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Create With Kids: Confessions of a Non-Crafty Mother

My friend Karri is a crafty mom. Her house is stuffed with goodies she finds on sale at craft stores, and when I see her around town, she always seems to be trailing a pack of middle school girls who are excitedly talking about their next project.

For her daughter's birthdays, Karri throws craft parties. One year, about 20 11-year-olds commandeered every available surface in her living room, working on fun little projects like bead necklaces and cloth fairies; my preschooler was plopped wide-eyed into the middle of the mayhem, and set to work on her own creations.

Then there's me. While I sometimes stare with longing at gleaming origami papers and colorful glitter glues at the toy store, I wilt at the thought of turning my dining room table into craft central station.

The energy required to plan, execute and clean up a craft project just seems beyond me most of the time. I don't feel like covering all my surfaces in several layers of newspapers or scrubbing Elmer's glue off our chairs. These days, my goals are very much about keeping a reasonable order in the house, returning signed permission slips to school on time, and avoiding all unnecessary work.

The thing is, most kids love to do arts and crafts. And creative exploration, via art classes or informal experimentation, is an important part of a child's education. So, short of getting to know a crafts maven well enough that she'll invite your child over whenever a project is planned, what's a parent like me to do?

Luckily, there are spaces around town -- in increasing numbers, it seems -- where parents and kids can go, get their hands dirty, have a creative blast and not worry about getting glitter out of the carpet. Many are drop-in or require very little advance notice, and don't cost a lot. Help from staff ranges from a great deal of guidance to a benevolent laissez-faire policy, as does the focus of the programs, from an emphasis on sheer crafty fun to instruction in fine arts methods.

I still think about a drop-in studio time that my grade-schooler and I attended not so long ago. We experimented with different media and techniques, enjoying our time together and moving quietly between art stations. As my son vigorously swiped a brayer through a blob of brilliant pink acrylic paint, spattering the table and the floor, I watched him with a slight smile on my face, feeling thankful...thankful that we weren't at home.

Where to Go

Artist Tracey Pierce offers open studio time at
Glass Cat Creative Arts, which she opened on October 2004. She provides the tools, instruction and guidance for parents and children to create projects ranging from sumi-e and ceramics to sculpture and copper masks. She particularly enjoys using recycled materials to make 3-D sculptures with kids. Projects can be adapted to the age of your child. Open studio time costs $7 per hour, plus the cost of materials, and most projects take about an hour to complete. It's available on Tuesdays from 6-9 p.m. and Sundays from 1-5 p.m. Pierce recommends calling ahead to make sure she'll be there. 9551 Dayton Ave. N., Seattle. 206-782-7277, e-mail

The Little Artist in West Seattle also has open studio time. Parents and tots ages 1 and up can drop in on Mondays and Wednesdays between 9:30-10:30 a.m. and work with a variety of media. Parents with children ages 3 and up can visit on Mondays and Wednesdays between 11 a.m.-noon, and Tuesdays between 10-11 a.m. or 1:30-2:30 p.m. Sessions are limited to eight children, and they all cost $12; if you plan to attend with a group of four or more, call ahead to reserve a spot or schedule a private session to make sure that everyone in your group can be accommodated. 4740 California Ave. S.W., Seattle. 206-935-4185, www.littleartiststudio.com

Bellevue's new art studio
The Studio, a 900-square-foot space located downtown, offers "Create With Me," open studio time in which kids and/or parents can create guided art projects that incorporate basic art skills and concepts, that foster art appreciation and that weave in other disciplines, such as social studies. The studio has examples of art prominently displayed for inspiration, and projects are tailored to the age of the child. Suitable for ages 3 1/2 or 4 through about 9. The $25 flat fee includes all supplies. Call to give 24-hour advance notice of your plans to come in. In Belgate Plaza, 1075 Bellevue Way N.E., Bellevue. 425-736-3060.

The Creation Station, under new ownership since April 2004, is packed with recycled materials, from the oddball to the way-cool. Up to four people can drop in during open hours, look through the stuff and get busy whipping up their creations in the back room. The staff will offer suggestions or give examples, but otherwise it's just you and your imagination. Groups of more than four people should make a reservation for a one-hour craft session; individuals can stay for up to three hours. $4.95 per person covers it all. Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday noon-5 p.m. 19511 64th Ave. W., Lynnwood. 425-775-7959, www.creationstationinc.com

Redmond Town Center's Paint Away! and Paint the Town at University Village offer another type of art experience. Both studios are a place where parents and kids can pick out, design and paint ceramics such as cups, bowls, statues and so on. "Kids are a huge part of our business," says Paint the Town owner Mary Anne Stusser. Paint Away! studio fees: $3 per half-hour, maximum $12 per visit. Open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Redmond Town Center, 7329 164th Ave. N.E., Redmond. 425-861-8388, www.paintawaynow.com. Paint the Town studio fees: $6 per hour, pro-rated. Open Monday-Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.-6 p.m. University Village, 4527 University Village Court N.E., Seattle. 206-527-8554, www.ceramics-painting.com. Visit both studios' Web sites for information about monthly specials.

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