Mother Essentials: Kelly Tunstall

Written by Erin Feher
11:21 am
03/18/20

Portrait by Andrew Caulfield

Today’s Mother Essentials subject came to us at just the right time. With kids home from school and parents trying to get things accomplished in the meantime, Kelly Tunstall is something of an expert at the WFH scene. The celebrated and prolific artist lives, works, and raises her two boys (Gus, 6, and Brixton, 8) all in her classic San Francisco flat—she even works side-by-side at the dining room table with her creative partner and husband, Ferris Plock. For this family, making art is a family affair—the kids can often be found painting and sketching in the same room, and almost always accompany their parents to their gallery shows and exhibitions, whether they be in there hometown of S.F. or farther afield, like their recent show in Tokyo. We had to know the Mother Essentials that Kelly uses to keep her creative brood busy, and she delivered! From the very best crayons to must-have materials for professional fort-building, Kelly’s inspiring Mother Essentials are below!

Moleskine Notebooks. “I always have one in my bag and the kids will draw in it at restaurants. I literally have sketchbooks that go back to when I was 6. These are my very favorite and I get the thicker paper for no bleed-through. I did a piece on one for Spoke Art’s yearly Moleskine show. I live in these books, so it’s a real honor!” Moleskine Classic Notebook, $15.97, Amazon.

Nooworks. “I love my friend Jen’s line of colorful prints on pretty silhouettes. She has good kids’ things as well! I love to shop at her spot on Valencia Street, but all the goodies are online, too.” 395 Valencia Street, San Francisco, Nooworks.

Los Poblanos Lavender Salve. “My hands always get dry in winter, even without all the hand sanitizer. I found this when staying at Albuquerque’s excellent Los Poblanos Inn. It’s made on-site from lavender harvested on the property. I use it on the kids’ dry spots and owies, too.” Lavender Salve, $24, Los Poblanos Farm Shop.

Sticklets. “Find sticks, make a fort!” STICK-LETS 6-Piece Fort Set, $12.50, Stick-Lets.

Martha Stewart Paint. “I love Martha, like truly. She is about top on the list of people I’d love to have lunch with. Her paint line at Michael’s is genius. There are all kinds of techniques: Stencils, little gold leaf kits. It’s amazing. But the real gem is the paint. I don’t think it’s necessarily formulated for kids, but this is about as safe as it gets. They come in great colors, and are easy to clean. The quality is not bad for the price. There are also weird glitter colors, glass paint, and all kinds of stuff. Go nuts in the Martha section at Michael’s, and take the kids along if you can.” Martha Stewart Crafts at Michaels.

Hanna Anderson Jammies. “I have some, the kids have some. Matchy matchy and so cozy. Gray and white stripes is our way.” Long John Pajamas In Organic Cotton, $26.40, Hannah Andersson.

Faber Castell Beeswax Crayons. “Only get kids great art materials—it’s less frustrating and easier to get a good effect. It’s the best investment. Our kids can work with our paints—usually Golden Fluid acrylics—and brushes when they want, but these are my favorite for the littles. They are very pleasing and smooth to work with.” Faber Castell Beeswax Crayons, $10.99, Amazon.

Wedding Imperial Tea. “We work from home on a really long table, so the art of sheltering in place is not a huge stretch from everyday life. I spoil myself as much as I can, and afternoon tea is one of my favorite little ways to do that. Since the boys have been home, I’m making them tea in the afternoon, too.” Wedding Imperial Tea by Mariage Frères, $25.60, Neiman Marcus.

Sun Bum. “I have been obsessed with this whole line. The stick is the best thing. It smells like bananas and bubblegum. Take the spray on vacation or the beach the first time you use it, and it will take you magically back to that place every time.” Sun Bum Original SPF 30 Sunscreen Face Stick, $9.99, Amazon.

In Fiore Body Balm. “I guess it looks like I’m into body stuff, but Julie Eliott’s excellent body balm is truly just for me—it smells amazing, and lasts forever.” Jasmine Supérieure Baume Pour Le Corps, $175, In Fiore.

Bryr Clogs. “My husband had them made for me for Mother’s Day—my kids’ names were embossed on the leather by one of the cobblers, who is a friend. We all visited the shop in S.F.’s Dogpatch neighborhood to pick them up. I’m famously hard to shop for, so I think I just want a fresh pair every year. They were comfy from day one, but I am loving the way they break in.” Camilla Lace-Up Clog With Kilt, $276, Bryr.

Blackwing Pencils. “Similarly, as the boys have gotten older, I insist on these for drawing and writing. It’s a good line. I find that the quality of pencils and crayons is on the decline. These make the line I want and expect out of a pencil, and the erasers are replaceable. I buy locally at Park Life in the Inner Richmond. The colored pencils are good, too.” Palomino Blackwing Pencils, $24.95, Blick.

Rad Haus and A16. “These are my two go-to restaurants in my neighborhood. Ask for coloring sheets at A16, or try to catch them at Off The Grid if your kids don’t ‘sit.’ Radhaus has excellent limited-edition t-shirts on a totally irregular basis, and beautiful views of the bridge. Our kids were told by the owner it’s OK to climb on the massive tree that acts as a giant bench.” A16, 2355 Chestnut Street, San Francisco, and 5356 College Avenue, Oakland; Radhaus, Landmark Building A, San Francisco.

Metier. “I’d be remiss to not note Trina and Sheri’s jewelry shop, Metier. So many thoughtful gifts have come from this place, which features both vintage jewels and also modern staples. A never-fail for simply extravagant beauty.” 546 Laguna St, San Francisco, Metier

Kapital Kerchiefs at Cotton Sheep. “I’m known for my colorful kerchiefs—in a pinch they come off for tears, for boogers, or to protect a little neck from the sun. Also, you can dampen them for instant cooling. I like to get them at the excellent Cotton Sheep in Hayes Valley, along with baby socks shaped like puppies or dinos for baby gifts. They carry the excellent Fifth Line from Japan, too.” 572 Hayes Valley, San Francisco, Cotton Sheep.

Le Labo Hinoki Bath Gel. “I just got this and love it—a little goes in the bath and everyone smells so good. I know I smell good, but having all the boys smelling delicious and woodsy is a treat for me, too. Plus, Le Labo refills in store for less plastic waste. I hope more people start doing that.” Hinoki Bath Gel, $27, Le Labo.

Maileg Mice. “Tantrum toy shop just has the best stuff. That’s where I get Maileg Mice—my standby for birthday gifts.” 248 Clement Street and 858 Cole Street, San Francisco, Tantrum.

The Richfield. “My daily coffee shop spot—try the brekkie sandwich, but everything on the tiny menu is good. They are open during the apocalypse, thank god.” 195 5th Avenue, San Francisco, The Richfield.

Kraft Paper Roll. “Put this on the table or floor for maximum art time! Immerse! Join in! I prefer painting flat for myself and the kids over an easel or a wall, as the paint doesn’t drip. Add salt to wet watercolor paint for a little magic. Try all the salt! Fleur de sel, table salt, coarse salt.” USA White Kraft Arts and Crafts Paper Roll, $16.99, Amazon.

Water-Based Spray Paint. “This is fun stuff. Water-based and water-soluble, great colors, low odor, and a pretty matte finish. Stencils are fun to cut, or spray leaves or lace for a pretty background. Use a mask if you want, but if you’re outdoors for a little bit, it should be OK.” MTN Water Based Spray Paint, $57.13, Blick.

Harry Potter Audio Book. “Jim Dale’s excellent reading of Harry Potter in its entirety is a work-from-home essential! We literally listen to this all the time. Jim Dale does all the voices for all the characters! It is amazing.” Harry Potter Audio Books.

Aviator Nation Kids Trucker Hat. “My kids are redheads, which means that sun protection is a big deal. These hats are great—there is terrycloth inside the brim, so they’re not itchy, they’re lightweight, washable, and sized on a kid scale. We love their sweats, too. So damn soft.” Aviator Nation Kids Trucker Hat, $37, Aviator Nation.

Vintage From HERE. “I really do get the majority of my clothes secondhand. I always have. Digging in Goodwill bins, garage sales, flea markets—it’s my idea of heaven. But things have gotten a little picked over these days in San Francisco. I’ve been finding very select pieces to fill in the blanks at the online shop Here.” Here.

For more Mother Essentials, peep our past columns with designers Anna WallackCynthia RowleyRebecca AtwoodDana HaimRachel Zoe, and Taylor Jay, Olympian Alysia Montano, Wiley Body founder Vanessa Wade, cookbook author Hetal Vasavada, Partake founder Denise Woodard, model and muse Slick Woods, children’s author Serena Minott, clean living expert Kristian Henderson, June & January founder Amy Richardson-Golia, Bubbsi founder Sweta DoshiOakland retail queen Sherri McMullenShahidah Zareef of Bossmom NationJoanne EncarnacionLaTonya YvetteMorgan Walker of Make.doIguehi James, and more!

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