Tinkertopia: The Alternative Art Supply Store You Need to Know

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The rain that we all secretly crave has returned and parents know what that means. Indoor play spaces, engage! If you’re looking for a new space to explore this fall, add Tinkertopia—an alternative art supply store in Tacoma—to your rain-refuge list. It’s a maker’s paradise not to be missed by tiny tinkerers, future inventors and creative crafters of all ages. It’s tinkerific!

Tinkertopia sign with Darcy and girl

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

A Reimagined Creative Space
From the moment you walk through the doors at Tinkertopia, you get the distinct feeling that you’ve never been in a store quite like it before. More than an art studio, different from an artist supply store, it’s the exact space one would imagine if Fred Sanford and Geppetto designed a workshop over drinks. Owners Darcy and R.R. call it a Creative Reuse Center, or an alternative art supply store. And they pretty much nailed it on the head, because Tinkertopia is to creative spaces what Nirvana and Pearl Jam were to mainstream music, an original alternative.

Discover Mirror Tinkertopia

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Once the initial sensory-awe subsides, take a look around and be amazed again. Because everything in the store has been saved from the landfill. It’s a bonanza of scraps, cast offs, irregulars, overstocks, seconds and more, looking for a new home, and Darcy and R.R. are kind of like their realtors. You never know what you’re going to find on any given day, but typically stocked items often include snow shoe frames, beads, cosmic ray shields, storm trooper masks, bottle caps, crayons, slideshow wheels, and kiln clips.

Big Tubs Tinkertopia

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Curiosity piqued yet? Families can interact with this hip space in four different ways: shop the store, drop-in at the maker space, take a workshop, or book a party. Read on for the deets on each.

Front Wall Tinkertopia

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Buckets, Bins and Barrels of Fun
At the corner of Repurpose & Upcycle is the Tinkertopia shop itself. The walls are lined with buckets, bins, and oversized barrels where families can shop for craft supplies to use at home. Choose from a small ($6.95), large ($9.95) or humungous ($19.95) size bag and start filling. Anything that fits is fair game. Sorting and exploring the different bins is half the fun for little artists. It’s like having a hundred sensory tables all in one space. Oh the different textures, colors and sizes! Just be careful of the few bins that house objects with sharp or irregular edges (don’t worry, they’re marked).

Tinkertopia Bags start

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Shoppers will also find individually priced items that are rare or one-of-a-kind, as well as some pre-packed DIY kits full of handpicked creative odds and ends. They bear cute names like “Grandpa’s Junk Drawer,” “Ol’ Gran’s Sewing Basket,” and “DIY Puppet Theater.” Prices on these kits range from around $5-$10 and they make killer presents for creative kiddos. Think birthday or stocking stuffer!

Tinkertopia DIY kits

 photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Drop-In Times
For $7, mini makers get 90 minutes to create a masterpiece or invent the next big thing in the Make & Take Tinker Space. Drop in any time the store is open and workshops aren’t scheduled to take full advantage of this creative area. Little designers will find buckets and bins filled with intriguing odds and ends that they can use for their project. And to put it all together, there’s sure to be just the right tool, too. Some are simple like glue or string, but others might require a little more supervision, like the sewing machines, drills, saws and die cuts that line the Tinker Tool wall.

Make and Take Space Tinkertopia

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

In this space, kids are their own creative masters. It’s up to them to invent or make something from the bits and pieces around them. But if they get stuck or need some inspiration, Ms. Darcy is there with helpful suggestions and some guidance on the many tools in the space. And parents, you can sit on the sidelines and marvel at the things your mini me creates or join in the process! If you’re wondering about the best time to drop in, we suggest weekday mornings, when you won’t typically find a crowd.

Tinker tools wall Tinkertopiaphoto: Allison Sutcliffe 

Tinkertopia hosts a variety of workshops, for both kids and adults, scheduled each month. Unlike the drop-in time, workshops are directed; participants work toward a common final product, adding their own touches as they go. In the past, tiny tinkerers have created Mini Altoid Traveling Dioramas, board games and cork action figures. On the horizon are upcoming holiday-themed classes if you’re looking to craft hand-made gifts, cards or just find a great activity over winter break. If you’re interested in attending a workshop, be sure to register in advance, as workshops max out around 10 people and fill up quickly. The cost is usually between $10-$15 for each two-hour workshop.

Altoid Bin Tinkertopiaphoto: Allison Sutcliffe 

A Tinkerific Birthday Bash
The Tinker Space is also available for your little inventor’s next birthday bash. Party packages ($150) include a two-hour weekend time slot that starts with cake and presents and ends with 60-90 minutes of guided tinker time for up to 10 kids with Ms. Darcy. When clean up is done, each partygoer can fill a small tinker bag with goodies so they can continue their creative journey at home. The best part? These parties don’t have to be just for kids. Got a mom’s (or dad’s) group that needs a night out? Or a baby shower coming up? Remember, parents like to tinker too!

Little girl and bins Tinkertopia

photo: Allison Sutcliffe 

Make A Day of It
Besides being a powerhouse of creativity, Tinkertopia also boasts a great location. The Washington State History Museum is right across the street, the Tacoma Children’s Museum is just a few blocks away, and The Museum of Glass is just a quick walk over the most colorful bridge in the state. Plus, everything else families need to make it a day is close at hand, too. Restaurants and cheap parking line Pacific Ave. between eye-catching shops that are worth exploring. The fact that all this is walkable is just icing on the cake!

Chihuly Glass Bridge Tacomaphoto: Allison Sutcliffe 

1914 Pacific Ave.
Tacoma, Wa 98402
Online: tinkertopia.com or on Facebook
Hours: Tues.–Sun., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Do you plan on creating something cool at Tinkertopia? Tell us about your experience below.

—Allison Sutcliffe

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