Tucked into the first-floor commercial spaces below the Spencer Court apartments on Wells Avenue in downtown Renton, Kelly Affleck sits at a craft table in the middle of Tomāto Tomäto Creative Space, a new local business designed to bring arts, crafts and fun to Renton.
“There’s a lot going on in this world, why not get creative?” said Affleck.
A graphic designer and longtime teacher of arts and crafts, Affleck said that after having her first child, she found that she still needed a creative outlet.
“I slowly started doing kids crafts at home and craft Sunday projects, and it just grew from there,” she said.
Long before acquiring her first brick-and-mortar space, Affleck made a name for herself as an artist and designer who would teach and provide craft materials for projects for all ages.
“Don’t re-invent the wheel, just give them the tools. It’s about the process, getting inspired,” said Affleck.
Originally from Seattle, Affleck moved to the Kennydale neighborhood of Renton about 20 years ago, and has built up the Tomāto Tomäto name, having worked with the Renton Parks and Recreation department, other local Renton businesses and even making her own crafting kits, which are sold online and in-house, along with being sold in different retail stores in Seattle, Portland and even as far east as Nebraska.
Along with the original craft kits, Tomāto Tomäto Creative Space is filled with every possible craft tool and material, from sewing machines to glue guns to mini pom poms.
“We get painters, collagers, scientists here, [and so we have] different avenues to get people engaged in art,” said Affleck. “People will bring in donations, which goes into the tinker bins.”
Tomāto Tomäto’s tinker bins are filled small toys, random trinkets and tinkering materials that come in handy for more guided craft sessions.
“I call it passion, but the more socially acceptable word would probably be hoarding,” Affleck said with an infectious laugh.
Affleck’s passion for arts and crafts and her considerable cache of crafting and art supplies proves to be her business’s greatest strengths. Tomāto Tomäto is never short of a workshop, the most recent being “Drawing, Painting, and Printing,” “Stitch + Stencil,” “Jewelry Making” and “Beginning Sewing.”
Affleck said that, by far, the most popular craft workshop that people come in to create is making their own fairy gardens, where a terra cotta gardening pot with some pebbles, moss, popsicle sticks and tiny pieces of twine can be transformed into a small home, accessorized with tiny bridges and whimsical little swings for the fae.
Tomāto Tomäto has been steadily gaining more business since its soft opening in June, providing space for private events and anyone who wants to make something, with the open hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Tuesday.
“We’re the speakeasy of crafting right now,” said Affleck, who also runs a Tomāto Tomäto Creative program at the Family First Community Center in Renton, where Affleck teaches arts and crafts on Wednesdays from 1-3 p.m.
“Renton is who I want to serve,” said Affleck. “I love how Renton is ‘come as you are.’”
Affleck will be able to do just that with Tomāto Tomäto’s official grand opening (and craft swap), which is coming up on Sunday, Sept. 17. From noon to 5 p.m., all are welcome to celebrate and to swap any excess art supplies they may have with other painters, collagers and scientists. Tomāto Tomäto is located at 334 Wells Avenue South, in suite B2. For more information on workshops, times and original craft kits, visit tomatotomatocreative.com.