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

I’ve been passionate about creating for as long as I can remember. When I was little, I would make wild concoctions for my hapless younger brother to eat (he was a good sport), hacked random bits and bobs together into sculpture, and soaked up every art class I could take. I’m lucky to have a mom who thought nothing of getting in line at 3 am to sign me up for the community center art classes. Oh, those pre-internet days!

And now it’s my turn to give back. I care deeply about bringing arts education to as many children as possible, and TinkerLab is both my platform and my muse. Through the Facebook group, Club TinkerLab, we are also a hub of social activity for anyone who wants to swap ideas about making, kids art, and learning.

In 2010, I was a new mom to a baby and a toddler, and worked at the San Jose Museum of Art where I oversaw education programs and trained docents to facilitate visitor-centered tours. While I loved my work, but I was also eager to explore what I understood as an arts educator with my own family. On a fateful spring afternoon, TinkerLab began as the seed of big dream to one day write a book and inspire other parents and educators with tools to explore and support childhood creativity.

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. In other ways it’s been a true challenge. I enjoy being a work-at-home mom, but also struggle to find time to balance parenting with work, plus make time for my own creative journey.

And if you can believe it, prior to TinkerLab I never worked with toddlers or preschool 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.

My biggest hurdle may be exploring ways to organize my tiny home to support the kind of open-ended creativity I envisioned for my children. While our home is far from perfect, the art cart has been my saving grace. This personal challenge has also prompted me to invite wise parents and educators to chat with me about their time-tested tips and favorite supplies in the Maker Space series. These interviews are so inspiring!

Part of my mission is to share easy and simple ways to set up a home environment that supports creativity through hands-on making and it’s my hope that TinkerLab will shorten the learning curve for you.

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 science projects, art activities, invitations to create, and the ongoing TinkerSketch Challenges.

I’m also working on a super-duper exciting product that’s really bringing it all home. If you’re struggling to find time to set up creative projects and could use an easy, actionable plan, The Family Art Guide is coming soon. Click below and I’ll sign you right up for more information when it’s live.

The family art guide more info

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 thing, I do my best to parent my kids, go on adventures, and spend time with my soul mate in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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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.dashed lines

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.

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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

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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 an 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, is an Artist-in-Residence at the Cubberley Art Studio Program, and mom to two creative kids.

Tinkerlab has been featured in Real Simple Magazine, Family Fun Magazine, Palo Alto Pulse, 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.


I’d like to invite you to join me at Club TinkerLab: If you’re looking for easy and actionable ways to support your child’s creative journey, TinkerLab is here to help. We’ve been inspiring parents and educators with our smart and simple projects since 2010. Join the Club!

Join the club