TinkerLab is designed to inspire
Hi, I’m Rachelle Doorley and I’m so glad that you found me.

TinkerLab began in 2010 as the seed of big dream to one day write a book that would explore and support childhood creativity through hands-on making. In 2010, I was a new mom to a just-interested-in-art toddler, and worked at the San Jose Museum of Art where I oversaw education programs and trained docents to facilitate visitor-centered tours. I loved my work, but with my fresh art-focused sidekick, I was eager to explore lessons learned as an arts educator with my own family.

While searching for ideas on this mom-art path, I came across the charming and inspiring book, The Creative Family by Amanda Blake Soule, and formed a clear vision for my own future as a creative parent and wannabe author before I even reached the end. With not much more than graduate school essays under my belt I wasn’t sure where to begin, so I read Amanda’s bio. Before becoming an author she was a blogger! Hmmm. When I moved to the Bay Area I started a fledgling food blog, now long gone, so maybe I could give it a try, too.

Given my history as a classroom and museum educator, you might think that all of this came easily to me. In some ways it did, as I’ve been able to repurpose old lessons for my kids and drawn upon educational theory from my graduate studies. And in other ways it’s been a challenge to strike a balance between my own creative journey and my childrens’, scale projects to the home environment, figure out which art supplies to purchase for little kids, and my biggest hurdle: organize my tiny home to support the kind of open-ended creativity I envisioned for my children.

One of the most popular posts on my blog is how to make the best playdough (it really is the best – I promise you that this is not some gimmicky marketing trick), but before setting up camp as a maker-mom, I had never made a batch of play dough in my life! Seriously. While I have years of formal art teaching experience behind me, translating that knowledge to the home environment was not as obvious as you might expect.

And because of this, my mission is to share easy and simple ways to set up a home environment that supports creativity through hands-on making. It’s taken my years to figure it out and my hope is that TinkerLab will shorten that learning curve for you. And I promise you that the journey is well worth it!

The TinkerLab Blog chronicles my journey as a maker mom – you can read my very first post here – and it’s also a great place to hunt for engaging science projects, art activities, Creative Table learning invitations, tinkering space inspiration, and the ongoing TinkerSketch Challenges.

For even more TinkerLab goodness, we have an active Facebook page with fun inspiration every week, join me in Club TinkerLab, a closed Facebook group (shhhh…) that’s filled with tinkering and maker inspiration. You can also find me in my happy place, Instagram or sign up for TinkerLog, our free weekly newsletter. If that’s not enough, you can contact me directly at rachelle at tinkerlab.com

When I’m not doing my creative thang, I do my best to parent my kids, go on adventures, and spend time with this talented guy in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Five Things About Me

  1. I love the beach, but can’t stand cold water. This is a problem in Northern California where the beach is mostly foggy and the water is shockingly cold. My blood isn’t made for it, but my kids and husband flock to our ocean like seals.
  2. I planted the first geocache in Indonesia. Do you geocache? It’s super fun
  3. I’m originally from Los Angeles and used to have an art studio in the former practice garage for the band, Weezer. That city is a great place to be an artist!
  4. I lived in NYC for a summer. In a closet. It was a life-changing summer and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
  5. I studied costume design in college and worked on big Hollywood movies. The hours were crazy and while I miss the excitement of it all, I’m happy for to have a quieter life.

Teaching Philosophy

If you start to poke around my blog, you’ll notice that a theme of open-ended discovery and experimentation runs through a lot of my posts.

Here’s why I think experiments and a fail-forward mindset are important in childhood (and grownup-hood, for that matter).

1. Experiments teach children that there are multiple ways to approach a problem.

2. When children solve self-designed problems, they think for themselves and  build confidence.

3. Experiments remind me, as a parent, that I’m a co-learner and that I don’t hold all the answers.

4. The spirit of experimentation, exploration, and boundary-pushing is at the root of innovative thinking.

4. Experiments are fun and playful.

If you believe that there’s more than one way to do things, you’re attracted to the DIY culture, and you want to raise children who are confident thinkers, then TinkerLab is for YOU! I love the community that’s grown around these ideas and I hope you’ll feel welcome to join in at any time.

Thanks for visiting! For more about TinkerLab, head over here.

Interviews + Articles

In case you want to dig a little deeper, these articles will give you a fuller picture of me and my pov.

Process over Product: Building Creative Thinkers in Art, Americans for the Arts

Bay Area People, A Natural Way to Dye Easter Eggs, KTVU Fox 2

Rachelle from TinkerLab on Museum Education, The Artful Parent,

TinkerLab Book Blog Tour, Q + A with Rachelle Doorley, Not Just Cute

First Person VTS: Rachelle Doorley, Visual Thinking Strategies

A Peek into Rachelle Doorley’s Kitchen, La Food Sitter

Literary Representation

I am represented by Erica Silverman of Sterling Lord Literistic (NYC). Contact: erica at sll dot com

About Rachelle

silly glassesRachelle Doorley is an experienced arts educator and community builder with a background in non-profit administration. She oversaw school programs at the San Jose Museum of Art, lectures on Visual Thinking Strategies at Stanford University, and worked on films with Warner Brothers and Universal Pictures. She designed a hands-on art curriculum for the San Francisco Children’s Creativity Museum and is an advisor to Kiwi Crate. Rachelle holds a BA in Theater from UCLA and a Masters in Arts Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.She’s the founder of Bay Area Bloggers, a founding member of 20 Moms, host of the Instagram parties #creativetable and #tinkersketch, and mom to two creative kids.

Tinkerlab has been featured in Real Simple Magazine (print), PBS Parents, Apartment Therapy, The Crafty Crow, Craft Gossip, Tip Junkie, Baby Center, Make and Takes, Parent Hacks, and Parent Map Magazine. Tinkerlab was named Best Local Blog by Red Tricycle San Fancisco and Rachelle was named a Top 25 Creative Mom at Circle of Moms.