(The "before" story with photos is here.)
My primary goal was to declutter and make my studio more functional and more beautiful with minimum expense. This turned out to be a much bigger project than I imagined.
The reason? Well the key to practical organizing is grouping like objects together, considering their function, and storing them in the place where you use them.
Being a mixed media artist, I have A LOT of supplies: primers, sealers, canvases, acrylic paint, watercolor paint, glazes, medium, texture paint, brushes, rulers, cutting mats, paper cutters, sponges, markers, crayons, colored pencils, drawing pencils, pens, erasers, chalk pastels, oil pastels, pens, cardstock, designer papers, sketch and watercolor pads, punches, scissors, piercing and carving tools, inks, ink pads, rubber stamps, embossing powders, heat gun, an iron, books, ribbons, cords, fibers, ephemera, embellishments, brads, and more.
There were not only a lot of supplies, but a lot of categories of supplies to deal with. I wanted everything neater and more orderly, but I didn't want everything tucked away. When you're making cards or art, being able to see your supplies spurs the creative process forward. Knowing that I would have a lot of things stored in plain sight made it important to reduce the visual static elsewhere in the room.
The first steps in the studio do-over involved removing all the art I had hanging on the walls. I had about seven framed pieces on the wall, and there was nowhere to rest my eyes. I chose to hang only one framed piece back up; the others found homes elsewhere in the house. Some were set aside in storage and will be pulled out next time I feel the urge to refresh a space with something new (but old) .
I also pulled photos and decorations off the dressing table mirror and removed more than half of everything that was stuck to my bulletin board (ticket stubs, post cards, photographs). I put those items in a box; I might glue them in a Smash Book later.
The second step in decluttering was moving all my art books, magazines, and catalogs out of the studio. Some of the books were on a shelf in the closet, but most of the reading material was stacked in piles near the bed. No more piles of anything on the floor!
I put them in a bookcase in my bedroom. The bookcase, which my husband had built years ago for my son, had been passed onto my daughter. She had recently emptied it and moved it out of her bedroom. It fit perfectly under my bedroom window and accommodated all the books well. Now all my art books are in a single location, and it's much easier to find what I'm looking for.
Step three in the process involved switching beds with my daughter. I exchanged my double bed for her twin bed. She now has space to sprawl when sleeping or entertaining friends in her room, and I still have a bed for guests upstairs and a place to retreat to when I want to sleep alone.
(Now my studio features the bed I slept in as a kid AND the table from my childhood kitchen. We certainly have that re-use, re-purpose, recycle thing going on.)
I can't tell you how much I love the simplicity and softness of this corner. The "nightstand" is two stacked Itso cubes from Target, equipped with shelves for storage. I love the Itso organization system because its pieces easily interlock and it's completely customizable. You buy a cube, shelves if you want them, and add cloth or plastic bins and trays.
With walls and the floors cleared of unnecessary stuff, it was time to tackle the nuts and bolts of the project: my supplies.
Throughout this phase of the project, I sought to consolidate items and storage containers.
I have hundreds (?) of rubber stamps, quite a few of which had come in sets. I broke many of them out of their sets and organized them by theme, size, and use in trays and clear plastic boxes. I had spools of ribbon stored out of sight in cardboard shoe boxes. I put some of the spools on a cord I strung across one of my wire cubes in the closet. Other ribbon I removed from the bulky cardboard spools and put in the small sections of a plastic box we'd stored beads in when my kids were young. I sorted by type and color.
The photo of the closet doesn't really reveal how much better organized my supplies are, you'll just have to trust me when I tell you the new system makes it so much easier to visualize and complete a project. When I shut the doors, everything is hidden.
Next I broke up all my colored pencil sets and grouped the pencils by color in shallow, stacking clear plastic boxes. I broke apart my marker sets and sorted them by use and type (permanent vs. waterbased ink, fine points vs. wide points) and stored them the same way. Colored ballpoint pens all went in one box, calligraphy pens and specialty pens went in another. Metallic pencils also had their own box. All these clear boxes are on my work table.
I opted to leave all my watercolor crayons and pencils in their original containers, in a drawer of my dressing table. Ditto my chalk pastels. I don't use them as often.
I have tons of buttons, brads, and little doodads for decorating cards. I store those in plastic boxes and old-fashioned ice cube trays, sorted by type first, and in some cases by color.
Nearly all the supplies related to acrylic painting that were on or under my work table were moved into the closet. I never paint spontaneously, it's always a planned process. My painting stuff didn't need to be out all the time.
Sketch pads, watercolor paper, acrylic paper, butcher paper, and canvas are all stored flat under the bed, along with some simple black frames that I use when submitting my work to gallery shows.
I sorted all the other items I had for using in collage: cardstock, tissue paper, giftwrap, specialty papers, scrapbooking paper, handpainted papers, and bits and pieces from calendars, maps, and mail. These were sorted by type and color,scraps were put in Ziploc bags, and everything was put in the drawers of plastic bins.
I'm considering making a tailored cloth skirt for the table that would attach and detach to the table edge using Velcro. This way when I have guests, I can hide the plastic bins at the bottom. I'm still deciding on that.
One new item I bought for this project was a Stampin' Up carousel which helps me easily store and access my stamp pads. I wish I'd invested in one years ago!
Throughout the process, I labeled all my containers, I dusted and washed everything and swept out neglected corners. At the end of the project, I wiped down my table and mopped the floor.
The end result?
A clean, functional, happy studio space that can work as a bedroom too.
I am so proud of myself for excavating my beautiful dressing table from the clutter.
Now I can see the embroidered sampler my mother made, which is under glass on the dressing table top. It's a good summary of my life philosophy and also perfect for someone who make cards.
View from the doorway, closet with doors immediately to the right.
Home sweet studio, a small space with a big role in my life. : D