decluttering for artists? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 05-10-2006, 04:11 PM - Thread Starter
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Are there any artists out there who can talk about decluttering?
I have some major pack-ratting tendencies, but it's not just mindless hoarding; as a visual artist, not only do think with every item, "I might use this someday", I often do use them someday! I really take great joy in having a well-stocked studio and giving new life to stuff instead of adding to the landfill. Also, as for many artists, frugality is not just important, but necessary. Art supplies are expensive and often specific; even if I only use a certain kind of glue or fabric or wood once in a blue moon, I can't afford to just get more--I really need to keep it until I need it.

So where do you draw your lines? I am lucky enough to have a studio of my own, but it's small, and multi-purpose, and needs to be usable space, not just storage. a lot of decluttering resources seem to just be saying that it's all junk and you have to get rid of everything you can spare, but that's just not always true! How do other artists or craftspeople handle these issues?

some specifics:
-how much of your completed artwork do you save, how do you determine what to keep, and how do you store it?
-any ideas for large paper storage? We don't have room for a chest of those large, thin drawers, and now have portfolios of paper behind couches and bookshelves against the walls, but this is very inconvenient to access, and sort of sloppy.
-natural materials and found objects? this is the kind of stuff you have to snatch up when you find just the right piece, but can take up a lot of room, and be difficult to organize and contain. I have no good system.
-cloth; I keep now in a big cabinet. this is one I actually have a clue about- I need more shelves. right now it is constantly all getting jumbled up and unfolded when i take anything out and I don't have time to deal with it. anyone else have a good system?

thanks for your ideas!
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#2 of 7 Old 05-11-2006, 12:57 PM
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Well, I have a few "authorized" clutter zones, I have old projects and supplies in boxes and in the basement. We have a 6-ft high shelf around our entire dining room and that is where I have brushes, mat cutter, frame components and other things I need to have out of reach. Other things are in baskets and one large box under a big desk, and also in the drawers... The top of the desk is allowed to be piled with current odds and ends, but it gets obnoxious. It is simply pretty high maintenance because there is so much going on that it takes frequent attention to keep it at all tidy.

Large paper--I have a lot of this. I have it sandwiched between large plywood (48"x40") and large foam core sheets to help hold it up and it is all behind a big dresser in our bedroom. There is also a huge roll of watercolor paper in the corner of our bedroom. I try to get rid of things, but it can take a long time before I let something go... I have gotten better at letting it go but when it is still precious to me I feel I must respect my affinity and keep it around.

Clutter comes with the territory to a degree, but the more focused I have gotten with my work the more I can tell what my "needs" actually are and don't end up with stuff that I don't use because it was just a maybe. Even my medium is kid-friendly, because I want to feel that it is safe, non-toxic, and flexible enough to set aside and come back to in a home with young children and with me on all. So there are ways for the art to adapt to your needs in your space, also. Fortunately I am pleased with large watercolor for my artistic directions, I use the computer for a lot of image work and documentation work so that is more compact that things used to be (I am so pleased at the ability to reproduce my photographic work very tidily in spare time!) and so my medium currently allows me to be low-clutter. When I even have time, which has been not very often lately.

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#3 of 7 Old 05-11-2006, 11:26 PM - Thread Starter
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I think I might try getting all my big paper in one place- it would feel less cluttered than behind every couch and bookshelf.

I haven't gotten there yet about non-toxics. Really, since my first baby, (I have another one on the way) I have just hardly painted exactly because it's toxic. I've dealt with the toxicity by using other mediums.

I've recently cleared out my studio and it's so wonderful! The space is so refreshing! (of course, all the stuff I "cleared out" is mostly in the living room--not as refreshing!) But it reminds me of my college's printmaking studio--it was the most wonderful and orderly and spacious place. Everything was organized and clean, unlike what I gradually do to every studio space I've had personally. The order makes possible the creative process. You have room to create, and can use your precious time on working, rather than stetting things up to be ready to work, bc/ everything is already right where you need it.

It didn't hurt either that there were giant windows with trees outside, and lines of drying prints crisscrossing the room, and so much beautiful paper. It did smell terrible, all the time, no matter what. I don't think I could do printmaking long-term bc/ it is almost always so unhealthy.
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#4 of 7 Old 05-15-2006, 03:13 PM
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oooo! this thread speaks to me. i'm not a paid artist, but i'm a crafty/artsy sort and am always saving something 'cause i think i might use it in some project or other. i think the broken plates (potential mosaic pieces) sent dh over the edge. i've got no good tips, but wanted to lurk.

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#5 of 7 Old 05-15-2006, 03:45 PM
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I do pottery and felt making. The felting materials tend to be pretty easy to maintain with assorted plastic containers and ziplock bags. The pottery, on the other hand, requires a great deal of space and since it creates a rather dusty environment, must be restricted to the garage and regularly wiped, swept and mopped if possible. I must store bulky equipment (wheel, slab roller, spools of rope, pot frames, stacks of clay, assorted buckets and tool boxes and of course, a kiln). I also need clear shelving for drying stuff - and it can be frustrating when wet pots get damaged by people traffic, pets and little fingers.

I don't use large sheets of paper, but I do use boards of all sizes and I find similar problems with storage. Have you ever seen those poster racks in poster shops that are a basic frame on the ground holding firm vertical sheets of card or fibreboard and the posters stored in between? Perhaps this could be a solution to your paper storage problem? You could then just flip through them to show them off. Structurally it would be very simple to make.

A few other ideas:

Store long thin things in a stand of different sized pvc pipes (like what plumbers use).
Use wall space for hanging bulky things.
Hang a net from the ceiling if not too high and store lightweight, bulky items there.
An old fashioned drying rack and pully system could be used for drying paintings or other flat projects - hanging them from the ceiling out of reach.
Find a system that ensures you know where to store collections of your stuff. Keep an inventory of your stuff in an index box (or on your computer?) for back up and record it's storage place there.

That's all I can think of for now. I'm envious of your art space! My creative spaces always have to be shared for other functions.
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#6 of 7 Old 05-16-2006, 08:47 PM
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I have closets and stash spots---that are packed w/ saved finds--my "someday I'll........" supplies.

It's not easy to acess everything--or ANYTHING--for that matter. It involves climbing up to the loft/above closet spot--or pulling everything out of big walk in closet. (This is all in my home--) A corner of my bedroom--little alcove between bedroom & closet is my "studio"--there I have an easel--and watercolors & ink & pencils set up---easy to acess but the raw materials for puppet making--sculpture, collage etc. are just too varied and big to have at my fingertips.......

Looking forward to reading other mama artist's decluttering & organizing tips or habits.
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#7 of 7 Old 05-18-2006, 12:33 AM - Thread Starter
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my studio isn't really space all to myself. I really just call it my studio to validate myself as an artist. It's got most of my son's stuff in it, which isn't much, but there's another on the way; I hope the studio doesn't disappear altogether!
Some thoughts I've been having- i have a lot of non-art things that keep me from doing art. examples:
books: so I still have all my college texts, and big glossies from everywhere I've visited. also just lots of books that I love, but realistically could get at the library if I needed to see again. I actually often think when I'm trying to weed them out, "but, what if civilization collapsed? I'd need my own library then!" right, like having my own copy of War and Peace would be my priority when civilization collapses! Clearing out some whole shelves would be great for accessible art supplies.

mending: I can't ever do any sewing projects because my mending pile is so huge! along with this goes unfinished art projects. after it sits there for long enough, it stops being art and becomes a chore. I have to start finishing things.

some of my collections aren't really useful. I have a big box full of beautiful pieces of birch bark that I had many plans for. But really, it's best to use it fresh, before it gets all brittle, and it's easyand free to go collect more; why store it? (although I can't instantly get more, as I live in the city, not the forest.)

I have an extreme idea that I can't decide if I want to implement. What would I bring if I were moving to across the world, say, to Uganda? Thinking about what is really essential to life and well-being helps me realize that there is a lot of stuff that would drag me down if I tried to take it with me. I think I might be such a hoarder that this question actually helps me to be somewhat reasonable. Still, it's the center of my dilemna; will purging my supplies enable me to finally have the space and order to make more wonderful art than ever, or will it curb my work by limiting my resources?
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