossible. Paint. We can’t live without paint around here. At least I can’t. And paper, but not just any paper. It wasn’t all that long ago that I put together an art journaling kit for the little guy with a Strathmore visual journal. It’s a 5.5×8 mixed media spiral-bound journal. When he fills it up, I’ll date it and put it somewhere to keep. That’s his journal and he knows it. He loves markers too. I swear we have just about every kind of marker that Crayola makes and every now and again he still somehow ends up with a few of mine too.

Art supply organization studio

Can you share a favorite tip for organizing your creative zone?

I have so many. I write a lot about organizing on my blog and especially organizing creative spaces. Probably my favorite tip would be finding an accountability partner or getting organized via a group. I currently host an organizing challenge on Facebook and the community within that group has grown so much over the last several months, so I guess there really are a lot of creative mamas who believe in the power of working together to get organized.  

Do you have a favorite tip for cleaning up after a creative session?

The little guy mostly works on trays and I usually work on mats. It definitely helps to keep our messes somewhat contained. He loves his trays and I find it absolutely hilarious that if I get out something that’s messy or has lots of loose pieces (blocks, Play-Doh, etc.), he automatically goes and gets a tray. It seriously cracks me up! He totally gets it. I also keep baby wipes and a roll of paper towels as well as Windex in the studio. All of which are obviously out of his reach. Projects in progress are kept out. Messes get cleaned up as we make them.

Tinkering Spaces Home maker studio

What do you wish for your son to remember about his childhood?

I want him to always remember how much he means to us and to always have a love of learning. I know he won’t remember many details about these early years, but I hope for him to at least remember spending time with us and making stuff. Maybe, that means building robots with daddy or creating art with mama. Either way, I hope he never forgets how important just being together is.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

If anyone’s interested in joining the 52 Weeks Workspace Challenge, you can find us on Facebook here.

Thanks so much for having me, Rachelle! I love TinkerLab and I love talking about organizing creative spaces!

Thank you for inspiring us today! To see more spaces from the Maker Space series, click here.


Cristi WuenschelCristi Wuenschel is The Keeper of the Memories and a first-time mama to her little guy who just turned two. She writes about organizing creative spaces, documenting everyday life, and awesome stuff to do with little kids. Cristi is an Early Childhood Education Teacher with a passion for anything and everything art and science. And of course she spends most of her free time in the studio making stuff. For more inspiration from Cristi, you can find her on Facebook and Instagram.

 Maker Space series Cristi Wuenschel on TinkerLab

 

Tinkering Spaces: The Fold-Away STEAM Table

Make a space saving STEAM table at home. TinkerLab

Today I’m joined by an inspiring Silicon Valley couple, Ilan and Hillary Frank, two active, working parents with demanding careers in the tech scene, who also make an effort to dedicate as much of their “off time” to making great, creative memories for their family. I was smitten by their fold-away STEAM table and asked them if they’d be so kind to share it with us here.

Hillary refers to Ilan as a “Renaissance man” because he’s able to fix a plumbing issue around the house, bake an unbelievable banana bread, make sure there is a thriving vegetable garden in the backyard and still have time to help the kids with their school projects. She attributes this partly to his childhood on a Kibbutz in Israel – where he had to figure things out and make use of what resources he had around him. Their 3 children are ages 9, 7 and 4 are natural “makers’, who are often found creating new games, baking, playing sports, and exploring in the backyard. In the entrepreneurial spirit of Silicon Valley, with money earned from selling eggs from their backyard chickens to neighbors and friends, they earned enough to purchase their wii game console.

Ilan and Hillary are clearly big believers in teaching their kids to spot the opportunities in everyday experiences. They encourage their kids to seek any chance to learn from what’s around them and that by doing this, that they’ll discover their own individual talents. They lean towards play-based and project oriented learning and believe that encouraging their kids to embrace the unknown, have fun while trying new things and support each other is the key to strong problem-solving skills for long-term success. The STEAM room is just one element to how this family has set up these opportunities for their children.

Without further ado, let’s find out about their cool space-saving STEAM table.

Hilary and Ilan Frank

Can you tell us about your family?

We are a very busy, active and happy family of 5. Our daughter, Talia, is 9 and her brothers Eytan and Ari are 7 and 4. With two working parents – we clearly have a lot going on! We think of ourselves as a family of makers and love that our kids also thrive when they’re building. This “builder” mentality stems from Ilan who was born on a kibbutz and grew up solving problems.

Your folding STEAM table is so inspiring! Can you tell us where the idea came from?

Our children are very curious, love to experiment and are also extremely social kids. We knew that as they grew up, we wanted a space for them that could allow for them to work on projects and play with their friends.  We also need a usable guest room for out-of-town guests.  At first we considered a murphy bed, but then thought, why not a murphy table?

DIY STEAM Table

Prior to making your murphy table (I love that!), where did your children do most of their making?

Our kitchen was the most obvious place the kids were first “making”. Whether it be home-made play-do, lip balm, brownies, art, etc. – the kitchen table was definitely the epicenter of our kids “experiments”. We’d find that our daughter (self-proclaimed “mad-scientist”) would find any opportunity to conduct baking experiments found on YouTube. Our boys would repurpose a cardboard box and make it into a TV that they could use as they put on a show inside it – or a car to “drive” complete with Tesla logo. They are Silicon Valley kids after all.

What impact has the new murphy table/STEAM room made on your family?

This STEAM room has been such a fun element for our kids – and pretty game changing for our family. First – it’s now part of the official “home tour” that they take their friends on when they come for playdates. It’s awesome to see how proud they are of the STEAM room. They should be – they got to use the power tools during the construction of the table! Also – it’s a place for the kids to play and experiment without the worry that their projects (that might span several days) would need to get moved/cleaned up. They can get messy and that’s part of the fun!

Where do you store supplies?

For the most part, the art supplies are inside the storage compartment within the table. They are hidden and out of the way when the working table is up – but completely available to them when working on a project. We also have a desk inside with larger storage bins with larger art supplies.

DIY STEM TableDo you have any tips for those of us who might want to build a table like this?

The supplies were all sourced from Home Depot with the exception of the thin metal sheet used as the magnetic blackboard sourced from Alan Steel & Supply Company.  A miter saw, table saw and electric sander came in very handy.

Keeping a maker space tidy can be hard for many families. Can you share any favorite tips for organizing supplies or cleaning up?

This is an area we haven’t quite mastered in all honesty. Between providing fun storage containers and incentives built around bi-weekly cleanups – we’re still finding serious nudging for keeping the room/table organized and tidy necessary.

If you had to be selective, what three things do you love most about your STEAM space?

  1. We can store a lot of cool art supplies easily and have access to them when we need it.
  2. The table converts into the perfect workspace for our kids and their friends – the table top is made of sanded plywood which makes it safe for kids and good for messes (which are encouraged).
  3. The table folds out of the way when we need to use the room for out-of-town guests staying over.

STEM Table Murphy Bed

What three supplies are indispensable to you and your children at this moment?

  1. Measuring cup/spoons – our kids have discovered recipes for play dough and slime.
  2. Cardboard – for creating everything from bridges to stages for puppet shows.
  3. Glue gun – the glitter glue sticks are a favorite

What do you wish for your children to remember about their childhood?

That they felt free to be creative and get their hands dirty and that they can fix anything from software to plumbing.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

We are strong believers in making sure our kids are given every opportunity to succeed – and to us, that means that they have the space to experiment, fail, try again and figure things out. That’s what the STEAM room is really all about – setting up the space for our kids to be creative and have fun!. We want our kids to think of themselves as problem solvers and find ways to make something from nothing. They’re having a blast and we can’t wait to see what else will come out of that STEAM room!


 

This interview is part of Tinkering Spaces, an informative series of interviews that center on designing kid-friendly creativity spaces. If you’re scratching your head because you can’t figure out where to put your children’s art materials, hatching a plan to turn your laundry room into an art room,  or shifting furniture to make room for a new easel, these interviews are sure to give you food for thought.

9 Inspiring Mood Board Examples

Yesterday I shared how to create a mood board that inspires creative energy, and today I have 9 inspiring mood board examples that I know you’re going to love. If you’re an artist, designer, creative parent, or aspiring maker, these ideas are sure to get your creative juices flowing. I’ll add links so that you can scoot off and see more from each of these artists and designers.

Inspiring Mood Board Examples for artists, designers, and wannabe makers.

 

For more tinkering spaces inspiration, you don’t want to miss the Tinkering Spaces series.

Take a look…

Dinner Ware Mood Board Inspiration

Note: This post contains affiliate links

Dinnerware Mood Board Inspiration from Bernice K. via Anthropologie

Mood Board Inspiration from Inspired by This

A different mood board for each project from Inspired by This via Glitter Guide.

Wall sized Inspiration Board

Wall-sized Inspiration Board via Apartment Therapy

Cassie Byrnes Textile design Mood Board Inspiration

Textile and Surface Design Moodboard from Cassie Byrns via The Design Files

Pattern Design Mood Board from Rebecca Atwood

Pattern Design Mood Board from Rebecca Atwood via The Every Girl

color palette texture mood board

Color Palette and Texture Mood Board from Brabbu

LIsa Congdon Studio Inspiration Board

Cork Board Inspiration from Portland artist Lisa Congdon

Iron Mesh Mood Board

Make an Iron Mesh Mood Board made with a Grid Wall, spotted on Planete Deco

Helle Jorgensen Mood Board Inspiration

Natural materials inspiration from Helle Jorgensen via The Design Files. Helle’s page of collections is inspiring to anyone attracted to ephemera.

For more tinkering spaces inspiration, you don’t want to miss the Tinkering Spaces series.

Get Supplies for your own Mood Board

How to Make a Mood Board that Inspires Creative Energy

how to create a mood board that inspires creative energy

Are you interested in surrounding yourself with images that inspire more art-making? Could you use some ideas on how to make a mood board? Here are five tips that are sure to help inspire more creative energy.

This article contains affiliate links.

1. Begin: Start with a board.

This could be a cork board, magnetic board, canvas frame, or a blank wall. It’s entirely up to you.

I prefer to use a magnetic board because the magnets allow me to preserve the integrity of the collected objects and treasures (no hole pins or tape tears!). I used two of the Spontan magnetic boards from IKEA (shown here). For magnets, my favorites are Mighties (Amazon) and Mighty Magnets (Container Store). Use caution with mini magnets around small children.

2. Collect Images and Objects

Gather images that inspire you. These can be magazine clippings, doodles, photographs, fabric swatches, paint chips, quotes, and found objects. I’ll include a list of things you can collect for your board (below) and as a printable. It will inspire you!

3. Arrange it Artfully

Arrange the images and objects. Line them up in a grid or overlap them artfully. This step will reflect your personality.

4. Put it to Work

Your mood board won’t be worth a dime if you hide it behind a door or inside a closet. It needs to be somewhere where you’ll see it frequently, preferably close to where your creative work happens.

Before sketching or while dreaming up new ideas, the mood board is a wonderful tool for centering your creative ideas. It will remind you of color choices, important words, or patterns that you want to incorporate into your work.

5. Update it Periodically

Over time we change and grow, and similarly your mood board should reflect your new ideas and inspiration. You might enjoy adding objects and images to it as you find them, or maybe you take time to change and refresh the board ever month.

I keep a manilla file that’s filled with interesting tidbits and ephemera that strike my fancy. I like to go through this file periodically and pull things out that grab my current interest. A fresh board keeps the positive energy flowing. I like to frequent a rad ephemera and used book sale that’s held in the same complex as my studio, which is where I found the cool map of Butte Lake (below).

I always have my eye out for things that hold meaning for me. Some of my new discoveries are glittery unicorn stickers, shiny gold printing paper with bumblebees, and smooth pieces of dried tempera paint.

how to make a moodboard with ephemeraHow to make a moodboard with fabric swatches

What to include on your mood board

What to Include on your Mood Board

  • Drawings
  • Your Own Art
  • Art from Other Artists
  • Magazine Clippings
  • Fabric Swatches
  • Wrapping Paper
  • Children’s Art
  • Inspiring Quotes
  • Library cards
  • Pages from old books
  • Printouts from your computer
  • Paint Chips
  • Buttons
  • Ribbon
  • Washi Tape
  • Photocopies
  • Sewing Patters
  • Photocopies from Books
  • Newspaper clippings
  • Maps
  • Postcards
  • Grocery Lists
  • Wallpaper Samples
  • Photo Booth Pictures
  • Interesting Envelope Patterns
  • Greeting Cards
  • Mail
  • Pages from Art Museum Catalogs

Print this image:

Ideas on what to include on your mood board

How to make a moodboard

My Palo Alto, CA studio is my happy place to make art, tinker with my kids, run my business, and host workshops. Check out the TinkerLab Event Page for details on our fun upcoming workshops and events.

moodboard in art studio

If you’d like to get inspired by creative workspaces for kids and adults, you’ll want to check out our Tinkering Spaces Series.
tour tinkering spaces

 

Tinkering Spaces | Action Potential Lab

This interview is part of Tinkering Spaces, an informative series of interviews that center on designing kid-friendly creativity labs and makerspaces. If you’re scratching your head because you can’t figure out where to put your children’s art materials, you’re hatching a plan to turn your laundry room into an art room,  or you’re shifting furniture to make room for a new easel, these interviews are sure to give you food for thought.

Action Potential Lab on TinkerLab

Tinkering Spaces |Lisa Goldberg of Action Potential Lab Maker Space| TinkerLab.comToday I’m joined by Lisa Carrie Goldberg, founder of Action Potential Lab, Toronto’s first science and art lab for kids and adults. Lisa designed this lab as a community space for the merging of material matter found in both science and art, as a way to enhance Toronto’s creative potential. If you’re anywhere near Toronto, or planning to visit, you’ll want to add a field trip to this curiosity cabinet to your schedule. 


Welcome, Lisa! I was delighted to learn about your creative maker space that celebrates the intersection of art and science. This fusion of disciplines is right up my alley, and I know it will inspire my readers, as well!


RACHELLE: How did Action Potential Lab get started?

LISA: I started Action Potential Lab in January 2013 after returning home from studying Fine Art in undergrad and Science in postgrad. It was something that I wish I’d had as a kid. I wish I didn’t have to choose between science or art. So Action Potential Lab is a place where I’m trying to create that intersect, at the elementary school level.

Tinkering Spaces | Action Potential Lab | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: How would you describe your space?

LISA: One quarter art studio, one quarter science laboratory, one quarter makerspace, and a quarter cabinet of curiosity. The lab is actually housed inside of a 100 year old pharmacy, with wooden floors, a tin ceiling and original gold foil signage on the exterior of the building that reads “Stan Walker Drugs” and “Bromo­Seltzer for Headaches”. After looking around the city for months to find the right location, it is so fitting to have found a space like this. I love the fact that I get to play off of this historical, medical lineage.

Tinkering Spaces | Action Potential Lab Maker Space| TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: This building seems so perfect for the job! What a great find. What is the inspiration for the interior of your creative space?

LISA: I wanted to evoke that clean, hygienic feeling of a laboratory by incorporating plenty of white, which meant that the splashes of colours throughout the space were from the student projects made in the lab. This juxtaposition helps to highlight their work on display.

Tinkering Spaces | Action Potential Lab Maker Space| TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: If you had to be selective, what three things do you love most about your space?

LISA: 

  1. ­ the overall character of the building
  2. ­ the wall unit that acts as both storage space and project display case
  3. ­ the chalkboard wall

Tinkering Spaces | Action Potential Lab Maker Space| TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: Do you have any tips for those of us who want to set up a creative space at home?

LISA: You definitely do not need your own laboratory to explore materials and create. It’s important to set aside space in your home where both you and your kids can get messy and explore. Simple gestures can make this come to life. For instance:

  • Painting one wall with chalkboard paint to create an instant graffiti wall in your house.
  • Set aside a cubby shelf from Ikea that is exclusively for art material and call it an Exploratorium or a Cabinet of Curiosity.
  • Have a roll of kraft paper on hand so instant brainstorming can occur.
  • For those messy projects, rubber dish gloves can easily be deemed “special science gloves for special science handling.”
  • And plastic sandwich bags can be used for collecting samples.
  • Remember, science is everywhere, even in the kitchen. A lot of my experiments utilize food products, so many of my projects end up in the kitchen.

Tinkering Spaces | Action Potential Lab Maker Space| TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: So true…the kitchen is the heart of our home science lab. Which five supplies are indispensable to you at this moment?

LISA: 

  1. ­ test tubes
  2. ­ coloured food dye
  3. ­ duck tape
  4. ­ cooking oil
  5. ­ magnifying glass
  6. ­ kraft paper

(I couldn’t do just five. It was hard enough to reduce the list to six.)

Tinkering Spaces | Action Potential Lab | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: Your space is so clean and inviting. Can you share a favorite tip for organizing your creative zone or for cleaning up after a creative session?

LISA: I have it organized so that each project has its own designated project box. All of the boxes are clear and labeled, making it easy to identify. I keep most of the project boxes stacked on metal, adjustable shelves in the basement of the lab. This keeps the room less crowded when the kids are in the space.

I have a few tips for quick and easy clean up after an activity and they are as follows:

  • Baby Wipes. This is the first step between your painting table and the rest of your house. I always make sure my students have an initial wipe down before running across the room towards the sink.
  • Kraft Paper. Having a roll of kraft paper on hand means that I have an instant table cloth that can be drawn and doodled on but still easy and simply to rip off and thrown away in the recycling bin.
  • Magic Eraser sponge. I don’t understand the science behind what makes this sponge so darn effective, so it must be magic.

Tinkering Spaces | Action Potential Lab | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: What do you wish children will take away from their experiences in this space?

LISA: A sense of ownership over their projects. There is lots of room for student­-driven and student-directed research. Every semester, students in my after school programs get their own, personalized lab coat and they get to pick one area of interest that they would like to learn about during their time in the lab.

Tinkering Spaces | Action Potential Lab | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: The lab coats are such a thoughtful touch, and I can imagine how much the children treasure that part of the experience. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

LISA: Thanks for including me and Action Potential Lab in TinkerSpace. Your website, blog and book are fantastic and I use them all as treasured resources. Keep up the great work!

Tinkering Spaces | Action Potential Lab | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: Thank you for taking time to share your bright, delightful, curiosity-filled makerspace with us, Lisa.

If you have a question or comment for Lisa, feel free to leave a comment.

And if you’d like to follow Lisa and Action Potential Lab, click over here: Action Potential Lab on Twitter   |  Action Potential Lab on Instagram  | Action Potential Lab on  Facebook


Thanks for visiting TinkerLab today! For more interviews like this, check out the Tinkering Spaces series. And to get the latest from TinkerLab, sign up for our free, inspiration-packed newsletter.

Tinkering Spaces | Meri Cherry’s Backyard Art Oasis

Build a family backyard art oasis

Today I’m joined by Meri Cherry (yes, that’s her real name!). Meri is a mom of two little artists in sunny Los Angeles. She’s also an atelierista at Kol Tikvah Early Childhood Education Center, and you may remember that Meri recently paid TinkerLab a visit when she shared a peek into her school’s Tinkering Space. Oh my goodness, that interview was INSPIRING! Today Meri is here to give us a bit of New Year’s inspiration for designing the home tinkering space.

This interview is part of Tinkering Spaces, an informative series of interviews that center on designing kid-friendly creativity spaces. If you’re scratching your head because you can’t figure out where to put your children’s art materials, hatching a plan to turn your laundry room into an art room,  or shifting furniture to make room for a new easel, these interviews are sure to give you food for thought.


Meri Cherry Family | TinkerLab.comWelcome back, Meri! As you know, I’ve been a fan of your inspiring website and blog, Meri Cherry, and I’m also thrilled to be one of the newest members of your art group, Rockin’ Art Moms. A few of the the things that stand out about your work are the cheerful colors that you infuse your space with, the intriguing materials that you offer children, and how willing you are to encourage messy, whole-body art with little makers. I’m so glad that you’re here to share your newest adventure with us today!


RACHELLE: Can you tell us about your family?

MERI: Sure!  Usually only the therapist asks that question.  This is way more fun!  It’s me, my husband Evan, and our girls Gigi and Diana “D.”   We are lucky enough to live in Los Angeles, California, where the sun is almost always shining and art is pretty much happening on the daily.  I may not cook, but I can definitely craft.

Meri Cherry Backyard Studio | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: I love this photo of you painting away in your backyard. The spaces are so inspiring (and that SHED)! Can you describe it for us? 

MERI: Our backyard space is constantly evolving.  It’s most recent phase is really exciting.  It consists of two parts.

Meri Cherry Backyard Studio | TinkerLab.com

First, there is the studio area, which lives under an overhang up against our house and the second is the art playhouse that is nestled in a corner of the backyard.  My husband and cousin built the playhouse, which still blows my mind.  When I married my husband he never mentioned he was a super duper craftsman.  Thank goodness I figured it out!

We live in a pretty small home, so having the playhouse is like adding another room.  It’s a place the kids can go and be creative, independently and with friends.  The art studio is a makeshift area from expedits purchased at Ikea.  I have a somewhat insane collection of art supplies.

Prior to this space they were jammed in the shed and inside the house.  Now, to my husbands delight, they live outside.  Well, most of them do : )  Both areas are kid friendly.  I keep safe things down low so the kids have access to what they need.  It’s a space I continue to love and appreciate everyday.

Meri Cherry Backyard Studio | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: If you had to be selective, what three things do you love most about your space?

MERI: I love that everything has it’s space.  Different kinds of paints are in different bins, sewing supplies are in a container, odds and ends for tinkering are in jars. Before I had to mine through huge plastic bins trying to find googley eyes or pom poms or something and now they are right there on the shelf, ready to go.  That’s definitely one thing I love.  I also love that it’s a space that is always open.  I don’t have to set anything up per se.  My girls can just go outside and be creative.  That’s a nice relief when they are looking for something to do.  The third thing I love about the space is that it’s beautiful!  Seeing all the supplies lined up perfectly (on a good day) is inspiring.  I love looking at art supplies.  It just makes me feel happy.  I think the space overall is a really happy space and I like that.

How to set up a successful backyard art studio | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: Do you have any tips for those of us who want to make our homes havens for making?

MERI: Yes.  Baby steps.  I didn’t just wake up and have all these supplies or this set up.  An art studio or art space is a work in progress and you don’t have to transform a whole room or backyard.  You can start with a cart.  If you are looking for something more substantial than a cart, maybe try a little desk or wall.  Putting up some shelves on a wall is a great way to start a tinkering space.  You can put out some collections in a tinker tray or just some papers, scissors and drawing supplies.  A little goes a long way.  If your family responds to it, you can build off that. Ikea is great and inexpensive spot for trying out different ideas. You can even transform a closet into a kid friendly making space.

How to set up a successful backyard art studio for kids | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: What three supplies are indispensable to you and your children at this moment?

MERI: Liquid watercolors with pipettes are big in our house. We use them a lot. We also love wood mannequins from ikea, similar to these (affiliate). We paint on them over and over actually. My girls have been working on theirs for months. They take them down whenever they are in the mood and it always makes me smile. We also love big canvases and have amassed quite a collection of what we call evolving canvases. We keep them out over long periods of time until we feel done with them. My girls paint them with rollers, brushes, stamps, etc. It’s a really fun play date activity too.

How to set up a successful backyard art studio for kids | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: As a parent to two young children, do you have any tips on how to engage toddlers and older children in art projects at the same time? 

MERI: Yes. I like to keep art as process oriented as possible.  In other words, i make it about the experience, rather than the finished product.  Activities like collage making, evolving canvases, open ended painting and working with clay, allow the chance for everyone to be successful.  There is no determined outcome and therefore it’s win win for everyone.  I share tons of process art ideas on my website.  Some of my favorites are Tie Dye Paper Towel Art, Crayon Art Sculptures, and Robots from Tinker Trays. Another idea is to sit down and create with them.  When you are engaged, your children are more likely to be engaged too.  I know we all have a million things we’d like to be doing while our kids play, but sometimes it’s really nice to sit down and tinker with them.

How to set up a successful backyard art studio for kids | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: I’m inspired by the art playgroups that you host. How do you structure these?

MERI: Art Playgroups started as a way for my girls to engage with our little ones in an artful way.  We were doing so many fun things at home.  I thought other moms would like to join in with their kids.  I invited some friends over one Saturday and everyone had the best time.  One friend told another friend, who told another friend and Meri Cherry Art Playgroups were born.  I set up our backyard with all kinds of different sensory based activities for the kids to play with at their own pace.  We would eat snack about halfway through and then I’d bring out some major sensory experience that everyone did together.  It was a great way to build community, make new friends, and expose kids to all kinds of wonderful sensory and messy fun.  My girls loved it!  We’ve slowed down a bit now that my girls are in pre-school, but you never know when we’ll do a pop up group.

RACHELLE: Can you give three tips for parents who would like to set up their own art playgroup? 

MERI: I would say it’s similar to setting up your own art studio.  Start small and take baby steps.  Maybe set up one great sensory activity, like rainbow ooblek, and invite a friend or two over.  If you feel like it’s a manageable, fun experience and you want to do a little more, try inviting a few friends over and maybe set up two activities next time.  I have a ton of ideas on my website for art play group activities as well as a break down of how we did them.  Just click the links.

How to set up a successful backyard art studio | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: Can you share a favorite tip for organizing your creative zone or for cleaning up after a creative session?

MERI: For clean up I recommend tarps! Tarps were my best friend when I did playgroup.  I bought tons of plastic table clothes from Target.  I like the ones with the flannel on one side and plastic on the other.  I also used plastic shower curtains from Ikea.  I set them on the grass and put large shallow tubs on them for the activity.  It worked really well.  You can do this inside as well.

For organizing I am all about jars.  Jars, jars and more jars.  I love em.  I know some parents are like “WHAT?! Glass jars with kids??”  The truth is I’ve used jars for years and I’ve had in total, two break.  Mason jars are super sturdy and I train my kids best I can to be really careful with them.  Also, I keep them up higher so they don’t really touch them without asking for my assistance.  I find jars to be the perfect container for collections of things and small supplies.  My number one rule for organizing art supplies is, if you can’t see it, you won’t use it.  So, jars are totally perfect for seeing all that great colorful inspiration.  For more tips on organizing art supplies check out this post.

How to set up a successful backyard art studio for kids | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: What do you wish for your children to remember about their childhood?

MERI: I think above all else I want them to remember a feeling of happiness.  I know they won’t remember these days very much, when they got to paint their bodies from head to toe, or sit in a mountain of rainbow spaghetti, but I hope they’ll remember a feeling and know they were loved.

RACHELLE: It looks like your wish is coming true, Meri! Is there anything else you’d like to share?

MERI: I’m so grateful to be able to share our family art space here on Tinkerlab. Thank you Rachelle!  I truly believe in art as a primary resource for raising healthy, happy, creative thinkers and problem solvers.  I feel really blessed to have this space and to be able to share it with all of your readers.  Thank you Tinkerlab!

RACHELLE: And thank YOU for sharing your inspiring space with us. I know that a lot of families are taking notes!

 

Tinkering Spaces: Interview with Meri Cherry of Kol Tikvah

Set up a Reggio Art Classroom with Meri Cherry

Today I’m joined by Meri Cherry, educator and atelierista at Kol Tikvah Early Childhood Education Center,  for a peek into her school’s Tinkering Space. This interview is part of Tinkering Spaces, an informative series of interviews that center on designing kid-friendly creativity spaces. If you’re scratching your head because you can’t figure out where to put your children’s art materials, hatching a plan to turn your laundry room into an art room,  or shifting furniture to make room for a new easel, these interviews are sure to give you food for thought.


 

Meri Cherry Family | TinkerLab.comWelcome, Meri! I’ve been a fan of your inspiring website and blog, Meri Cherry, for some time, and I’m excited about your new journey as an atelierista at Kol Tikvah Early Childhood Education Center in Los Angeles, CA. A few of the the things that stand out about your work are the cheerful colors that you infuse your space with, the intriguing materials that you offer children, and how willing you are to encourage messy, whole-body art with little makers. I’m so glad that you’re here to share your newest adventure with us today!

RACHELLE: Can you tell us about your tinkering space?

MERI: I’d love to! I work at Kol Tikvah Early Childhood Center.  It’s a Reggio inspired reform Jewish preschool in Los Angeles.  I am the atelierista there and work in the art studio, called the atelier.  It’s my dream space, filled with gorgeous light, all kinds of paint, clay, other art materials and tools.  Just walking into the space brings a sense of calm and engagement.  I feel really blessed to work there and so excited for the children who get to explore the space everyday.  Sometimes I have to pinch myself that I get to work in such a gorgeous environment.

Meri Cherry's inspiring Tinkering Space in Los Angeles | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: For those of us who are new to ateliers, can you explain why your space is called an atelier and how this influences your curriculum?

MERI: About two years ago, after 15 years of teaching art and craft in a traditional art environment, I decided to do a one on one atelierista training at a Reggio school in Southern California.  When I got to the school I was speechless over it’s beauty and commitment to the experience of the child.  Then I entered their atelier and was moved to tears.  At first I was a little embarrassed crying in front of this woman I had never met before, but then she gently excused herself for a few minutes and I knew she understood what I was experiencing.  Something in my heart opened in a way it never opened before.  It was a feeling of coming home.

I know that’s a strange way to answer this question, but I find the experience fitting in explaining an atelier.  An atelier is a space of innovation, discovery and empathy.  It provides children the opportunity to engage in long term projects, often in small groups, while exploring different types of materials and techniques.  The atelier environment is a curriculum in itself, offering invitations to create, take risks and problem solve throughout the day.

Tinker Tray in the Reggio Art Classroom | Meri Cherry on TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: I imagine that your classes are so much fun! Can you walk us through what a typical class session might look like?

MERI: A typical day is pretty fascinating in our atelier.  Children are invited into the studio in small groups of 4-6.   Prior to their arrival different invitations to explore, or provocations are provided by the teacher (yours truly) to stimulate learning and exploration.  I usually set up three tables with provocations including clay, a tinker tray, (see above) and maybe an apple with paper and drawing materials.

In addition, there are supplies that are kept accessible to all the children so they can gather tools necessary for any projects they are working on or any ideas they wish to fulfill.  On any given day you might see two children cutting yarn and “knitting” a dress with popsicle sticks, or five children painting and coloring little “fizzy drink bottles for Shabbat”, or one child in deep concentration while he sorts coloring materials.  These are true examples of recent experiences.

The groups tend to stay anywhere from 40 minutes to a little over an hour.  We have the luxury of being flexible with the atelier space.  When one group feels finished, we invite the next group to come in.  Some days can be pretty crazy, with tons of paint and clay in heavy use throughout the studio.  Other days feel more serene and calm, with kids focusing on one or two activities throughout the day.

One thing for sure, we always have music setting the tone in the background.  It’s a must for me and adds so much to the experience of the studio.  The classical relaxation station on Pandora is a favorite.

Reggio Art Classroom | Meri Cherry on TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: Every space has its own unique qualities that make it shine. If you had to be selective, what three things do you love most about your space?

MERI: Ooh, that’s a fun question.

My first love is our ribbon wall.  I set it up after someone in the community donated an insane amount of ribbon.  It adds great color and interest to the room, but more than anything it’s highly functional.  The kids know where the scissors are and can walk freely over to the wall and get any colors or textures they need.

Reggio Art Classroom | Meri Cherry on TinkerLab.com

There are also two containers, one a little rocking baby bed, and another a wood case, filled with gorgeous yarns that were also a donation.  I admit they’ve gotten a bit unruly quickly, but, we still love every last strand.  The kids come up with fascinating ways to work the yarn into their ideas and the skeins of yarn are so gorgeous to look at and feel.  We have all kinds of cashmere and angora.  It’s pretty incredible.  It isn’t unusual to find a little one stretched out happily in the yarn bed.

Reggio Art Classroom | Meri Cherry on TinkerLab.com

My third pick is a toss up between the incredible light that comes in through our full wall of windows, or our art wall filled with tons of little pictures the kids work on daily and clip to a plastic grid.  It’s so happy and alive.

Tinkering tray in the Reggio Art Classroom | Meri Cherry on TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: Do you have any tips for those of us who want to set up an atelier in a school?

MERI: Yes, go for it! An atelier is a magical experience to offer a child.  It’s a place to dream and to dream big.  Now that I am working in an atelier, I see it’s importance on a daily basis and it something I want for every child.  If you decide to go for it, start with the basics and see what happens.

Set up a shelf with drawing materials organized by color, a few natural materials like sticks and rocks and pebbles, some glue and maybe some string and you’re on your way. You can get some great inspiration from my atelier inspiration pinterest board.

Art carts are really great if you don’t have room for a whole atelier.  Tinkerlab knows a lot about those!   Whether it’s a small space in your classroom or a whole atelier, take it slow and see what emerges.  Let the children guide you.  That’s where the real magic happens.  You can ask them what materials they want to always have accessible.

Meri Cherry's top 5 supplies | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE:: I would have a field day with all of the gorgeous materials in your space! What five supplies are indispensable to you and your children at this moment?

MERI: Wire! Definitely wire.  I can’t get enough of the stuff.  It’s so engaging for kids and there are so many possibilities with wire.  We’ve just started working with it and I can’t wait to see emerges.

Glue.  Why is it I can never keep enough white glue around?

Sharpies. Sharpies are seriously the best.  So important and grown up feeling and they come in every color under the sun.  I especially love the neons personally, but of course you can’t go wrong with straight up black for starters.

Translucent plastic anything pretty much.  We were gifted a whole tub of cassette tape cases and they are so much fun.  We’ve Sharpied them to death, put some little light bright pegs in them, which for some reason I have about a million of, and now they are turning into the coolest towers, mountains and sculptures on the light table.

Pencil sharpeners are HUGE in our atelier also.  We have the little handheld kind, the one you crank, and of course, the favorite electric one.  It’s funny, when I taught in elementary school, teachers always seemed so irritated when kids wanted to use the sharpener.  It’s nice to be in a place where the sharpeners are actually set up as an invitation to play.

Meri Cherry Jar Organization | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: When I first saw it, I fell in love with your backyard art space and how well organized it is. Can you share a favorite tip for organizing this space or for cleaning up after a creative session?

MERI: For organization I recommend jars, jars, jars.  I’m slightly obsessed with jars, which you’ll see when I share my backyard art studio.   I use recycled jars and mason jars from the dollar store or online for just about everything.  Stones, crystals, clothespins, paints, watercolors, buttons, you name it.  Put it in a clear jar so you can see it right away.  If you can’t see it, chances are you won’t use it.

Meri Cherry Clean Up Tips | TinkerLab.com

For easy clean up, we use tarps or drop clothes for everything.  We cover all the tables and it makes clean up a breeze.  I also keep a tub of water out in the same spot so kids can give their paint brushes “a bath” at the end of their time in the studio.  No hard paintbrushes for us this year!

Reggio Art Classroom | Meri Cherry on TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: What do you wish for your children to take away from their experiences in your atelier?

MERI: This question makes me smile and sit up a little straighter in my chair as I type this.  The children!  They are what this is all about right?  I hope that the atelier is a place the children feel safe to take risks, think outside the box and feel confident to explore their ideas.  I hope they leave problem solvers that have a thirst for invention, creativity and wonder.  If that happens, I’d say we are on the right track.

RACHELLE: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

MERI: Yes! Thank you Tinkerlab! There are so many little things educators can do to bring a taste of the atelier into the lives of their students.  I hope I’ve inspired some new ideas here.  It’s been a pleasure reflecting on our experience at Kol Tikvah.  If anyone lives in the Los Angeles area, please come check us out.  We’d love to hear from you.

Tinkering Jars in the Reggio Art Classroom | Meri Cherry on TinkerLab.com

More from Meri Cherry

If you’re as inspired by Meri Cherry (yes, that’s her real name!) as I am, you can find more of her work in these places:

  • The colorful blog, MeriCherry.com: Sharing Arts, Crafts, and Family
  • Meri Cherry on Facebook
  • Meri Cherry on Instagram (my favorite spot to get doses of visual inspiration)
  • Meri Cherry on Twitter

And…stay tuned because Meri has ALSO agreed to give us an inside look at her backyard studio that has Southern California sunshine written all over it. You won’t want to miss it.

Do you have an inspiring tinkering space to share?

If you have an art studio, maker space, or tinkering garage that you think our readers would be inspired by, we would love to hear about it! You can fill out this short form and we’ll be in touch.

 

TinkerSpace: Library Learning Commons

Set up a library maker space with tips from Kaechele Learning Commons

Today we’re joined by Librarian and Information Specialist, Shannon Hyman, of Kaechele Elementary School in Virginia who’s here to share her school’s TinkerSpace with us. Shannon’s school library is one of many around the world that are now weaving making and creating into the library learning environment. With the rise of STEM and STEAM in school curricula, bringing maker spaces into schools is a growing trend that I’m excited to see on the rise.

Library Maker Space | Kaechele Learning Commons | TinkerLab.com TinkerSpace Series

Can you tell us about your library?

Our Library Learning Commons (LLC) is a large, flexibly designed space where our students learn how to access, use and create information ethically.  We set the tone of our learning commons as one that encourages both “taking” (traditional library usage with checkouts and research) and “making” (innovative usage where students create, explore and design new information and learn new skills).

Students are also encouraged to take the extra step in making of sharing their ideas with others.  We encourage this by giving them the option to leave a sample of their creations which they label with their name (we call it attribution).

Library Maker Space | Kaechele Learning Commons | TinkerLab.com TinkerSpace Series

How would you describe your space?

Our Library Learning Commons (LLC) is approximately 3426 square feet.  Our MakerSpace areas, within the space, are flexible depending on the activity, and can be found all over the LLC.  MakerSpaces are created primarily by student interest and suggestions, and materials are donated by the learning community. Areas are clearly signed, and are changed regularly depending on the interest and exhaustion of materials. Materials and tools are kept in a common location, but may be taken to other areas in the LLC that are not being used for other purposes such as lessons happening simultaneously.  

After an orientation, students may access the MakerSpace anytime, but must sign in, work independently, respect and be aware of other activities happening simultaneously in the LLC, bring a timer, clean up, and complete a simple exit ticket which allows for a brief reflection and provides data for us and the teachers. 

Library Maker Space | Kaechele Learning Commons | TinkerLab.com TinkerSpace Series

I love seeing these images of how your space came together. How did your maker space get started?

Our make space started as what we called our Literacy Cafe.  We piloted this with a third grade class.  After reflection, more research, and a new branding, we morphed this into our MakerSpace.  The biggest hurdle was making this a successful, relevant part of our library learning commons, which we overcame by taking our time to pilot first, assess, research carefully, train students and teachers intentionally but simply, and then partner with our community to build our bank of materials. 

How is your maker space staffed?

My assistant and I maintain the space and replenish materials, but students drive the space, the community donates materials, and students must work independently.

What’s the inspiration for your creative space?

Our students suggest ideas for MakerSpace activities, and often donate startup materials and samples.

Kaechele Maker Space | TinkerLab.com TinkerSpace Series

If you had to be selective, what three things do you love most about your space?
  1. I love the natural variety that happens when students have a voice in what is included as a MakerSpace activity.
  2. I love the thrill a student gets when he or she realizes they can problem solve and do something they have never tried before. 
  3. I love that our MakerSpace initiatives give students an opportunity to explore a passion, or take a risk to try something they have never tried before.

Can you share one of your MakerSpace set-ups with us that you thought was particularly successful?

We love everything we have tried so far.  A listing of what we have right now:
  • mask making
  • sewing and embroidery
  • duct tape design
  • origami and paper crafts
  • card tricks
  • Kinetic Sand Sculpture
  • button jewelry
  • Lego design and construction
  • Tinker Lab
  • 3-D and Pop-Up inspiration station
  • and magnetic poetry.

Coming soon are coding, video production, audio editing and production, and Osmo Tangible Play via iPads.

Library Maker Space | Kaechele Learning Commons | TinkerLab.com
I think the tinker lab I mentioned above has been a great success and it has such a simple premise.  I am now looking for more ideas like the flashlight that allows students to safely explore concepts such as circuitry and assembly. Any ideas? 🙂  (Readers — any thoughts for Shannon?)
Our kinetic sand makerspace has also been very successful as it has the hidden advantage to strengthening little muscles for future writing.  It is all great for imagination, planning, and construction.

Library Maker Space | Kaechele Learning Commons | TinkerLab.com

Do you have any tips for those of us who want to set up a maker space in a library or school?

Consider how you will manage the space.  Currently, we allow complete open access all day long, three students per class for about 15-20 minute shifts.  Full class orientation is mandatory before students can use the space. Grades 2-5 may come on their own after orientation, but grades K-1 must come with a volunteer. Students must clean up or risk being denied access. Students may not use the library staff as resources (…we are usually teaching or circulating books), and so they must work our their problems on their own or collaborate with other makers.

Library Maker Space | Kaechele Learning Commons | TinkerLab.com

What five supplies are indispensable to you and the children right now?

  1. duct tape
  2. origami paper
  3. building materials
  4. Kinetic sand
  5. tinkering tools

Library Maker Space | Kaechele Learning Commons | TinkerLab.com

Can you share a favorite tip for organizing your creative zone or for cleaning up after a creative session?

We use plastic trays to define each space and keep supplies organized.  As I mentioned above, students know that “With the great privilege of making, comes the great responsibility of cleaning up”.  Students who neglect this important task risk denial of access. (We call it the “penalty box”.)

Library Maker Space | Kaechele Learning Commons | TinkerLab.com

What do you wish for your children to take away from their experiences in this space?

I want students to leave with one of two experiences:

  1. They become empowered with the thrill that they have designed or created something interesting
  2. or they have taken a risk to try something they have not tried before, and this has ignited a curiosity or passion.

Library Maker Space | Kaechele Learning Commons | TinkerLab.com

Shannon, I’m so glad that you took the time to share you TinkerSpace with us today. To see more of Shannon’s space, click here.

Friends, if you’d like to share your school or home maker space with us, drop me a line at Rachelle at TinkerLab.com. You can check out the rest of the TinkerSpaces in this series here. 

Library Maker Space | Kaechele Learning Commons | TinkerLab.com