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Material Challenges

Long time readers of my blog know that in addition to being an artist, I’m also an art teacher. As an art teacher with a finite budget, I almost never turned down anything that I thought could be used in my classroom. Either as a tool or a material. It could become quite challenging to store them. Most being of irregular shapes, sizes and amounts. And even more confusing, of unknown usability.

There is a large swath of my inner-being that, through nature and nurture, collects all manner of supplies and materials that some people might think of as needing to go into the recycling or trash bin. Keeping it even remotely organized is difficult most of the time. Extremely challenging at other times.

So, how do I try to keep it all in some semblance or order?

What do I use?

In reality, just about everything I come across in any given day is something I could use to make art. There are some items that I’m always on the look-out for. Fibers and fabrics, newsprint, product packaging, plastics, corrugated cardboard, carton board, wrapping, containers from food and other purchased items (for storage and for usage in art making) plastic bottles and liquid containers.

Really, anything that I would have included in my “crap bags” I had as an art teacher. I kept glue stick and marker caps, because it was useful to have an extra one on hand in case one was lost or misplaced during an art lesson. Sometimes, the contents of a crap bag were just interesting bits and bobs. Paper scraps, wire, beads, caps from different art supplies (paint, glue, etc.) Again, it was always handy to have them around.

Then what?

These crap bags were just extra-large resealable, clear plastic bags. Every time I came across something interesting, or a stray cap from a glue stick or pen, it went right into the bag. When they were filled. I sealed them and put them into a larger cardboard box. Most of the time, I would go through the bags myself. Sorting the contents into categories. Then re-bagging them and placing them in the correct art supply category.

I had art lessons in which many of these found crap-bag objects would be used. Most of them were collage and sculptural lessons. As a working artist now, I employ this same technique for choosing, sorting, storing and using of the objects I collect. Instead of going into cardboard boxes, the sorted, clear, plastic bags go into a large reusable grocery bags.

How about larger things?

To keep my corrugated cardboard and carton board stored in a fairly organized manner, I also use large reusable grocery bags. Using these bags keeps me from having stacks of cardboards sliding all over the place. And it keeps me from collecting too much cardboard.

In fact, I really need to go through both of my bags of cardboard soon. They’re both a bit clutter with scraps I cannot use. And which take-up too much valuable storage space. The storage space of which I speak is directly underneath and to the back of my desk area. Right next to my feet.

Other larger objects that I’ve decided to keep and use in the creation of my art are stowed and stashed where-ever I have space left. To be honest, most of my personal closet space in the bedroom is devoted to materials and finished artwork storage.

Deck chairs on the Titanic:

Never do I feel as though I’ve gotten myself as organized as I would like to be regarding my materials and supplies. The problem being that I am always getting in and out of the supplies while at the same time working on a piece of artwork. Some tools, supplies or materials have to be out an on my desk to use. This all results in a lot of clutter.

Presently, I’m working on finishing up the gesso on several small pieces, and adding the base paint coats to several others. Because of this, my desk area is a total mess. When I’m painting or working with anything wet, I do not do any sewing. Because I don’t want to ruin a cloth project.

This is all part of creating artwork in a very confined amount of space. In the home studio I had prior to moving to Finland, I had multiple work areas set up. Paints or clay could be left out in one work area, while I sewed or embroidered in another. Someday I would like to have something similar to that again. But for now, I work with what I have and am thankful for it!

So…now what?

The methods I use to store tools, materials and supplies for my art-making isn’t perfect. It’s just the way that I do things. Hopefully there is something here or there that I talked about that you can use for yourself. Or perhaps something that I mentioned that gave you your own good idea!

I had hoped to have done some spring cleaning and organizing by the time of this blog post. But I didn’t quite get there. The Midden has begun to grow more around my desk and work area again. To the point where it’s beginning to bug me. Which means that it must be really bugging the crud out of my husband!

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next Tuesday.