I am a happily married mama with three little ladies. I am a teacher, a poet, a playwright. I live on a tiny island in the Pacific Northwest and write babybythesea.net often, or at least when I'm not making espresso or sneaking chocolate.

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Art Space on a Whim

Order isn’t always simple.  In the grey days when the rain pours, I can be found rearranging furniture.  Sometimes it’s the couch in an opposite corner, but mostly I’m dragging the dollhouse beneath another window and stuffing baby’s books in a different, more accessible basket.

With three children in our small house on a tiny island, it’s obvious children live here.  In my wish for our children to play with creativity, thoughtfulness and independence, I’ve set up centers around our bungalow.  It’s my inner teacher; I can’t help myself.  It’s what keeps me connected to the classroom door I closed while on bed rest with our firstborn.  A quick glimpse above the laptop, and I see paper dolls taped to the desktop, stuffed squirrels on the kitchen table and finger puppets on the piano keys.  It’s true; children live here.  It’s true; the appliance repair man once asked if our home was a daycare.

My mind makes maps as the children play, my eyes follow paths from book nook to play kitchen to puzzle’s stack.  It’s taken me two years to realize the light path to the art corner.  It’s taken me two years to realize I’m too classroom, too orderly.

The art corner kept me organizing, labeling drawers, handing out supplies to my asking daughters.  Like in my classroom, I labeled each drawer and frequently neatened things up a bit.  But I wanted to find my children here, immersed in watercolors, crayons and glue.  Sure, I came up with great projects, but the large drawers seldom revealed their bottoms.  I felt like the key master to the most treasured spot in our home.

After a recent spruce-up of my computer desk involving a huge purge to reveal a simpler, more productive place, it occurred to me our girls deserved the same.  While the girls napped, I purged.  I wanted simplicity.  Recycling and donation bins were hungry. The girls wanted a space, a nook – a secret art hideaway.  In drawer’s depths I found a stack of free firefighter coloring books, handed out yearly at safety fairs, more dry markers than I can count and dozens of finished-in-pen maze books.  Free bookmark, after bookmark, after bookmark.

I leaned on a pile of twelve coloring books and knew I liked the blank page best.  I kept the girls’ recently gifted doodle book where on each page they finish a scene, be it insects around an already drawn lantern or a sky waiting to be weathered.  When they want practice between someone else’s lines, I can download from a web page and print, print, print.

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Wooooow.  Mommy, no other mom could make this happen!

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Mama, you’re the best.  Thank you.  Can dinner be late tonight?  We have a lot to do.

I’ve always known young authors need a place to behave like real writers, just as budding artists need a studio space.  Under the microwave and beside the coat closet I’ve created just that.  I gathered from areas around the house, then arranged envelopes, paperclips, glue sticks and pastels.  I sewed a hanging organizer on the east well for markers, larger stencils and small, blank notebooks.  I stuck a self-adhesive magnet strip along the top and revealed a back splash show space for new work.  I placed a narrow basket on the floor for play dough tools, clip boards, and other keepers like sun-print paper and a flower press.

And the tiny lamp from a bedside table with a curtain sewn from the thrift store’s dollar bin really puts the sprinkles on our sweet artist hideaway.

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Comments (8)

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  6. rani 03/06/2011 at 11:17 am

    this is wonderful! My girls have their art table right next to mine in the living room! Their pens are always available! I’m very inspired by your organization and I am realizing it’s time for an early spring re-organization!

  7. Clove's Corner 03/06/2011 at 12:35 am

    I was *just* reading about creating art spaces for children. This is awesome! Nice work.

    I’ve always tried to stop myself from saying, “I can’t wait for Juniper to (blank)” because every childhood stage goes so quickly and I want to be present and enjoy the stage we’re in, but…. I can’t wait until Juniper wants to draw more than she wants to eat the crayons. And up towards the top of my priority list is making a space for her to do just that.

  8. Katie Neuman 03/04/2011 at 11:13 pm

    I love it!

    I have been pacing around our house lately, looking for ways to rearrange, simplify…

    Thanks for the extra dose of inspiration.