Making room to make

In my fantasy home I have a huge studio with high ceilings and tall windows. Natural light streams in over a long workbench on one side lined with tools and materials, a couple of easels stand at one end. I’d have vintage plan chests with paper and card supplies, and a techified corner with a laser cutter and 3D printer. (Even though I’m not exactly a practicing architect at the moment, clearly I still want to live in a studio!)

You know, something like this…

sirima_loft

image credit: Apartment Therapy (Sirima’s Vintage Industrial Artist’s Loft)

or this…

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Modern Museum, Stockholm (image credit: www.dosfamily.com)

Spaces like this probably don’t feature in most people’s idea of a dream home but then again, my husband regularly reminds me that I’m not the benchmark of normality.

Back in real life, I am still really pleased to have one wee room in our new flat to create a little “makerspace” of my own to share with the girls. You can imagine how it looks most of the time, but I’ve just had a tidy-up so I took the opportunity to take a few photos before it descends into chaos again.

room_to_make

It’s quite a small room but we can spend loads of time in here! It also leads out to our patio space so there’s scope to take the making outdoors too.

 

art_pegboard_singapore

Pegboard pride and joy. I’ve been wanting one of these for ages, and managed to scavenge a secondhand metal one here! It’s brilliant for organising your bits and pieces and keeping them accessible. It also makes a great visual reminder of what you’ve got to hand.

Maker Culture for kids

I’ve always loved designing and making things. I even used to work for a company called Make. I don’t know when the “maker movement” became a thing, but the term was coined over a decade ago and it is a movement which is really gaining momentum and influence in both industry and education. Governments are taking notice and encouraging the establishment of makerspaces everywhere. So much has been written about it that I’m not going to bother paraphrasing but if you’re interested you could have a look at any of the links below. Suffice to say – I think it’s worth getting the kids excited by the vast possibilities.

The Maker Movement Finds its Way into Urban Classrooms

Learning by Making: Agency by Design and the Rise of Maker-Centred Education

The Maker Movement: Tangible Goods Emerge from Ones and Zeros

Why the Maker Movement is Important to America’s Future

Maker Ed

Whilst our projects are firmly on the small-scale, arts and crafts side of things right now, as our girls get older I’d love to experiment more with the tech side of things, which will be a learning process for me too. There are so many interesting kits out now (Makey Makey, Little Bits, Kano, Circuitscribe, etc.!) that really allow kids to Learn By Doing, which has got to be more engaging than worksheets.

So one of my priorities for the girls is allowing them time and space to make things. Hands-on learning is a great antidote to screen-based activity and can really inspire the development of open-ended, longer-term projects which can foster creativity, imagination, perseverance, craftsmanship and skill. But you do have to be pretty deliberate if you want to “make room to make” in today’s busy world. It’s hard to spontaneously slot these sessions into a spare ten minutes, and when it takes more time to set up and clean up than the actual activity itself, you may be forgiven for throwing in the towel.

Here are some ideas for setting up a small dedicated space for young children to allow making to happen:

Provide some (height-appropriate, well-lit) table space that doesn’t necessarily need to be tidied daily.

making_with_makedo

I confess we have 6 white tables around the house (excluding the dining table) – 2 low ones for the kids – one indoors, one outdoors, and 4 other larger ones in the makerspace, study and patio. Mainly so that we all have space for our work-in-progress and I don’t have to constantly clear away half-baked projects. Also – I can’t emphasize enough how much good lighting helps to make spaces inviting and workable.

Make age-appropriate materials and tools readily accessible, and try to keep them organised!

You might have noticed we own the ubiquitous “Ikea Art Trolley” (see previous photo). I couldn’t resist when I saw it going on Gumtree and actually, it’s wonderful. It gets used everyday, indoors and out, and makes tidying up a lot easier. As for the stash of making material – I keep some of it accessible on the pegboard or in a low cupboard, but quite a lot still has to be out-of-reach until the kids can ration their usage a little better!

making_materials

Loose Parts Play: having an assortment of organised materials is inspiring. Kids just naturally reach for them and start playing around , making stuff. What you can have on offer depends on the age of your children but for young ones, a junk box of scraps and natural materials found in the park are ideal. And free. You do have to keep it organised though. Usually I find that if I sort out our junk, the girls are re-inspired to dive in and make something again.

 

paper_organiser

Stacks of paper can get out of hand pretty quickly. Organised wall-hung storage is space efficient and easy for little hands to reach.

Provide some inspiration: flip through art books, watch a craft tutorial online, make something together

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I put up a few picture shelves in our makerspace to hold inspiration and reference books. You don’t need to go and buy loads of books – most of these are library books which I rotate periodically. They are fun to flip through and great prompts to try something new. I also have a sturdy iPad stand on the big table as the girls often like watching tutorials on things like How to Draw Cute Kawaii Food.

Display their work and talk about it

After getting rather overly excited about the wire netting in the girls’ bedroom, I bought another large piece for our makerspace as a pinboard of work, ideas, experiments and inspiration.

wire_netting_display

Or…look for kids’ makerspaces in your community

Alternatively – if you can’t spare the space or bear the mess at home…many museums, galleries, libraries and other arts institutions are now incorporating workshop space for children into their facilities. See if you can find one!

Our girls used to love the free art workshops at the Scottish National Gallery which ran for 4 weeks every summer.

scottish_national_gallery_kids_workshop

The girls getting stuck into summer holiday art activities at the Scottish National Gallery. I remember being so impressed at the amount of free, high quality materials and fun setups. They even had dressing up clothes to get you into the mood and ipod shuffles with headphones attached to the easels.

Here in Singapore, Playeum has a great makerspace for kids, with large tables and shelves stacked with raw materials to experiment with. And flooded with natural light to boot.

Playeum_Singapore_makerspace

Playeum has a really great supply of junk for kids to make things out of. Not free though – $20/kid. But plenty to do here to while away a few hours.

And… just down the road from our new flat is the National Design Centre, also home to Singapore’s One Maker Group’s Prototyping Lab, which is equipped with laser cutters and 3D printers! It’s not aimed at children, but I do intend to get myself making something in there at some point. I’ve been hankering after a 3D printer for a while.

I know Edinburgh and Singapore have also started hosting annual Maker Faires in recent years, which are a good introduction to the local making community and often have fun workshops for kids.

It’ll take a while to get there, but at some point I hope to post a video of some sort of crazy electronic robotic cardboard toy we have invented. (And quite possibly, my parents are reading this and wishing I had slightly loftier ambitions! 😉)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Comments

  1. Yes dear, mum remembers persuading you to drop Art, against the advice of your teacher, Mr Teo, who said you would regret your decision. It turned out he was right, when you chose to do Architecture but did not have Art, at least at O Level. To a pragmatic Asian parent then, Art was something you could pursue as an interest , later in life…. after all you were already taking 10 ‘O’s. Glad you are making up for it !!
    As for loftier ambition, well “our” ROI ( return on investment) after sponsoring 6 years of architectural studies …….a non practicing architect!! However , all’s forgiven ….. with two adorable granddaughters

  2. I love the way you set up in the room and I love the pegboard and 50 shades of Scotland cards ✍🏽👧🏼🖌🖍✂️🙋🏼

    From Caitlin

    • Thanks! Miss Chu’s favourites are “raspberry” and “highland coo”. We were thinking about doing a 50 Shades of Singapore sometime!

  3. Fantastic article Tammy!! So inspired by your setup!

    • Thanks Vivien! I should really post a photo of the usual state of that room…disaster zone! But I like to pretend I’m a design-mag blog sometimes 😉.

  4. Awesome space! Now Peter is ferriby that little bit older and more interested in creativity I might take some inspiration and switch out our conservatory… then I could include some sewing space for me too!

    • A conservatory would be perfect – lucky you – loads of light! I’ve got a barely-touched sewing machine too that I want to get reacquainted with!

  5. I now feel like a terrible mother 😉. I must do more with my kids but I have to admit art isn’t my forte! Cara loves it though. Good for you Tammy! X

    • I’m just lucky I’ve got a couple of mini-mes. If they liked something different like raising pets and growing veg I’d be rubbish! Anyway – if its any consolation, my mother would probably prefer that I had your brilliant career 😊. But we can’t do it all, so just enjoy where you are.

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