Friday, January 15, 2010

A few organization tips

Yesterday I asked these questions for you to consider when reorganizing your art space. The reasons I asked will become evident as I proceed to explain what works for me. Now I'm not saying that my way is the only way. Heavens knows, I'm not an expert, just a neat freak. And the way I make art and the types of art I make, dictate how my art spaces are set up. So before I head off to Dana's, here are a few pointers. Remember, these are guidelines only, not hard and fast rules.

1. What types of art do you make?
This will dictate the types of areas you need. Do you paint? If so, you will need an area that is protected from drips and spills. Do you need water? If so, you should be prepared to haul it if there isn't any close by, or locate your work space near a water source. Do you need both a "wet" and "dry" zone? Be sure to consider all types of art you need.

2. How many zones do you need?
That depends on the types of art you make. If all you use to make art are a few doodle pens, then your work zone will include a comfortable chair, a place to steady your arm, and a good lamp or natural light. However, if you have multiple interests like many altered artists, you will need to plan several zones. These will be set up according to your needs, tools, and materials.

3. How much space do you have?
I admit it. My entire house would be turned into a craft room, if I could get rid of my furniture. As it is, I am far more lucky than many artists. Although I don't have built-in storage cabinets and beautiful custom made furniture or storage units, I have space: space that is filled with art fodder. Whether you make art in a closet, on your bed, or in a huge well lit studio, you can find ways to do it. You just have to pare down and don't go dumpster diving like I often do.

4. What has and has not worked in the past?
If you've tried in vain to get and keep an organized work space and have failed, it is because your system isn't working for you. You must ask yourself how you work. Do you like a neat, clean table (as I do), or do you prefer your supplies within arm's reach?

Here are a few more questions to ask yourself.

5. How much clutter are you willing to put up with before you have to clean?
I read somewhere that the clutter had to get to within one inch of workable space before the gal would clean her area. That works for her. It may work for you. It would not work for me. If I am working on a project, then finish it, all the items go to their respective homes. When I finish using a rubber stamp, stencil, or paintbrush, I clean them. If part of your organization problem is letting things pile up, then you need to know just how willing you are to work in an unorganized space.

6. Do you know where your supplies are?
Did you just buy the latest, greatest gadget you couldn't live without, and instead of putting it where it makes logical sense, put it where there was a hole or three inches of space? Did you look for hours on end, believing you have that perfect image for a layout, only to give up in frustration when you hadn't found it at the end of the day? Or even worse, did you just spend a week organizing and forgot where you put everything?

When I buy or am given something, I look at it, maybe even photograph it. I hold it in my hand. I ponder. I ask myself "Where does this go (or belong)?" That's where zones come in handy. I also ask "If this was lost, where is the first place I would look. It may not sound logical, but if it's the first place you would look for it, then why not put it there?

Let's look at a few problems I have and how I intend to correct them in the next few weeks.

Although I love all my altered books and swap items, I no longer have room for them. They are multiplying by the day, and since they now look so cluttered, I must find a new home for them. Just think what I can do with all that added space.

The top shelf is so high, it's hard for me to reach items there. That shelf also isn't working.

I'm incredibly embarrassed to show this, and I'm glad it's behind a door. This shelf has gotten out of hand and it's all because of the ribbon, much of which is paper, not at all suitable for altered art. I must find a place for it. I know what I want, but I must find them and at a reasonable price. I want pant holders that swing out and hook together. Once I find some, I will place them on the back of my door. That will free up the second shelf for other things.

This was one of those "good ideas" I had. OK, I swear I wasn't on drugs when I did this, but I have no idea why I chose to keep my bits and scraps of material in this drawer. I guess I thought they would be easy to get to and really close to the sewing machine. Add to that, batting (do you have any idea how much space batting takes up?), wonder under, and pellon, and you have a disaster. Now I can't get anything out of there without taking everything out. Nothing is sorted, little bits of fabric sit with fat quarters or whatever they are called, mixed in with old clothes I intended to take apart for the material. Talk about a disaster. This is one place I will have to change. Do you have a place in your studio like that?

My plan was to have the material close to the sewing machine. The dresser is to the right of the picture. However, this is an example of when you don't have floor space, go up. I placed the small night stand (that's what it was in a previous lifetime) on the other dresser. It may not look like much, it's certainly not fashionable, will never make one of those "studio" magazines, but it is functional. You can see that I keep my thread near my machine, too.

What DOES work is my paper holder. I love these two units that hold 8 1/2" by 11" paper. My paint holder also works, although lately I have not been good about putting like colors together.

Another thing that works is my shoe caddy. It holds many, many tools. I have one on the front and back of this closet door. Because they are see-through, I don't have any trouble finding exactly what I need or want each time. Again, I try to keep like things together.

Now that I know what isn't working, how do I correct the problems. First I must determine how much space I need, since I already know how much space I have. From there I will draw a diagram, much like I did when I redesigned my basement studio.

This is a detailed plan of my basement studio after it was remodeled.
Even before I brought a single thing into the room, I knew where it would live. I set up zones, many of them with their own dedicated shelves. Don't think that a zone needs an entire wall. A zone could be just one shelf. It all depends on how many items are associated with the zone.

Just make sure you try to draw to scale, and be prepared for change. Think and rethink before you move anything. It's much easier to move things on paper than in reality.

This is my polymer clay zone. Everything I need to make polymer clay can be found here. Now if I had a HUGE studio, I'd have a table with the toaster oven plugged in and ready to go, the pasta machine clamped to the table, and the clay, molds, cutters, etc. nearby. But that isn't possible in my space. Besides, I work with clay maybe once every couple of months or so. When I do, it's not a problem to move the oven or the pasta machine. It works for me, and that is what is important. So, I call this my clay zone.

Above my clay zone is my glue gun that I keep in the basement, along with glue. If I buy glue, I know right where it goes, because the glue gun in the other craft room is small and the glue isn't the same diameter. I'll never get the two confused. Behind the glue gun is my Gallery Glass paints. They make faux stained glass. I use these about once every year or two, so I'm not concerned I'll have to move something to get to them. Ease of reach is important, but I'm willing to move things once every two years if it means I can reach the pieces I use more often. Again, this works for me.

This zone is a bit of a mess because I played with beeswax right before Christmas and it's not the neatest area. I also soldered some wires a few weeks ago, which had nothing to do with art. This shelf holds both my soldering equipment and my beeswax and crayon melting equipment. Although it looks messy, each "zone" has the requisite tools needed. And, if I'm going to solder, I know right where the flux, the copper tape, the extra tips, and solder are. No hunting needed. So, on the left is my soldering zone, on the right is my beeswax zone.

The same goes for my UTEE melting pots. All the materials are close at hand, the pots are near an outlet, and it takes no time at all to get things ready to go. This is my UTEE zone.

I wish I'd bought two of these roll around carts when they were at Big Lots a few years ago, but I only got one. The top is sturdy and acts as a work surface. I keep my cutter there (my guillotine cutter lives in my craft room upstairs), along with what I consider cutting tools.

Not sure if you can see, but I have FOUR, yes four boxes filled with those nasty X-acto knives. After Dana gets moved, I'm gifting them to her. I just don't feel safe using them. But for now, they live under my paper cutter, because this is my paper cutting zone.

One tip: Buy see through storage. If you can't see it, you won't be able to find it. Also, if you can't see it, you forget you have it.

I call this tower "adhesive central" because it holds all kinds of glues and adhesives. Keeping them together until I need them for a project, means I always know where my adhesives are. Putting them back after I use them, is also easy because I know where they belong.

Zones don't have to be pretty, but you can turn them into both pretty and functional by placing materials in glass jars. This is my "glass tumbling" zone. When I have (or find) broken glass or bottles, I don't leave it sitting around. I add it to the other broken material and use it when I tumble a load of glass.

I may have missed a few questions along the way, but this one is very important.

7. What strategy do you use to organize?

Do you organize by shape or similar materials,

or do you organize by color?

And one final question:

8. How do you work when you make art?
Do you prefer to sit or stand to make your art? Do you like to be able to move around, or sit without a great amount of moving?

To recap, know yourself and your work habits. Know if you are willing to keep an organized space clean after you do all the work or give up after awhile and let it get back to messy. Know whether you are willing to find a home for each of your charms, brads, etc., or whether you are content to hunt through your treasures each time you want to find something.

Know your search habits. Do you search by color, by item description, or by where you thought you left something? Do you begin looking where you thought you last saw the item, or do you look where you think it should logically be?

Remember, most of us are in the same boat. I've tried ways to organize that failed, I've run out of room, I've bought organizing containers that didn't work, and I've made other organization mistakes, too. So please let me know if this post has been helpful. I'd also like to know if you learned anything, or if this was all information you read about in the past. I often think my ideas are original, having "discovered" something over time, failure, or mishap, only to discover someone wrote a book that said something similar. I hope that's not the case today, because everything here I've learned either the easy way or the hard way.

Today's blog link is Inspiring Adventures of Always Inspired. I couldn't find her name anywhere on her blog, but she has many diverse interests, including embroidery, sewing, and just recently, ATCs.

11 thoughtful remarks:

steph said...

THANK YOU! so much for these tips, Elizabeth...they are certainly very helpful...I am reorganising as well and trying to group stuffs together and creating a practical space.

Diane said...

Yes, Elizabeth--this was very helpful, and since I'm clearing everything out of my room to paint it (this weekend), it will help me get into gear. This is an old bedroom with 30 year old carpeting in it, so we're getting rid of it--so I REALLY am clearing everything out of here. And it's one of those rooms (very small) where you have to move up (the walls). What I really liked, and wanted to know is where you got your paper holder from--that would be perfect for me. Did you find your lino cutters?

La Dolce Vita said...

wow, alot to chew on! I am just now spring cleaning my studio! gotta start early there is a LOT to go through!

Terri Kahrs said...

Your lino cutters have GOT to be in your workspace somewhere! I just kNOW it!!! LOL! Ask the angels of inspiration for help!!!

This post is awesome, awesome, awesome!!! I can identify with having a tiny space and am running out of room. I'm going to print out this post and will use it to reorganize. Thank you, thank you!!! Hugs, Terri xoxo

LisaC said...

What a great blog post! Very informative. I've GOT to do something with my room... I have the "can't see it, can't find it" syndrome. But there is clutter everywhere and NO horizontal spaces for drying things. You gave me some good ideas :-)

Brian K said...

Thank you so much for this! It HAS been really helpful. I think the MOST helpful part for myself has been reading the part about really looking at something we've just purchased, where it goes and where is the FIRST place you'd look for it if it were "lost", as I have "lost" many items only to find it in one of the last places I would put it and I'd ask myself, why would you put it there???? Thanks

Marilyn Rock said...

Elizabeth; great organizational tips here - thanks for sharing so much. xxoo

Anonymous said...

I like the part about zones. I always thought a zone had to be a specific work space, like a padded table where you keep your jewelry supplies, or an area dedicated to things like assemblages. I'm glad to see a zone can be where you keep your materials for storage.


~*~Patty Szymkowicz said...

My Goodness Woman You are VERY organized and I am duly impressed!!!
It is not my strong point ... one thing that always happens when I begin rooting thru STUFF, I find some many bits of this and that I get distracted and want to play!

I am trying to go thru things, but golly it's overwhelming.
Thanks for making it sound easy at least ;)

Wishing you a sweet and peaceful weekend my friend!

Marlynn said...

This is a very very timely post for me. I need to study your suggestions closely and begin to start the process, however, I have to agree with Patty - I get sidetracked and then run off to play....

Autumn said...

Wow, I can so relate to your issues. I finished yesterday with putting my things back in the studio, all rearranged, after we painted. I tried to do more with zones this time. I have yet to sit down and create in the new set-up, so I'm not sure completely, but I think I'll love it. Things for you to be thankful for: You don't have a giant exercise bike in your studio! You don't have little fingers pulling out your paper rolls and using them as swords! You don't have to move everything and try to paint behind it! ;0