Worth a Twirl

Architect Sabrina Cazarez opens a business where kids can play as they paint, build, sing, dance, swing, or read.


Sabrina Cazarez and her daughter, Aria, the inspiration for Twirl, enjoy some together time expending creative energy.

Photo by Megan Small

Sabrina Cazarez is an architect who recently opened a creative community play-and-make space for kids in Alameda, though adults also can come to this little craftery. She credits her daughter as the inspiration behind her notion to establish a place where children can experience tactile making while doing what comes naturally—imaginative play. She schedules camps, classes, parties, and more at the Park Street studio and play space that allows users to dabble in creative activities as varied as painting, pottery, singing, and dancing. Kids can also dive into a book nook, enjoy a little swinging, ride a trike, climb a tree, or have a tea party. Sounds like fun.


Tell me about Twirl.

Twirl is a whimsical place that nurtures creativity through its thoughtfully designed play gallery and art studio. Children are encouraged to let loose, use their imaginations, and conjure up creations of all sorts. Our teaching style is geared around the notion of process and the act of making, rather than a final product. We offer a variety of workshops, after-school classes, camps, and drop-in play/studio throughout the week. Parties are popular as well, with options for renting out our party room for smaller groups or the art studio for larger groups. At the moment, our target age group is children 10 years and younger, but our pottery studio is soon to come, which will be suitable for adults and teens.


What inspired you to open such a place?

My daughter Aria inspired me. She has always had such pure creativity. Also, I grew up a maker, whether it was baking with my mother, sewing curtains with my grandmother, or collecting found objects to repurpose. I loved crafting things with my own hands or taking something unsightly and making it beautiful. After years of school in architecture and a fulfilling career, I realized that although I was creative, I had lost that unadulterated openness to imagination that I once had. Aria taught me to look through another lens, to remember what it meant to dream and create. As an architect or artist, we become conditioned to create a final product. That is what we do; we design something that then gets built and then becomes something beautiful. I thought to myself, what about the process it took to get there? I realized that a child starts there, and that the tiny scribbles that they make have so much meaning and complexity that should be nurtured. So Twirl was my effort to make a place to do just that—a place where children can express the act of making and go back to the basics of imaginative play. I wanted to create a space that was aesthetically engaging but embodied those fundamental paradigms. It took me nearly four years to dream up, plan, and execute the business, though it had been a lifetime’s collection of creative thoughts, aspirations, and, of course, the help of my little dreamer Aria that brought Twirl to fruition.


Why Alameda?

Alameda is such a charming, quaint town. I happily stumbled across it 12 years ago upon moving to the Bay Area for graduate school and never left. We love the community and how family-centric it is. I also saw the need for a place in town to take children to be creative.


Do you think technology has hindered old-fashioned playtime and creativity for children?

I think although technology can be a wonderful aid in learning, when a child is young it can hinder their creativity. Children love tactile stations where they can make a mess and explore their own stories. At that age, it is just unfiltered originality, no boundaries or expectations of what something should be. It is simply the joy of getting to a certain point and knowing that was exactly what they meant to do. As an adult, at first glance, we don’t all see the beauty in the line work, but if we look beyond what we are conditioned to see and hear that child’s story, it is extremely complex and holds such substance.


How do you juggle being an architect and a business owner?

It’s certainly not easy, but the creative aspect in both careers works seamlessly with one another. I’m also fond of spreadsheets and project management tools that help channel thoughts and organize tasks. My husband says my mind never sleeps, and in some ways, that’s true, but I just try to find a balance in order to stay productive. I would say the hardest part is delegation of tasks, because I’m so critical of how the space functions, how programs are run, and for architecture assuring a well-thought-out end product. Each career has a component that becomes quite personal just as a piece of art would to an artist. Twirl and the spaces I design have my heart and soul in them.

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