Wednesday, March 7, 2012

learning sf: sticky art lab

[Storefront on University Avenue]
Despite being three blocks from my house, I first learned of Sticky Art Lab from an email about their upcoming holiday craft fair. Upon walking into the small art space, I fell in love. Sticky Art Lab is meant as a space for children and families to come create art together, whether in organized workshops with a specific project or in open lab time when they have the freedom to create, well, pretty much anything they can imagine. 

Frequently featured in 501 Families as a top activity for families, Sticky Art Lab also hosts workshops aimed at adults and has a gift shop in the front, so everyone can enjoy this space. I sat down with Rachel Knudsen and Angel Huntington-Ortega to learn more. Plus you can check Sticky Art Lab out in person this Saturday and Sunday at their Open House from 11am-4pm. 

[Sticky Gift Shop feature local artists]
How did the idea for Sticky Art start?
Rachel: I was working at a small children’s magazine, Skipping Stones, as a co-editor. Children were sending piles or artwork and articles and we’d spend hours looking and doing minimal editing and then sending the magazine back out to readers. I thought more people need to be doing this, sharing themselves and their art. I had this idea of that magazine but in a place, a place where people were just creating and doing and being together and doing it. Maybe it was 14 years ago. But there was travel, and having children, and life-- but that seed was there and anything I did seemed to grow that idea and finally it had to happen.

So the idea is finally coming together and you met Angel?
Angel: Our kids were in the first grade and they liked each other, so you gravitate toward the people your kids like. Well, sometimes (laughs.) But we had really sparse meetings, kind of happenstance. I got this email that Rachel had a space and was having a work party to help put up shelves and paint, this space was totally blank. I started volunteering and summer came and I wanted to be here more.
Rachel: There is a natural synergy in the way that we have worked together that has been really rewarding. We each bring our own thing to it--
Angel: --and they are different--
Rachel: and they are balanced. I’m a little more loose, she’s a little more structured. You want to let kids be who they are, but give them a little direction to keep them going. And then business wise, I like to be spontaneous, but she keeps me grounded. It’s a really good partnership.


What is your favorite thing about Sticky Art Lab?
Rachel: I think it’s the possibilities, that anything can happen. We had one Sunday where there was a birthday party in the morning, a goat workshop in the afternoon and there was a half-hour where those things met- and we had an instant petting zoo! The goats came in the front door and the kids were in the back.
Angel: I think it was just last week that you said, “I think this place is magic, magic things happen here!” I see so many creations walk out the front door that people had no intention of making an hour before. It’s just really amazing, you give people that much stuff and an idea or a spark from something they see here and they make amazing things.
Rachel: The magic is coming from, if I can quantify what you are saying, is from the openness because it’s a space where anything can happen and it’s open. There is that opportunity, and people feel safe and allowed to do whatever they want to do, and it’s coming from inside them, from their own life experience and no one is saying ‘don’t do that.’ We’re saying ‘do that!’
Angel (joking): ‘Do you need a glue gun?’
Rachel: ‘What do you need to do that?’ It’s just rare these days. Go with it!

What advice would you give other people looking to start a business, especially in a similarly creative field?
Angel: Seek out like-minded people. If you just stay by yourself, it’s all in your head which may or may not get you in anywhere.
Rachel: Don’t feel like you need to do it yourself. Shine a light on your idea, which isn’t always comfortable because it makes you vulnerable. A creative project is often so close to your heart and so special that you can’t share it-- to give it a witness, that it is important and others should know about it and be a part of it-- that opening it up to be public is a huge step, but it helps if you are talking with other people about it.
Angel: It’s never going to be perfect, you can’t wait until you have it all worked out. You have to just start. It’s never going to be exactly like you want it but if you are open to just starting, it may end up like you want it.
Rachel: You squeeze your eyes and take the first step.
Rachel: Starting you might think you have it all set, but the only way we could figure out our systems was if we were already in e midst of it. Any systems in place have been an evolution.

[Angel and Rachel]
Describe your perfect SF day.
Rachel: I had a perfect day recently. It was a day I actually took off to be with my family. We took a long hike with the dog on one of the skyline trails. We had lunch on the trail. Then we had a hot tub at the Albany Sauna and then went Au Coquolet for hot chocolate-- and it was like 9 o’clock when we got home. It was so perfect.
Angel: It would definitely include really good food. I really like food. Going out to brunch at Café Fanny and dinner at Emilia’s Pizza and not doing dishes. Emilia’s isn’t much for atmosphere but it’s really good pizza. You have to decide you want pizza at 4. It’s just him in the kitchen and he makes in time slots. If you call at 5:30, he won’t have a slot until 7:30. If you call at 4, you can ask for a 6 pm time slot. Then, after pizza, making things in my office. And my perfect start would be going to a thrift store. Out of the Closet and Crossroads for clothes. The East Bay ReuseCenter for things.
Rachel: I like Thrift Town. For food, we both like Chile Jalapeños on San Pablo. Fellini’s for coffee. That’s how that perfect day started out, with my americano. We’ve been liking Cheeseboard lately, everyone likes Cheeseboard.
Angel: I eat their pizza no matter what is on it.
Rachel: Ooh, Berkeley Sauna. And a massage by Bridget next door. Drop your kids off here [Sticky Art Lab] and get a facial.

[Take Sticky Art Lab home with Art Jars]

This space is amazing and I love that it is right in my neighborhood! Other than coming to use the lab, how can someone get involved?
Rachel: We’re always looking for artists to teach workshops here or for volunteers who have interest in art and children, as well people who want to consign their crafts. We’re also available for grownup art parties, corporate parties. You don’t have to be a kid to come here, or have to have kids to come here. 

Thanks so much, Rachel and Angel! I'm excited to announce I will be leading a jewelry making workshop on March 31, details to be announced soon. Check on the Sticky Art Lab calendar for more upcoming workshops and stop in this weekend!


blue roses said...

i wish i was there to take your workshop!

sound like some inspiring ladies!



i love that there are hidden gems like this all over the bay. i've only been here for 6 months and feel like i discover something new & amazing everyday. xo.