Makerspaces: Designing an Art Room and Writing Studio

used book store jacksonville

Macaroni stuck to construction paper. The minty taste of glue paste. Rows of crayons with perfectly smooth conical tips and that that little flat end on the tippy top.

Those were some of my first art supply memories. I was born to makers and raised in a creative environment so when I imagine school, those experiences are already late in the game. I don’t remember learning to read because in my memory, I always did. But by second grade I was struggling with math. If it weren’t for oily modeling clay kept in our desks for busy work and Mr. Hedman’s Art Cart, I’m sure I would have come to hate school a lot earlier than I did.

Thanks to the rise in popularity of STEM education, makerspaces are becoming the new trend for libraries and classrooms. In fact, when I searched, “school libraries”, one of the top results was a pinterest page full of project ideas and art supplies to stock a creative makerspace for kids. That gave me a little pang of sadness, remembering the old brick library I first visited as a kid and the many skylit, carpeted book spaces I took my own children to for years…I like BOOKS in my library. But a perfect world has room for both. Making things requires space and supplies.

According to Makerspaces.com:

A makerspace is a collaborative work space inside a school, library or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing that uses high tech to no tech tools.  These spaces are open to kids, adults, and entrepreneurs and have a variety of maker equipment including 3D printers, laser cutters, cnc machines, soldering irons and even sewing machines.  A makerspace however doesn’t need to include all of these machines or even any of them to be considered a makerspace.  If you have cardboard, legos and art supplies you’re in business.  It’s more of the maker mindset of creating something out of nothing and exploring your own interests that’s at the core of a makerspace.  These spaces are also helping to prepare those who need the critical 21st century skills in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).  They provide hands on learning, help with critical thinking skills and even boost self-confidence.

When I designed my own makerspace, I had multi-media work in mind. For one thing, that’s my day job, which I do from home, and work hours will be the dominant use of my space for the several years to come. This meant my desk, it’s position, lighting, computer and related technology had to top the list of priorities. By itself, that’s an office. So what makes my space a studio/makerspace instead of just a boring old grown up office in the back room of my house?

 

  • My large work table. One end is a desk. The other 7 feet is spacious enough to accommodate a sewing machine, drafting mat, and scrapbooking area. I can remove all that and lay out a large canvas. As a table, it can be as versatile as it needs to be.
  • Giant whiteboard. We bought ours from Amazon and it’s classroom size. I carefully plot out my novels and screenplays and had been previously trying to do this on large sheets of paper that came on a roll. Effective but not ideal if I needed to erase and modify anything. The white board is perfect for how I use it now and like the table, if I want to do something else, it’s versatile.
  • A very large bulletin board. Ideas come in bits and pieces. I usually transfer these to post it notes and photos, which make a work space messy fast. The bulletin board is a good solution and gives me an excuse to buy really cute push point pins.
  • 4 large Ikea book cases. Because, BOOKS. They are my friends. I needed them close by. They are also reference material, memory storehouses, and educational material.
  • Lighting. I went with floor lamps, also from Ikea, that can double as video spot lighting. Another example of the power of versatility.
  • A bathroom. Sink, shower, tile…all of these are essential for messier art projects
  • Easels. I have a large one that stands near a window and a smaller one for the table top.
  • Camera tripods
  • Green fabric “green screen”. I got this from the local fabric store. Bright green fabric that can be stretched flat for video projects.
  • Supply closet: acrylic, water, and oil paints; crayons; charcoal and graphite; stack of canvases; a variety of papers; jugs of gesso; sewing notions; costume props; musical instruments
  • Rolling art cart. Also, from Ikea. The top on serves as a “desk drawer”. The bottom two hold paintbrushes and palettes, masking tapes and large clips.

There are a few things on my dream list, like sound panels for better audio editing ability and a recording studio set up. My primary use of my space is computer related and writing, so my makerspace differs from my mother’s (primarily sewing related, with irons and machines and large tables) and my dad’s (primarily wood working, with machinery, rows upon rows of tools and and a spray room for finishing). My children would all prefer tools in theirs and some versatile work counters for cutting stencils. One of my sons dreams of a dark room. While there are several features that can be common, makerspaces have an element of the personal to them that is unique to the artist using them.

The most valued aspect of my makerspace is actually the door. A boundary between the ordinary world and a personal creative space can’t be over-emphasized. Room for thoughts and ideas, room to explore, room to work…that’s defined as much by what it is not as by what it is. This room is not a family room (although family is welcome to visit). It’s a classroom. Not the kitchen. Not an office. Walls and a door are vital. Creative souls will persist in finding ways to carve out space in communal areas but they aren’t ideal.

Here’s some cool additional reading:

The Most Interesting Makerspaces  in America, by Make.com

Very cool makerspaces for kids, by Fatherly.com

This photography feature in the New Yorker on What Goes On in the Artist’s Studio?

This beautiful collection of Famous Workspaces on Tumblr

used book store jacksonville

Photo taken at Chamblain’s Bookmine in Jacksonville, Florida

It’s Already Hard to Get Up and Run on the Second Day

I was staring at the ceiling but with my eyes closed– have you ever done that? I was seriously debating not getting up to run on DAY TWO under the reasoning that we are planning the beach tonight after work and I could run then.

Which, often gets cancelled if our work runs late. The chances are pretty high that if I put it of in the morning that it’s not going to happen. Day 1 would have be Day Only. And then my phone blitty-blipped with a Map My Run notification reminding me to get up and go.

Sigh. I don’t like running. I do like sprinting but not when it’s hot. End of June in Florida is HOT, even at 7 am. As soon as the sun is up in Florida the cicadas are scratching in the pines and the birds are getting their whole day accomplished before 9. Once it’s full on morning even the animals know to keep in the shade. The cat will lay aimlessly under the bushes and flick the tip of her tail and watch a squirrel walk on by. Neither of them will bother to play chase.  Why? Because running takes too much work!

And yet, there am I, running dangerously close to 8 in the morning with a deliriously happy post-heartworm treatment pup who thinks this is a great new game we’re playing. True, I’m not alone. While the real runners were up before daylight and are probably chugging back peanut butter protein kale and raisin smoothies by the time the sun is up, I’m out with the elderly folks walking their powder puff purse dogs.

Day 2 discovery of something pretty.

Day 2 discovery of something pretty.

I need to remember my “why”.  I’m doing this to lose weight because I’m on the threshold of “fat in my forties” or “toned in my prime” and I’m chased at the ankles by two diagnoses that are maintained through lifestyle. Gaining has been consistent, hormonal, and hard to control for the last 4 years no matter my best efforts at gluten-free, paleo, sprinting, fruit water, Fitness Pal discipline and only part of that is because there were also lots of birthday cake and red wine french fry appetizer pizza and beer days in between. The other part is that because I don’t like real “exercise”: I like playing outside. Playing is fun. Working out is not. Working out is work.

So why run? The first time I gave consistent running a try, I was 19. French fries and fruit punch pounds slid off my body faster than cold butter on Florida pavement in July. The results made an impact on my mind and convinced me that when it really matters, start running. It’s possible that had more to do with being 19 than in the mile I put in each night.

We’ll see. Day 2 of #100runningdays is in the books. We even found a pretty side trail right here in our suburban boredom. Also, #runwriterepeat.

Day 2

A run/walk pace that allows time for sniffing.

100 Running Days

#100runningdays

I don’t want to run for 100 days. I don’t think I wanted to be happy for 100 days either though. Not really. I like a little anger and sadness once in awhile the same way sweet frosting requires a dash of salt. From the surface, being happy for 100 days sounds like a syrup glistened crust over an authentic life, right? All that happy-clappy sunshine masking over the realities of how things truly are? Only, that’s not how it went once I actually tried it.

It turns out that happiness is the inclusion of every emotion, the way light with shadows creates form. It also turns out that 100 day goals and projects are good for the way my brain works.

Today is an ideal Day 1 for something. I just turned 42 on Friday and am still savoring the party. I love my birthday. I’m grateful for the privilege of getting to be on the planet for 42 pretty great years.  I love the milestone of a birthday and the permission we get to celebrate our lives. My goal had been to climb trees by my birthday and I spent a much of May trying to hoist myself up the oak and magnolia branches in our yard.

Around the first of the month some autoimmune symptoms I live with resurged, laying me flat for a few weeks. I’d already stopped exercising to the point of exertion back when my dog started confinement for heartworm treatment in April. Here’s some uncomfortable math: bloating + loafing +wine and birthday cake = double digit weight gain within a month.

True, a lot of it is water. But I know how the story goes if I don’t intervene. I know plenty of women who hit their mid-40’s, got some hormone and autoimmune complications thrown into the stew pot, kept their focus on taking care of everyone else, and ended up borderline obese and to sore for even a short walk. If I don’t do anything, that will be me, guaranteed.

If I do something, that could still be me. But it also might not. There’s at least a window of a chance I can stay athletic, keep moving, keep some body definition and toning– I know plenty of women in their 50’s like that too.

So my go-to is a goal. #100runningdays. Here’s the run down:

  • get up 100 days in a row, at some point in the day, and run/walk for at least 2 miles; try working up to 5
  • take the dog when I’m home based
  • finish with 100 crunches because I love them
  • 22 pushups for veteran suicide awareness. Pray for them while I count
  • 25 squats
  • side stretches and yoga to cool down

I have two immediate obstacles. Here they are with my proposed solutions:

PROBLEM: I’m utterly bored with my neighborhood loop. I’ve been running past these suburban houses and calling it “training” for over 5 years and I’m sick of them.

SOLUTION: So I need to drive to some better paths but it can’t be far or I’ll quit. I know myself. Jacksonville friends who see this: please send me suggestions.

PROBLEM: I’ve gained so much that my running clothes are tight and constricting. There’s no budget for new ones and I resist buying “fat” running clothes that I’m hoping to shrink out of quickly anyway!

SOLUTION: I’m going to try to push through the embarrassing discomfort for a few weeks. If I’m not feeling some slack by the end of July AND if I’ve been consistent with my #100runningdays to that point, I’ll treat myself to new work out clothes.

If anyone wants to join me, I’ll be posting on Facebook, Instagram, and here occasionally, using the hashtag.

#100runningdays

Getting started on Day of #100runningdays

Oh, the Tales that Trees Could Tell

Day 6 progress

I don’t have many indoor memories from the summer of my 9th year; it’s all fireflies and long days, strawberry jam sandwiches on homemade bread and only needing shoes on Sunday.

My birthday party was near the rose garden; I remember pink streamers and getting Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. My mother’s rose garden was home to pink and yellow roses, meandering pathways, and gliding lawn furniture my dad had made. Someone had a wedding in it once. The house was to the right of it; a shaded grove of trees we called, “the park” to the left. Acres of squared pastures surrounded us; forested woods surrounded the fields. Between the yard and the front pasture ran a line of tall northern pines and our driveway; those enormous pines would have snow laden boughs in winter. We called this indelible homeplace, “The Farm” even though we rarely had more than cats, dogs, a batch of bunnies, or someone’s boarded horse.

I marked my favorite places by the trees. The Park had a locust tree at the entrance, tall with brown papery pods, where we hung the hammock my parents brought back from an Amway trip to Mexico. At the first bend of the driveway were orange tiger lilies and birch trees, the bark of which I did try peeling and writing on.  Halfway down the half-mile long gravel driveway (quarter mile? Mile? As a kid I had no scope for distance; I measured the way in memorized bends and potholes) stood a scrappy old apple tree, not good for climbing high but a favorite milestone nonetheless. In our neighbor’s back fields there stood a magic circle of birches that turned gold in September. I wasn’t supposed to venture that far out but I pretty much did, just so I could stand in the center and look for God and probably faeries.  I can still view it from Google Earth. And, the windbreaks were all evergreen, so every pasture line and the front of our drive held a guarantee: excellent climbers, with branches spaced so evenly they almost seemed like ladders. I could get the highest up one of those and often did.

I told some of those trees my secrets. Today, when told to “imagine a peaceful, happy place” there’s the branch three quarters of the way up a pine dividing two of our back fields, from where I could see the whole spread and beyond and felt tall, where I go. I could feel the wind and see forever from a perch no one else knew. The farm was, and in some ways still is, my heaven.

A year later we moved to a hot place full of asphalt and poinky transplanted palms. There’s a breach in my outdoorsy spirit at that point; I didn’t acclimate well. Years passed. I kept my feet on the ground. And then one day I had my children and they started to grow. I boosted my little son to the lowest branch of a Sycamore tree and watched him fall in love.

It didn’t really occur to me, as an adult raising a family, to try climbing up into a tree. Somewhere in there my outdoorsy-ness had returned in bursts but only through ground based, perfectly adult-geared activities like hiking, biking, gardening, and running (for clocked distance, not headlong joy). I’d become supervisor, event planner, nurse for skinned knees, cautionary life guard reminding my littles to, “be careful!”.

During those years I had a neighbor once whose ambition it was to pave her front yard. “I hate trees,” she said. I stared at her, I’m sure mouth agape, unable to comprehend what she said. I’m not exaggerating. I could understand hating to rake up tiny little oak leaves or deal with hazardous limbs. But to hate trees? All trees? Shade that reduces your power bill? Wasn’t that a very grown-up reason to nurture a healthy population of trees? I don’t get it.

I still mark my favorite places by trees. When we travel, its the trees I want to see; I bring pinecones and leaves home with me from Aspens, Cedars, Poplars. It’s the massive Live Oaks that caused me to finally love this southern city as home. I believe an old tree will challenge a transient, commercialized attitude.  An old tree knows things that came Before You. I know trees to be good listeners, to be generous and servant hearted and I trust in the integrity of a place more if it has a good tree. A strong tree says something about the people who tend it, and these days, the ones who allow it to continue growing un-razed.

When I think about getting old, I think about who I always was, that barefoot girl with freckles from the sun who grew up in the woods. I think about which parts of her I get to keep, which parts of her want to wake up, come back, come out to play. I’m 42 June 24, a reflection.

I’ve started trying to find her and the first place I looked was up.

Relearning to climb

Re-learning is going to be a process. This is Day 3. Weak arms and hand grips need practice and strength.

It was humbling, but not halting, to realize I could hardly pull myself up anymore. I need to work on arm strength and hand grip.

Using the monkey bars as practice.

Using the monkey bars as practice.

I was happy to find a playground without kids one early morning. I wasn’t interested in being the weirdo adult who’s playing on the swings and monkey bars without a kid in sight. I might need to borrow a kid soon.

Day 6 progress

Day 6: Made it to the first notch in our oak tree; about 6 feet off the ground.

I still don’t like heights, which is going to make this goal interesting. But maybe, if I get good at it again, and make it back to Michigan someday, I’ll have the chance to climb up and say hi to an old friend.

10 Things, Without the Metaphor #2

Stinson Park Jacksonville Florida

Number one, an old man, heavyset, in a sleeveless sweatshirt, standing on his stoop at 6:15 am, looking at the blue light of his phone, not out to get the newspaper, standing there maybe out of habit.

Number two, the busy birds, too many to count, rebounding high pitched tweet-chirp-tweet-chirps.

Number three, the dew on the chair has made the back of my legs wet and the sweat on my hand sticks me to the paper as I write. It’s humid today.

Number four, it’s humid, I said that already, but seriously, it’s November 2 at 6:45 and there are streaks of salty sweat running from my temple and more between my breasts and I just felt a trickle in the little dip of my lower back.

Because Number five, I did go running this morning, just short intervals for .75 of a mile. I walked for the rest of the way.

Number six: a crow calls in 3’s, “caw, caw, caw”.

Number seven: I hear dripping water, soft, intermittent pats, but I see the pond is still. I don’t think it’s going to rain.

Number eight, caw, caw, caw.

Number nine and it’s not too early to hear the whoosh of traffic half a mile away. Commuters I’ll only join for carpool, not to the office. A vehicle without a muffler accelerates hard.

Ten is the memory that it took a chain of changes to make this morning being outside to listen and write at 6:50 on the new Mondayest day of the week. I’m glad I walked bravely into this light.

Stinson Park in Ortega, Jacksonville, Florida

Stinson Park in Ortega, Jacksonville, Florida

Jurassic World Movie Review with Family and Age Appropriate Hints

Jurassic World is a fun summer blockbuster, the kind worth coming in out of the heat to see and most certainly the kind you do NOT overthink. I had a good time with my family. I’m glad we got popcorn, fizzy sodas, and had middle-of-the-room reclining seats. The dino battle at the end is pretty epic and anyone who has seen classic Godzilla might even feel nostalgia for the clear tribute. That said, here’s the list of Stupid Truth. 1) It never quite loses the feeling that it’s part commercial, part trailer. It repeatedly advertises Coke, Pandora Jewelry, and Starbucks, not to mention the likely theme park coming attractions. 2) Bryce Dallas Howard is either horribly cast or the screenplay, already not very good, just particularly got more rotten for her lines. She irritates like dino claws on glass. 3) Speaking of her, the costuming choice (white silk and heels) was absurd. Audiences will more readily believe genetically modified dinosaurs are real before they believe she ran all through that island without twisting an ankle. It’s ridiculous. 4) And more of her- the subplot between her Chris Pratt is distracting and contrived. Spielberg should know better, unless he’s becoming the real dinosaur. 5) People who take 3 year olds into this movie are idiots. It’s borderline for kids under 10 and especially if they are sensitive. 6) I missed Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum. See if if you like monster movies, need something that appeals to multiple ages, or don’t want entertainment that makes you think too hard in the summer heat. If you miss it, you won’t miss it.

Photo Taken on the Baldwin Rails-to-Trails bike path, Jacksonville, Florida

Photo Taken on the Baldwin Rails-to-Trails bike path, Jacksonville, Florida

Cake Movie Review

My favorite thing about Cake is that it doesn’t tell the story of an event; it tells the story of the aftermath, the less visible time where real living happens. This is a fascination of mine lately, especially when it comes to story telling, because its more challenging to tell a story without relying on the Thing That Happened. We never see her Accident or How She Got Her Scars. We do find out how…but it’s slowly, over time, after the effects of draining pain and loss have wasted a once beautiful person and turned her into a lacerating, bitter, utterly struggling soul. She’s an unattractive, difficult character who repulses and rejects everyone around her but a housemaid and yet, there’s an irresistible urge to root for her, to will her to discover some self-compassion and a foothold in Feeling Better. Cake is Jennifer Aniston like you’ve never seen her and it’s a great performance. Cake is for movie-goers who don’t want a story teller to do all the work for them, for those who’ve felt lost in the overwhelming tide of pain and grief and wondered how they can find their way back. ‪#‎moviereview‬

This was posted on Facebook as part of my movie review hobby. To follow more like this, click to the home page and scroll down to the bottom social area.

Photo taken at Olio Restaurant on E. Bay St. Or as one instagrammer said, "Perhaps where Ebay gets their Dry Goods"

Photo taken at Olio Restaurant on E. Bay St. Or as one instagrammer said, “Perhaps where Ebay gets their Dry Goods”

Wild Movie Review

As soon as the end credits started for Wild, I wanted to turn around and see it again. Yes, I dream of the woods and my own hike…but even one is not a hiker, this is a fantastic screen adaption of the best selling book. Breaking the pattern of, “the book is always better”, this time, it was only slightly more detailed. Cheryl Strayed tells her story of a lost girl who hikes her way found, a burdened Pilgrim trying to make progress on the path back to herself. I agree with the reviews that Reece should get an Oscar nod but let’s please, please, please not forget the director. It’s the flashbacks that are breathlessly, expertly successful: true glimpses of insight that inform yet almost frustrate, not lingering long enough to grab a fist-full of time travel and hold it. These sudden darts of memory act as sewing needle conjoining the layers of story, of mother and daughter, of past and present, to the rhythm of her footfalls on the trail. Those steps are painful: she bleeds, she screams…. and inspiring: she climbs an emotional mountain and fights to overcome her demons. Fair warning: she got lost enough to require a 1000 mile hike back to herself honestly and those scenes are graphic and ugly. There are also a ton of F-bombs. Both elements are true to the grit of the story but will not be appreciated if that isn’t your cuppa. On the other hand, if you can dig bearing witness to the ugly so that you better understand the triumph, this is a stand-out film, worth the price of admission, even more than once. ‪#‎moviereview‬

This was posted on Facebook a part of my movie review hobby. To follow more like this, click to the home page and scroll to the bottom social area.

One of our great century old oaks

One of our great century old oaks

Novel Notes: The End of Act 1

I’ve got a scene by scene plan for all of Act 1 and now I have a decision to make. Should I continue plotting acts 2 and 3 now? Or, is it better to write the draft for all of Act 1 and then plot the remaining acts?

It feels like I’m hiking and just came upon a fork. One way ahead is an immediate uphill climb when I’m already a little winded. The other, a loop back to the beginning with enough mileage to satisfy that I’ve put forward a good effort.

There it is: my answer. Finishing a novel means I’m in this for the long haul- not just the glory of being forever in the process. I can take the easy way out and never finish, or I can keep putting one word in front of the other and working my way forward.

Act 2, here I come.

Photo taken at The Dreamette, a Jacksonville favorite for dipped cones.

Photo taken at The Dreamette, a Jacksonville favorite for dipped cones.

Project Almanac Movie Review

Project Almanac felt like all the moments when I’m standing in my kitchen, trying to make enough food to feed insatiable teenagers, while they whoop and laugh and posture and tell the stories of their time, while they don’t mind that Mom is there too- in fact, they kind of like it- and they’re just happy and smart and beautiful, young and still so free. It’s a fun glimpse into millennial culture; it’s an intelligent sci-fi-in-the-present story that doesn’t take itself too seriously and never sinks down into stupid level humor. There are no special cgi effects, no Hollywood celebrities, not even any recognizable faces. It looks like big kids in almost adult bodies conducting cool science experiments in the basement and remembering that when they win, to make sure they first address the bullies and the pressures on their plates. It’s the smart kids as the heroes. If you have creative teens like mine, part of a lego-culture growing up to make Engineering the Career To Have, Project Almanac will seem like a celebration of their generation, along with enough of the Voyagers, Buck Rodgers, and Ghostwriter flavor to make parents who remember, glad. And it was a perfect option for an afternoon when a certain 14 year old asked, “Hey Mom, wanna go to the movies today?” ‪#‎moviereview‬

This was posted on Facebook as part of my movie review hobby. To follow more like this, click onto the home page and scroll down to the social area in the footer.

Ponte Vedra Beach is a guaranteed peace place, every season of the year.

Ponte Vedra Beach is a guaranteed peace place, every season of the year.