In Search of Life Balance

I have to confess that I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed for the past few weeks. Or maybe months. The feeling comes and goes, but striking the right work/life balance has been tough, and anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something. If you’re not familiar with my story, I’m a SAHM who has the working bug in her soul. I want nothing more than to be with my kids on a daily basis — to watch them grow, document their journeys, listen to their needs, and help them blossom. But I also love the work I do and I’m compelled to show up every night to spread the joys and importance of arts education long after my kids are in bed. I’m quite certain that many of you are in the same boat as me, which is why I’m sharing all of this with you. I saw my own mom struggle with this tension between parenting and working that was so prevalent in the 1980’s, as highly successful working women were equally compelled to succeed at domestic duties. She had her own business (based at home, of course), which enabled her to always make time to show up as the room mother, bake sale goddess, and birthday party organizer. Frankly, I took all of this for granted since it was my life and she was amazing, but I now understand why it nearly tore her apart.

So tonight, and tomorrow, and probably the day after that, I’m going to do those long overdue dishes, de-clutter my closets, toss out the random odds and ends that fill up the gaps of my consciousness, try to go to bed early (since a 5 am waking child won’t let me sleep in) and spend a little bit more time dealing with the other details of life that I’ve been neglecting.

This child is one of the two main reasons that I write here, and I need to make more time for sleep so that I can fully enjoy these precious, fleeting moments. I have so many projects to share with you, but I know I need to step away from the computer for a little bit in order to organize myself and clarify the rhythm of my days, so that I can come back to work with a fresh mind. And I expect that you’ll understand, so thank you!

What does the rhythm of your day look like and how do you find your balance?

RAFT – Creative Reuse Center in San Jose

If you love the art of recycling and upcycling materials into art and other clever things, you’re going to drool over the images in todays’ post!

RAFT (Resource Area for Teaching) has two locations in the SF Bay Area in San Jose and Redwood City, and two other locations in Sacramento and Colorado. It’s an incredible resource for teachers, and I’m lucky enough to have an excuse to continue shopping there for a curriculum I’m designing for the San Francisco Children’s Creativity Museum.

Good news for homeschoolers and Girl Scout leaders — you, too, can get RAFT memberships. It’s not just for classroom teachers.

I spent part of Saturday at the San Jose location. Despite my best efforts, I can never get out of this place in under an hour! I was first introduced to RAFT, an enormous warehouse full of all sorts of wonderful upcycled baubles and bits, when I managed the school programs at the San Jose Museum of Art. Imagine the neatest, cleanest, most organized heap of recyclables, and you have a pretty clear picture of RAFT.

And this is why it’s like my second home.

Everything is sorted so nicely, just waiting to be turned into something fabulous.

All sorts of paper.

Colorful stickers and tapes, sold by the yard (that’s almost a meter, for my Aussie friends!).

Some of the tape is sold by the roll. I got a roll of caution tape for about $2!

One of the loveliest things about RAFT is that they have a team of smart and friendly staff who spend hours figuring out what you can actually do with this stuff. I got a demo on how you can turn a record + pencil + foam + pin + paper cup into a simple phonograph. Brilliant!

If you’re interested in RAFT, you can read more about it here.

Where do you go to find recycled materials? Your trash? Sidewalk? Resource center?

Best Craft for Kids Blog


Hi friends!

Gosh it’s fun to share fun news and I’m excited to let you know that we’re nominated for Best Craft for Kids Blog over at Parents Magazine. Seriously. I’m in there with some lovely blogs (and even voted for some of my favorites) so I’m not under the illusion that I’m going to win or anything, but you know, it would be nice if I did. Or at least got into, say, the top three. Anyhoo, if you click on the Parents Best button it’ll take you over to their site and you can vote for TinkerLab (and anyone else you like while you’re there). You may have to register to vote, but please don’t let that stop you. If you’ve ever come away from my site inspired, I’d love your support.

Oh, and in case you’d like to share this on Facebook or Twitter, the answer is “yes.”

Merci.

Styrofoam Prints and Baby “Painting”

Printmaking is one of my passions, so we invariably make a lot of prints in my house. I was about to recycle a styrofoam tray (I think it was from a pack of corn) when N asked if we could print with it. Why yes, we can! We’ve printed with these before (Abstract Recycled Prints) and the technique is the same except this time we printed the pattern found on the tray instead of creating our own design.

I like this project because it’s inexpensive, helps children look to their surrounding for inspiration, and utilizes the pattern found in the tray.

We cut the tray into a flat piece.

My daughter squeezed tempera paint onto a cookie sheet, rolled it with a brayer, and then rolled it onto the styrofoam tray. She chose a red + white paint combo.

N moved the tray (or “plate”) onto a clean sheet of paper, covered it with another piece of paper, and then pressed it to transfer the paint.

Checking the print. Yay — it looks good.

Carefully peeling the print off the plate.

Meanwhile, Baby R, who now stands and walks along the furniture (i.e. cannot be contained with a happy basket of blocks) was desperate to join the fun and made a nuisance of herself, grabbing papers and reaching for paint . While she made the printing difficult, we wanted her to join us and came up with this alternative:

Baby Painting!

I scooped some yogurt onto her highchair tray and added a few drops of red food coloring to match our paint color. (The food coloring, India Tree Liquid Natural Decorating Colors, is made from plants and completely natural. I love that I can feel safe giving this to my kids).

While N continued to pull prints (without the distraction of baby sister grabbing her papers), R happily stirred her paint and ate away.

Prints, and most art projects for that matter, often get turned into other projects. N decided this one should be glued to a card.

And Baby R continued to enjoy the activity until is was gone.

Have you tried printmaking, and have you “painted” with yogurt?

This post is shared with It’s Playtime.

Pounded Flower Bookmarks

Last week I wrote a guest post on The Crafty Crow where I shared instructions for making Pounded Flower Bookmarks. This high-energy (and very loud) art activity tied in with one of our favorite kids+art books, A Day With No Crayons.

The set-up only requires a handful of colorful flowers, a pounding tool (like a rock or hammer), watercolor or other heavy paper, wax paper, a hole puncher, and ribbon. My daughter couldn’t get enough of this project, probably because she has big energy and lurved all that pounding.

Special thanks to Cassi for inviting me to join her on her fabulous site. If you don’t already know about The Crafty Crow, Cassi curates an incredible selection of beautiful crafts and process-based activities for children from around the web. Definitely a site to bookmark! Click here to read the full post.

What could TinkerLab be?

I’m moving things around today and promise you a spiffy, new site in no time:) Why, you ask? As pretty as my previous design was, I received questions every week about searching for specific activities or for projects by age group. And wouldn’t you know…the site didn’t have a search function! I felt trapped in 2001, and struggled with the whole form vs. function riddle. Ultimately function won, thank goodness. While I think this will be a good thing in the long run, for now I’m sorting out the nuances of my new site design.

Sooooo, if there’s anything that you lurve about TinkerLab, or anything that you hope I might change or add, I invite you to share your ideas with me. Is anything missing? Can I add anything to make your experience here more fun? I love to hear from you, and I want this site to be wicked awesome.

Oh, and do you see that empty space over there on the right, just below the subscribe button? If you can think of anything that would be useful or nice to look at, I’m trying to figure out what kinds of goodies to put over there.

Happy Holidays!

We’re taking a little tinkering break to spend some time with family and friends, and we’ll be back in the new year with more creative experiments for kids. There are a few other fun surprises for next year that I’m excited to share with you.

Meanwhile, wishing you and yours a joyous holiday season and healthy 2011.

New Creative Studio Corner

Putting our closets/bills/holiday cards in order is enough of a thankless job without even beginning to consider corralling toys and art supplies. I have a short fuse for all of the things that get dumped all over the house (today it was a bucket of blocks, pillows from the couch, toy cars, and migrating books), and find that organizational systems are enormous time-savers that help me keep my cool amidst all the chaos.

I wrote about organizing art supplies in September, and after turning my home upside down about four times in the past year, it’s become more clear that I live in a fluid space where solving for my family’s needs is an ongoing process. While I’ve been reading books on organization (I love Donna Smallin’s One Minute Organizer), creating order isn’t my forte, and I welcome all ideas for improvement!

The big changes? We repurposed a bedroom armoire for supply storage after this weekend’s DIY bedroom makeover killed my weekend and left this blog bereft of good content. Truly sorry about that. The doors have been removed for easy access to materials. Gaining all of this extra storage enabled us to pull excess art materials off of the table, freeing up room for creating. And a clear table is so much nicer and more inspiring to look at!

My daughter can reach her favorite supplies on the lower shelves, leaving the top shelves for things I’d like out of her reach. And I finally have some nice, clear bins so she can find what she needs without dumping out every single box on the living room floor (yes, it happened!). Light from the window and lamp on the art table are also a huge improvement.

How do you organize your art space? Do you have any great organizational tips?