Monday, June 9, 2014

Kids' art gallery makeover


Like many families, we maintain an "art gallery" for displaying our children's drawings and paintings. Ours is on a wall leading from the family room down the hallway toward the bedrooms. Our home is a one-story 1980's ranch, with a relatively open plan. We like having the art gallery on this wall because it can be seen from the kitchen and family room, which is where we spend most of our time as a family. This is where we do our homeschooling, messy crafts like painting and clay-work, television- and movie-watching (we only have one TV and it's in the family room), general playing, entertaining and of course, cooking and eating.

We want our children to feel it's their house too, and that their artwork and creations are worthy of display. We can't hang everything (and some things are just nicer than others; we take lots of photos of art for "the files," as we tell them), but we like to display special items and switch them out every few months as new things are made. We started hanging the LB's work on this wall when he began preschool, almost five years ago. We had just moved to this house and we were sort of desperate to find ways to personalize the space, having lived in a cramped townhouse for a couple of years after moving to this city. We'd been hanging his artwork on the refrigerator (the GB was under a year old and not yet creating any masterpieces). This was fine, but we wanted to designate one place for these items with plenty of room to add to it as more was created. We chose the wall based on its size and location. It's big, though not great for hanging framed photos or art prints or needlework. But it's perfect for kids' artwork and we filled it up.


This is how the wall looked until recently. It doesn't look great, though we'd lived with it this way for nearly five years. There is work from each child on the wall, which is wonderful. But there's no rhyme or reason to it, everything is just tacked up sort of haphazardly. I was trying to use thumb-tacks sparingly, to minimize the number of holes made, and also reusing the same holes until they were too big to hold the tacks in place. We'd come to realize it was just too messy and we wanted to fix it up. We considered different solutions, such as large cork-boards and magnetic chalkboards (which could double as a place to draw), but I didn't want to fill up the wall with a big board, and I definitely didn't want chalk dust all over the tiled floor below; I think it might make it really slippery. I looked into those metal strips with cork running along them, as well as the kind that have a sort of clip to stick the papers under. But they seemed really industrial, too school/office-like...and also ugly. It's also important to note that there are permanent fixtures on this wall, as I've labeled above. Both the doorbell housing and a digital thermostat, connected to our furnace (there is a second thermostat for the swamp cooler further down the hall) are on this wall. We needed to work around them. We brainstormed for some time, and while we were doing that, we were given a bag of old wine corks.


We decided that we would use the corks to create display strips to hang on the wall. I'll show you what we did...starting with the photo above. Those are the corks, sliced into discs. Each disc is about a half-inch thick.


Then we made three hanging strips with spaces cut out for the cork circles. Each strip is four feet long by 2 1/2 inches wide. They're made from a length of 1x6 lumber. The Bear used a 3/4-inch Forstner drill bit to create the spaces, which are about 1/2 inch deep. He made them down the entire length of each strip, sort of staggering them around to give it a whimsical look. He did a few holes on each strip sort of connected, to look like the circles are joined.


Then he painted each strip in a basic white color and we tried out the cork circles to see how they fit in the holes. They worked well. The connected circles would require a little cork-shaving to make them fit, but we tackled this later...



...because first we wanted to paint our cork circles! We thought it would look really playful and fun if the circles were painted, sort of like bubbles floating across the wall. There were about 175 circles to paint, so we did it the quickest way we could think of: we each sat down with blobs of paint in front of us on our newspaper-covered kitchen table and started dipping. We used basic craft paints, mostly Crayola Washable Kids' Paints which I think are probably tempera-based. (As an aside, I love these paints. They work for everything and the colors are gorgeously bright. They wash off super-easily too. I buy them at Target. I can't recommend them enough!).


After we'd dipped all of the circles, we left them to dry on the table for awhile, them we laid them all on a tray (the color order here was not my idea, believe it or not) and took them out to the backyard to finish drying in the sun. They dried really fast this way and we were able to move onto the next step, which was a lot of fun.




This was my favorite part. We doled out the painted circles according to the number of holes on each strip (each was a little different). I didn't worry too much about which colors were next to each other, but there were a few corks which were oddly shaped or slightly too fat to fit in a hole, and this was a good chance to weed them out. The connected-circle spaces required a little cork-shaving, as I mentioned earlier. We tried a few things, including a craft knife and a razor blade, but the best tool in the end was our kitchen santoku-style knife. The blade is tall enough to slice right through the whole circle and we keep it so sharp that it really sheared off the cork where it needed to be removed. Then it was easy to fit the cut circles into the connected spaces as necessary.


To secure the circles inside the holes, we used basic PVA (white) glue, just a drop inside each space. We thought about different kinds of glue to use but this is cheap and plentiful. It worked well, too; the circles were very much stuck when the glue dried. If it doesn't last, we can try something else down the road.


They looked so bright and cheerful with the circles all glued in! We left them overnight to dry. The following night, we hung them up...


The Bear had pre-drilled screw holes in the wood, three holes down the length of each strip. We opted to hang the strips at different heights on the wall. The uppermost one is too high for the kids to reach, and the thermostat limits the size of items we can hang up there, but it's good for big items, and maybe also the more special or delicate ones. The other two strips are more accessible to the kids; the GB can't reach the middle one yet but it will just be a few years until she can. We aren't assigning strips; I think that would be more of a headache than it's worth. But we did let them help us decide where to hang their artwork back on the wall.


It neatened up the wall so much! I'm really happy with the new look. There's plenty of room to hang things, even though we're not using the entire wall at random anymore. And it's okay to be a little choosy, I've come to realize now that I'm older and wiser. I can't hang every single thing and I don't really want to. Our kids are getting older and our gallery should grow to accommodate their changing skills and interests, I think.


We're using the same thumb-tacks as before, but they aren't going into the wall anymore. Now, they go directly into the cork circles instead. This protects the wall and allows us to use more tacks to better secure the artwork, since we're no longer worried about what we're doing to the wall behind it. (We filled in all the old tack holes with spackle while we were at it; this wall needs to be painted soon anyway. The strips will be easily removed and re-hung, since they're held up with simple screws).


Here's the before and after shot. It's a big difference, right? The same artwork on the same wall, but so much more neatly arranged. I feel like you can see each individual piece better now. And the work is hung securely and neatly too, no more papers curling at the edges and flapping in the breeze as somebody walks down the hall. It was a really simple fix and we're so happy with it. And it didn't cost anything! We used materials we already had here at home: the wood, paints, glue and tools, along with the "gimme" bagful of old wine corks. The best part is that we're treating our kids' artwork with a bit more respect now, and we can all enjoy their creations even more.

42 comments:

  1. This is brilliant, Jennifer! What an incredibly creative idea! I am bookmarking this post for when Lucy is a few years older and creating works of art. I also really like how you turned it into a family project. You are so good at doing this!

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  2. I adore this idea. Truly. So simple and effective. I only have Olly's masterpieces to contend with these days, and they are either on the fridge or hanging by wooden clothes pegs to a string in the conservatory/playroom. Like Kristie, I am bookmarking this idea for future reference. I love the bright pops of colour too, and thanks for the heads up on washable paint. I have terrible trouble with paint here. It says it's washable. It isn't. And I pride myself on my laundry abilities..
    Leanne xx

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  3. Now this is a brilliant idea - not only functional, but it looks fantastic as well !
    Plus I think you really had fun, making it with the family !

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  4. What a delight. A truly wonderful idea.

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  5. What a lovely idea, as our children are all grown (and I have kept all their artwork), I may adapt it for my craft room where I pin up inspiration images.

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  6. Truly brilliant - the wall now looks both more organized and more colorful and fun! And it sounds like your family had lots of fun making the cork strips too. Wonderful solution!

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  7. Such a creative and colorful idea... I love it! I have a lot of Charlotte's artwork displayed in her room with just regular clear tape, but this is so much better.

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  8. Brilliant! Love how the little coloured circles look, all in a row, plus it's so practical. It makes such a difference. Our fridge door is our gallery space. I need to up my game! Xx

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  9. What a great idea. I used to use the fridge as our gallery, but I don't get any masterpieces to display any more, more's the pity.

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  10. What an absolutely FABULOUS idea and it looks amazing too, even without all the wonderful artwork, add that and WOW!
    love Jooles x x x

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  11. Love it! Isn't it just wonderful displaying their art?! I absolutely love it. -Very colorful. Love what you did with the corks.

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  12. This wall is ever so cool Jennifer! We hangs art on the fridge or stick it to the kitchen door. Neither neat nor organised I have to say, just organically growing. I love the bright colours you have used. x

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  13. Brilliant idea. Isn't it lovely when practical also looks so good?

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  14. This is a brilliant idea Jennifer!!!! You are such a handy crafty group of bears at your house. They look like rows of colourful bubbles going along the wall when there is nothing on them and then the wall looks great when the artworks are displayed. I think that this is such a good idea - can you tell!! xx

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  15. What a wonderful idea! They look so nice and the art look perfect on them!

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  16. Wow! LOVE this. What a great idea, so colourful and fun too. You have some great artwork from the Bears there, Jennifer, so I am not surprised you want it on display. It definitely looks very organised and something we could do with around here! :)

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  17. I am serious...
    Your wee family could have a reality show!
    The crafts, the chickens, the cooking, the artwork!
    Unbelievable!
    Can I come and live with you?
    Hahaha!
    Cheers!
    Linda :o)

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  18. It's a brilliant idea, Jennifer. I love it! :o)

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  19. Very sweet, it looks cute. Great idea for the kids art.

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  20. You are one clever cookie Jennifer! I love this! Not only does it look great but it's functional too without putting unnecessary holes in the wall :) I put up one massive pin board on a wall when Sunny started preschool to show all her makes off and she still changes her artwork every single week.

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  21. Hi Jennifer,


    Great idea and it looks wonderful.
    You have some great little artists in your family - always brightens up the home.
    Happy week
    hugs
    Carolyn

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  22. What a great idea! It looks so bright and colourful.
    Marianne x

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  24. Brilliant idea. I'm sure your children are very pleased with how their art work is displayed now.

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  25. Great idea Jennifer, and the artwork looks fab.

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  26. Such a lovely idea, I've kept pretty much most of my boys artwork from primary school. I think I shall root a few out to display. I am almost ashamed to say I still have a biscuit that Harry made in school for mothers day several years ago still in its packaging.

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  27. You are so creative and clever Jennifer. This is a wonderful solution to a problem we all face, and not only is it neat and effective, it is bright and pretty too! I'm sure the little bears love it too.

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  28. What a wonderful, creative solution! I just love this! I used a bulletin board for years, but it was in the downstairs hallway above coats and shoes. One thing I did learn was to use very large push pins so I could find them easily if they fell (you know, like into a shoe!). Your art wall looks amazing, and I'm sure the kids are now eager to provide you with fresh art too! Wendy x

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  29. Once again I am in awe of your creativity and patience!!! It's just art on the fridge or stuck on the walls with Blu-tac around here...x

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  30. Amazing Jennifer, I think its a brilliant idea and I bet the kids love it. I tend to stick my grandchildrens art work to the tiles in the kitchen rather than on the walls and have to switch them round often!

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  31. This is beyond brilliant Jennifer!!! I mean...what a great idea! And it looks so whimsical and pretty paired with their work! I LOVE IT!!! A job well done friend! And I am so sorry it has taken me a bit to visit...we had a very busy weekend! Great work pal! Nicole xoxo

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  32. I love this idea!! Truly inspired!! Well done hon - you've made a lovely pretty and useful addition! Thanks for sharing! J9 x

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  33. Oh my word, that is such a splendid idea Jennifer, such a clever and pretty solution! x

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  34. What a clever family :-)
    Tracey xxx

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  35. What an ingenious and creative solution for hanging the children's art! Our current "gallery" is the door frame from the family room in the the front entry hall. Not very upscale, but the kids are proud.
    ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  36. Such a neat idea!! I love the colourful corks, and how lovely to paint them with the children. Their sweet pictures look so nice displayed this way. I agree we need to encourage children's artwork and make them feel proud that they produced it :)
    Helen xox

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  37. A creative and colourful art project in itself! Amazing!

    Poppy

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  38. What a truly wonderful idea - so simple and creative and it looks fantastic. I love the fact that it was a family project dealing with a need that most families with young children have.We tended to use the fridge door and blu-tack on the kitchen walls, I'm afraid.

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  39. Truly inspired Jennifer ... I love it ...you are very clever ... Bee xx

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  40. That is such an inspiring idea Jennifer. The artwork is wonderful too! I have boxes and drawers full of BigR's masterpieces. She's on a roll at the moment where we can get upwards of 10 a day...it's getting impossible to keep them all. We have a display area on the mantel in the living room (I do love to look at them!) but it's a job to keep them all there. Now LittleR is 'colouring' too I'm going to be swept away on a sea of colourful paper!

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  41. What an effective and brilliant idea Jennifer. I love seeing children's creativity and its lovely that the whole family got involved. x

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