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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.