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Frustration

Depression adjacent frustration:

During the past two weeks, I’ve been wrestling with an ever-deepening sense of personal and professional frustration. This frustration is laying on a great number of the same emotional buttons that can spin me off into a major bout of depression. In my previous Tuesday blog, I wrote about knowing where the traps are, so that they can be avoided. It took me a few days to figure out what was going on, but I got there eventually.

Honestly, I think it was my husbands own anxiety that helped me figure out what was going on. He was showing me something that he had done to alleviate some of his pent up emotions so that he could leave some of the anxiety behind, and move forward. I could tell as he explained what he had done, that he knew it wasn’t exactly normal. What he did made perfect sense to me. That’s when the light went off inside my own head.

Clinical depression:

I’m open about the fact that I have clinical depression. It began when I was in my teens. Then morphed into something that I thought was almost a bi-polar disorder in my early twenties. By the time I was in my late 20’s, my depression was completely unmanageable on my own. I began therapy. And then began taking antidepressant medication. While at first I was reluctant to try medication, after every other avenue was explored, they proved a life-saver for me.

When I was a young, I always knew that the depression was waiting for me at the end of any period of happiness or relative stability. It’s presence was always felt. Right beneath my feet. Waiting to grab hold of me and yank me straight down into the cold, empty, blackness. It sucked.

Side effects:

My current medication is one that I like a great deal. Some of the side effects are not the greatest. The most annoying being weight gain. My husband is the chief meal planner and cook. And we’ve been leaning heavily on a more plant-based diet with chicken and fish as out main sources of protein. I’ve also reduced my intake of all the delightful sugary foods that I adore. I’ve not eliminated them.

This has helped with some of the weight gain. But it’s still there. We walk and take the bus everywhere we need to go. This also helps a lot with my depression.Especially when I think I don’t need it, a walk to the store will do wonders in making me feel better. That’s not to say I would ever stop taking my meds and go on walks in nature to “cure” my clinical depression. But I will use lovely walks in the sunshine in conjunction with my meds to manage my clinical depression.

Present day:

My depression adjacent frustrations have arisen regarding the lack of traffic on my website, including my online shop. The lack of traffic and declining sales have just begun to frustrate the crud out of me. Realistically, I know what a teenie-tiny fish I am in the great ocean of internet art sellers. I have no illusions of grandeur. My frustrations are rooted in not knowing exactly why my website and online shop receives so very little traffic.

My previous Tuesday blog post talked about how I was trying to figure out the art of marketing. All the while knowing exactly how bad I am at it. Add to this the fact that everything that I have built here is the product of me trying to find the best options I can afford, everything I learned from the staff at Työbileet, and the mind of my ever-patient husband. In fact, if you click on the Työbileet link, you will find a short video of me. (Yikes.)

Love and…meh:

The frustrations I’m experiencing regarding the lack of website and shop traffic has required me to sit down and re-evaluate the methods and modes of marketing that I’m currently using. While I love Instagram, it’s not the right place for me to truly market my artwork. I love that I’ve met fantastically cool, creative artists who I can talk with about making art. It’s been a positive experience for me.

That all being said, it hasn’t driven a lot of traffic to my website. Nor has it lead to a sizable increase in sales for me. Part of this has to do with exactly what Instagram is. It’s a corporation. Corporations exist to make money for their stockholders. If I’m not paying a fee for being able to post on Instagram, then more than likely, I’m being used for other purposes. Oh. Yeah. I’m making money for their stockholders.

All hail the algorithm:

I know when Instagram’s algorithm has changed. Once every sixty to ninety days, the traffic to my posts gets a hard throttle by the algorithm. Along with that hard throttle, I begin receiving more “incentives” to purchase some manner of a business account. More and more posts pop-up in my feed that are artists or artisans with six posts and two hundred followers who have paid to advertise their accounts on Instagram.

Then Instagram starts asking me about advertising and upgrading my account. It’s not that I don’t understand how advertising works. I just don’t think that my advertising euro is best spent on Instagram. For me, it breaks down to what I’m using the platform for.

Useful to a point:

Like I said previously, I’ve met some incredibly cool and talented artists on Instagram. I view it as a place where I can see other artists and their artwork and talk with them. It’s not a mutual admiration society, but it’s akin to that kind of concept. And that is not a bad thing! Especially during the pandemic, it’s been beneficial for me to be able to talk to other artists and share our ups and downs. And yes, there are a lot of sincere compliments that are exchanged as well.

Investment:

Well, I think of it more along the lines of ‘Where do I want to invest my euro?‘ I’ve talked in the past about wanting to start a Patreon. And even flirting with Etsy. What I realized was that not only does the price-point for the marketing need to be right. That it also has to feel right to me, personally and professionally.

Seriously? They have to feel right? Well, yes. They do. This is partially due to a major identity trait of mine. No one can force me to do anything I do not want to do. It can seem like a total no-brainer to do a certain thing. But if I don’t want to do it. There is nothing that will make me do it. Nope. Never going to happen, Ever.

Decisions to be made:

I love the idea of having a Patreon. But I have to be honest with myself. I simply do not have the time, space and money to start a Patreon right now. Nor do I feel as though I have nearly enough people interested in my artwork, or my techniques to the point in which they would give me money every month. Even if it were only a euro or two. There is also an element of creative control that I feel as though I would be giving up as well. And right now, this just feels wrong to me.

Etsy has been the nine-million pound gorilla sitting in my studio space staring at me. I’ve made an attempt at selling on Etsy about ten years or so ago. It wasn’t a fabulous experience. This being said, I do know more now. And have a great deal more online experience, including my own website and shop. Along with that ever-patient husband.

For me, what it all boiled down to was: what did I want to get out of having a presence on Etsy?

Key questions:

What am I going to use Etsy for?

What is my end-goal?

The answer to both of those questions were similar. To get more eyes on my artwork. And a potential at getting more traffic on my own website and my own online shop. Any sales that might be made on the Etsy platform are gravy for me.

Part of the research that I did was looking at artists who sell their work on Etsy, while at the same time maintaining their own website and online shop. I wanted to see what artists that I admire are doing. Many of whom have much better sales and web traffic than I do. There was also a significant amount of article reading as well. Then a huge brain-dump lunch with my ever-patient husband.

So…now what?

I’m going to open up at Etsy shop. It’s will have specific pieces of artwork that are not offered in my online shop. I’ve gone through my inventory and made decisions about items I will pull from my own shop as well. This will take some time for me to get up and running. Remember, I’m still got all kinds of other irons in the fire that require regular tending!

I have no delusions. Etsy will not be a magical fix. I’ve done my research. As well as making sure that the decisions I make are ones that not only ‘feel right‘ but are also things that I can accomplish. Mentally and emotionally I am in agreement. My frustrations have been quieted, and my clinical depression managed.

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

 

 

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One of Four

Uncovering meaning:

Long-time readers of my blog know that the meanings of my artwork evolve during the time in which I’m actively creating it. I may have an idea of where a piece might be going, but try hard not to become too attached to a specific theme or direction. The four box dolls that I’ve been working on started out as one thing in my mind. Then they decided that they were going to go off in a completely different direction. Not wanting to force myself on them, I let the art direct me creatively.

I generally work in even-numbered groups while creating my art. There isn’t any other reason than, it feels right to me. A group of four dolls, that will be contained in frames/boxes with hang tabs-like looking elements, is what I call a set. All four items belong to the singular artistic expression. They belong together.

My initial idea was to have the dolls contained within the frames/boxes (box frames?) each represent a type of doll that I would have wanted to purchase when I was a child. The types of dolls that were sold like this when I was a child didn’t appeal to me. Barbie dolls didn’t fit into how I played with or created by own dolls. Nowadays, I see so many different types of small dolls in stores that I would have saved my money to purchase. As a creative maker, it seemed obvious to fuse what I wanted and didn’t have, with what I could create myself now.

Where we parted ways:

In retrospect, I suppose it was silly of me to attempt this. Evidently, my subconscious thought the same thing. As I continued to work on the four box dolls, none of the ideas I came up with seemed correct. “Oh! I’ll make this one a scientist!” Why?! I never wanted to be a scientist. Or, “I could make this one an astronaut!” Again. I never, ever, ever, ever wanted to be an astronaut. Did I want to fly the Millennium Falcon? Damn skippy I did!

Then I thought about perhaps using the dolls to show different stages. You know? Like maiden, matron and crone? Something akin to that. But that didn’t fit, or feel right either. The four dolls kept staring at me and trying to tell me what they wanted to be, but I wasn’t listening. I liked the idea of showing different stages, or pages…perhaps chapters of myself. But I just wasn’t sure how to do that. Or even why I would want to do that.

Then I figured it out.

What I was trying to say:

We never remain completely the same over the entirety of our lives. Individuals are continually learning, growing and changing. There are times and places within out lives where we were really “into” something. We go overboard reading a specific author, or listening to a musician. Perhaps we cannot get enough of learning about a time in history, or a type of research in science, or going to the theatre. Most of the time, these hobbies and interests peak and fade. Sometimes we just lose interest. Perhaps a new interest has been sparked for us somewhere else.

There are times in which our interests can be folded into our individual life goals. A hobby can become a career. Or a passion about a subject can drive a person to choose a major for study at university that will aid them in future employment.

When the interests that I had as a much younger person met the real world, changes to how I pursued each of them changed. The interests and aptitudes evolved to fit my own talents and abilities, as well as what I was willing to do to attain them. My mathematics were never going to be good enough for me to be a veterinarian. It was a bad fit. Animals are a great love of mine, but being a vet wasn’t ever going to be a good fit for me as a career. For one, I can’t deal with the incredible sadness that comes with the death of an animal.

What the four box dolls could be changed as I thought about who I was in my early life. How I chose to pursue my passions and further my knowledge. Each of these dolls represents a distinct part of me, in that, they are tiny snapshots of who I was when I was five, or ten, or fifteen, and 20-ish. The passions, interests, hopes, dreams, and goals that I had when I was so much younger haven’t left me. They have merely been folded into my personal identity. They are who I have become.

One of four:

There is one of the group of four box dolls that has had staying power for me. It’s become a cornerstone of my personal and professional identity. Through every imagined future career or profession, art was always there. Being an artist is something that has never, ever left me. It’s my personal boon and bane. The life preserver that sometimes confuses the holy hell out of me. Even when my professional art career isn’t going as well as I had hoped, my passion for it has never dimmed.

However, there has been a change in how I see myself as an artist, and how I ‘thought’ being an artist would be in real life. Part of that has to do mainly with the fact that I’ve not yet fully discovered the place in which I and my artwork fit within the larger world conversation of art. Artist? Crafter? Artisan? (As I typed that, I actually rolled my eyes.) I feel as though I will always struggle with this question. It’s just nagging imposter syndrome. And it’s terrifically annoying.

Long story longer:

Each of the four dolls in this set will represent different aspects of who I was when I was a certain age. I have chosen the descriptor of ‘aspect’ as it relates better to the overall concept of personal identity that seems to permeate every piece of artwork that I create. The interests and aspirations of these former me’s are still very much alive within me. Each adding their own acquired knowledge and expertise to my work as an artist.

Names are hard:

I struggle at times to give titles to my artwork. The dolls seem to be easy to name by comparison. As of right now, I’ve been calling this set “The Four Box Dolls” which sounds rather lame if you ask me. Perhaps a better and more apt name will come to me after the entire piece is finished.

So, now what?

As always, I need to get back to work. I have three different pieces of artwork in process. This is way too many if you ask me. I feel stretched thin mentally speaking. There are other pieces that I want to start work on, but will hold off on that until I have the three pieces directly in front of me finished. If there were only more hours in a day. (Sigh.)

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.

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Workspace Cleaning

With the arrival of spring in Finland, comes the ever-increasing amount of daylight every day. From the end of November through to the end of February, the amount of sunlight we get isn’t great by any stretch of the imagination. Consequently, accumulated dust isn’t necessarily visible, or perhaps better said, not bothersome, during the long, dark days of winter. The arrival of spring changes all of that. Now we I can see the dust-bunnies the size of some of the hares out in the fields!

Winter creative nesting:

I spent a lot of last autumn and winter creating artwork that would be in a public exhibition space. Once the artwork was taken down, most of it returned to our small apartment. Everything felt a bit more crowded after this. The creative mess accumulated during the creation of the artwork was now living side by side with the finished artwork.

My creating continued, even though my work space was becoming increasingly difficult to work in. At one point, I honestly felt like I was just tossing recyclables onto an ever-growing pile that had taken over a corner of my workspace. There was no way that this could go on much longer.

Small creative workspace:

It’s been mentioned here quite a few times, that the space in which I’m creating my artwork is not big. It’s more of less one third of our living room. My husband works in the kitchen, with his own desk and shelves. As a writer, he doesn’t require the amount of space for tools, materials and supplies that I do.

I try very hard to keep all of my creative workspace as neat and orderly as possible. My husband’s a very understanding man though. He knows that my work requires more space. When the majority of those materials are recyclables, storage can become a bit midden-like.

Cardboard and carton board:

I use a lot of recycled materials that I’ve scavenged from communal recycling bins, or our own recycling. Knowing that a certain percentage of my artwork was once something that was tossed out as trash or recycling is something that I absolutely love. Not only does it help cut the cost of materials for me, it also lends meaning to my work, by way of metaphor.

These materials take up a lot of space and can quickly get out of hand if you’re not keeping on top of them. The vast majority of the recycled materials that I had to clean up was my cardboard and carton board. Most of what I had on hand consisted of  cardboards in the form of small, oddly shaped pieces of that were not usable for my larger work.

The better part of a day was taken sorting through the mountain of cardboard and carton board that I had on hand. An entire large, Ikea bag was needed for the cardboard and carton board scraps that went into the recycling bins.

Plastics:

Our apartment complex now has plastics recycling. I felt a little better the fact that plastics that I had been keeping for my artwork could be recycled if I decided that I didn’t want or need them. Over the past year, I have been pointedly trying to not purchase items with too much plastic packaging, while at the same time trying to use more recyclable plastics in my artwork.

Some plastics have gone into recycling during the cleaning and organizing. While others have gone into an “I’m not sure” bag. This bag will need to be gone through once more, so that I can make final decisions about specific pieces of plastic.

There’s a large part of me that is still very much an art teacher. I was always on the look-out for plastic tubs with lids that I could put art supplies in, or mix paints in. For me as an art teacher, those are gold! That being said, I will still go through the “I’m not sure” bag and recycle what I cannot immediately use.

Sewing materials:

My sewing materials, especially my threads had gotten scarily out of control over the past few months. I went through everything. All of my threads were consolidated. Making sure that I had them all stored in the same place. Getting rid of useless scraps that I would never be able to use. Happily discovering another spool of white thread too!

A lot of my sewing materials, notions, buttons, etc., have now been organized neatly and stored in those lovely (and free!) clear, plastic, bulk candy tubs from the grocery store. Each of the plastic tubs in see through, and labeled on the side and the top. This is so that I’m able to quickly identify by sight what’s in each individual storage tub.

Lots of odds and ends:

In addition to all the cardboards and sewing materials, I needed to sort through all of my odd bits of materials too. Some of my materials, like wooden components, were stored in three different places on my desk and in un-labeled boxes. Yuck! I now have a single box for my wooden components. My glitter, wiggly eyes and sequins are all in a separate box. Pom-pom makers are in a box next to my small store-bought acrylic and wool pom-poms.

Each of the labeled boxes is within a step or two of my desk, and is clearly labeled. My sewing storage is on one shelf. I put my painting supplies on another. All of my glues now in two places (down from four!). Big bottles in a tray I can pull off the shelf, and my tiny bottles of Loc Tite type glues, glue sticks and rarely used glue gun are in a drawer at my desk.

Lost and found:

During my cleaning, I found dolls that I had completed, but for some reason hadn’t put in my shop. Quite a few of them need only a few small things completed to be finished too. I think that the reason that I (more or less) forgot about these dolls is because I was trying out some new clothing patterns on them. Most of the time, these sorts of dolls are not usually offered for sale. These dolls don’t have any glaring flaws, so I can see them going into the shop.

More things to make into art:

There were other items that I discovered during my cleaning that I’d like to find a way to use or finish-up. Sometimes I make multiple components, like buttons, beads or drawer pulls, out of air dry clay or paper mâché. I do this just in case something breaks or warps weirdly to the point that I cannot use it. When this doesn’t occur, I’m left with little extra bits from finished pieces.

I found some air dry doll blanks that I experimented with, but for some reason, never finished. There’s also a spare set of doll arms and legs that look a lot like the dolls Turk Tank, Piiing Tree, and Purple Fork. I’m looking forward to what I can do with these, and all the other small pieces and components that I found.

So, what now?

Well, back to work for me. Now that I have enough space to work in, and the ability to find everything that I need to work, I can’t wait!

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

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The Art of Failure

No one enjoys failure. Frankly, it sucks. A lot. It’s something that everyone avoids as much as humanly possible.Living a life free of failure isn’t at all possible. As much as failure sucks, it can be an extremely good teacher. Even if the lessons are hard to completely understand.

One of the many things that I like about being an artist is that it’s taught me to be okay with failure. I have no problem failing at getting an idea to work. Sometimes, the failure is an incomplete understanding of how the materials will work, or work together. This kind of failure is small. It takes place on my desk. Where no one is watching. So no one ever has to know. My failures can remain just between me and the failure.

Social media:

I create a lot of artwork. My husband describes me as ‘prolific’ when it comes to creating my artwork. During the past three years, social media has become in increasingly important part of the overall creating and marketing of my artwork. I post every day on social media sites like Instagram. And a little less often on sites like Imgur. I have come to rely on social media to advertise when I have new items in my shop, new blog posts to read, as well as when I have a sale.

My main Instagram page is dedicated to showing my art creating processes. Even though I show a great deal of my creative process, I never show everything. These photos are curated to a certain extent. Thought given to exactly which photos I think will show my artwork or artistic process in the best possible light before posting.

I have several different series of pieces going right now. A series of brooches that have tiny dolls in them. Another small series of four 12 cm dolls that will be displayed in small niche-like frames. And a series I’ve simply been calling ‘the bottle dolls’, which are larger, and more complicated paper mâché dolls, with lots of moving parts. Of the three series, I’ve been seeing the brooches as a creative failure.

What initially went wrong:

It’s not that one big element during the creation of the brooches went wrong. Rather, it was a series of smaller failures that, as they began to accumulate, began making me interpret them as a failure. Each of the failures required me to create a solution that would either fix or hid the failure.

Right out of the gate, the first failure was a design flaw. Originally, I wanted to have the lids of the brooches swivel on a wooden peg to open and close. Laminated carton board was what I planned on using for the swiveling lid. The carton board was too thin, even when laminated to five layers thick. It just tore apart when I attempted to put a hole in it for the wooden peg. The key problem was that even when laminated, the carton board wasn’t strong enough at .5 mm width.

I changed the design of the lids to a lid with a lip that would be more secure. It’s second nature to me to leave about .2 mm between moving elements of my paper mâché artwork. So this is what I did for the new lid design for the brooch. But, I had absolutely no intentions of using paper mâché on surfaces of the brooches. I was only going to use gesso. The finished lids were too big. They wouldn’t stay on the brooch base.

Fixing the problems:

Okay. I needed to fix the lids so that they would stay on the brooch. Initially, I didn’t think this was a big problem. My first solution was to simply attach a thin (.2 mm) strip of felt to the inside of the lid. With this added, the lid should have stayed on the brooch.

Well, that didn’t happen. The lids just kept falling off. With no lid, the teeny- tiny dolls inside the brooch just fell out. This problem was insanely frustrating to me. I set aside the brooches for more than a week to think about possible solutions. There was only one option; I had to remove the felt that I had glued inside the lid.

I used new X-acto blades, a pair of tweezers to remove the felt and glue from the inside of the brooch lids. Doing this created another problem. There were bits of felt that I couldn’t get off of the painted surface of the lid, no matter how much I scraped and tweezed. Sanding would have been an option, had the plastic window not already been attached to the inside of the lid.

Quickly multiplying problems:

At this point, the insides of the lids looked like absolute garbage. I was seriously ready to make a tiny bonfire out of the lot of them. Part of me thinks it was sheer stubbornness that kept me from doing exactly that. If I were to give up at this point, I wouldn’t have learned anything from the mistakes. And there was the time and materials wasted. That all just chaps my butt something fierce.

My next solution was to glue in thin strips of paper, where the thin strips of felt had been. The paper and glue would add a little thickness and hopefully the lids would stay on. Nope. Didn’t work. The lids still fell off. And the glued in paper looked so absolutely disgustingly horrible that I thought I might actually cry.

I had mixed a lot of the paint colours for the brooches in air-tight containers. I decided to use the paint to hide the lumpy, horrible looking paper inside the brooch lids. After three coats of paint, they started looking better. I think that each lid needed between four and six coats of paint before I was pleased with the look.

Tiny windows:

Originally, the plastic window of the brooch was designed to be sandwiched between layers of carton board. I put this aside with the swivel lid design. Instead, I had cut the plastic sheeting to size and simply popped it into the underside of the brooch. Part of me thought that perhaps it could be free-floating inside the lid. But I soon saw that I needed to permanently attach them with glue.

I chose Gorilla glue to attach the windows into place. It was so, so, so the wrong choice! As the glue dried, it formed tiny, frothy, orange-tinted bubbles that I could see! It looked disgusting! While using the paint to try and hide how horrible the glue and paint looked, I accidentally smudged some of the paint over the plastic. The horrible glue mess was covered up! It looked pretty okay. So I painted over the plastic to hide the ugly glue on all of the brooch lids.

Problems with plastic:

Again, I feel as though I was going from one problem to another with these brooches. When I cut the plastic for the brooch lids, I made sure that each piece of plastic fit snuggly inside the lid. Once each lid had a piece of plastic, the Gorilla glue was added and the plastic popped-into the lid. It should have been easy.

What I didn’t realize until the Gorilla glue was already set, was that in about four of the brooch lids, the plastic didn’t lay completely flat up against the lid opening. This meant that the lid would sit crooked on the top of the brooch. So now, I had crooked plastic, weird, frothy, orange-tinted glue visible, and the lids would still not stay on the brooches.

What the in the cinnamon-toast-hell do I do now?!

Honestly, I just was so mad at myself. I made so many extremely stupid mistakes with these brooches. There were parts that looked great. The dolls were super-cute. I liked how the inside linings in felt looked. Decorative elements on the surfaces of the brooches I drew in coloured pencil looked exactly how I wanted them to look.

Those stinkin’ brooch lids though! They looked so amateurish to me. Somehow, they didn’t feel up to the caliber of my previous artwork. But as much as the brooch lids were frustrating the hell out of me, I just kept working on them. There had to be a solution to the problems that I had created myself.

The first stage is acceptance:

I accepted that there was no way to completely solve all of the problems that I saw in the artwork. There are flaws in all of my artwork that only I see. I had to allow myself to finish the ten teeny-tiny doll brooches and then to move on. Otherwise, I was going to trap myself in a negative feedback loop.

Yeah, the lids do not look like I planned them to look. On the positive side of things, the part that I feel doesn’t look great is on the inside of the closed brooch. And after all of the problem solving I went through, all the lids stay on the brooches now. That was the biggest problem I was solving for after all.

Lessons learned:

As I said at the very beginning of this blog post, failure sucks. No one likes failing. Especially when it’s in front of a lot of people. Perhaps on social media? It’s embarrassing. These mistakes made me feel like I knew absolutely nothing about how to create artwork. But, perhaps that’s a good thing. We all need a little dose of humble pie now and again.

Each of the problems, failures, etc., that were made during the creation of the teeny-tiny doll brooches taught me something about my materials and techniques. And also a lot about the questions I need to ask myself while still in the early design phases of any new kind of construction technique.

I also had to try and cut myself some slack regarding some of the specific problems like the plastic.  I haven’t been using plastic for very long in my artwork. There is still more to learn regarding its’ use. In retrospect, I should have used at least one layer of newsprint and glue on the surfaces of the brooch and lid as well. This would have made sanding a must, giving me a smoother surface to work on. Giving myself some slack sounds easy, but it’s harder than it sounds. I’ll get there, eventually.

Shop worthy?

I’m a working artist. My artwork needs to be sold so that I can pay my bills. The time, energy and materials that went into creating the teeny-tiny doll brooches would be wasted (in a monetary sense) if they were not to be put into my shop. Knowing that there was one element (the underside of the lid) that still makes me roll my eyes while sighing heavily meant that I had to come up with a middle-of-the-road solution.

My solution is to reduce the price. You can see each of the brooches in my shop here. They are each one-of-a-kind, tiny pieces of completely imperfect, handmade artwork, based on specific objects, people, history and culture that goes into all of the artwork I create.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.

 

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Time and Meaning

There never seems to be enough time to get the amount of work completed that I want. Even when working every day of the week, there is always something that isn’t as far along as I would like. Or feels stuck in one specific stage of creation. Having more ideas than time in which to create them is better than having all the time in the world and no ideas at all.

Four bottle dolls:

These four dolls epitomize my feelings of being stuck in one specific stage of creation. Application of the sealant to all of the paper mâché surfaces takes such a long time to complete. Just last night I finished the arms and legs. Once they were completed, I decided that the bottle-shaped torsos required additional coats of sealant to better match the surfaces of the arms, legs and heads.

I use a mixture of water and Eri-Keeper glue as a sealant for my paper mâché pieces. It protects the painted surfaces extremely well. The difficult part of using this mixture is that it takes multiple layers to achieve the surface look that I’m after artistically. Eri-Keeper isn’t as shiny as acrylic semi-gloss or gloss that I’ve used in the past.

When multiple layers of the Eri-Keeper sealant are dry, they take on a sheen like an M&M candy. Incidentally, it’s when I want to actually take a bite out of my artwork that I know I have enough layers of sealant applied. For some pieces, especially small pieces, anywhere between six and eight coats is sometimes enough to achieve this effect. I’ve applied about two dozen coats to all of the pieces of the bottle dolls.

Button components:

The button components were made earlier in the week. Making them didn’t take very long. I think I completed them in around four hours. The most difficult part was creating shapes for the button components, then bending and shaping them over and around the different forms. Then they were left to dry over night. After drying thoroughly, they needed sanding, painting and sealant.

I’m still using the air dry clay from Flying Tiger. It’s the best air dry clay I’ve ever worked with. Many air dry clays I tried to use with students in my art classroom have been total rubbish. They crumbled, dried out and seemed to break with the least amount of handling.

By contrast, the Flying Tiger air dry clay stands-up to some rough handling. Including a tremendous amount of shaping, via sanding. Strange as it may seem, it actually took several hours longer to sand and shape the button components than to actually make them!

Doll stands:

The idea finally came together for the doll stands a few nights ago. Once I started cutting patterns and working with the cardboard, all four came together incredibly quickly. These stands will not be covered with paper mâché. Fabric will be used to cover the surfaces of the stands.

I learned a lot about using fabric as a covering for some of the pieces that I showed at Matara earlier in the year. Hopefully, those lessons will serve me well when I begin the fabric work on the stands.

New meanings:

Part of the learning for me as an artist is in how the artwork begins to become its own ‘thing’ as it’s created. This applies to how the physical artwork is created, as well as the thoughts, meditations and ideas that come about as a result of the act of creation. It sounds strange, but that’s how a large part of my personal creative process works more often than not.

I saw the influence of kachina in the ways I had formed the heads, arms and legs of these four dolls. I say ‘influence’ in the design of some of the parts of the dolls. The meaning behind the kachina that the indigenous people of the southwestern United States create is NOT something that I would ever attempt to copy or emulate. I would never use a culture and a history that is not mine as a stylistic choice.

What I did begin to think about was how I as the artist imbue my artistic creations with an element of my own identity. That part of my identity that I do feel is connected to the divine. These four dolls are specific to me. They’re like my own personal guardians. This got me thinking…

Lares:

I remembered reading about how the Romans had a classification (?) of guardian deities or spirits that were called Lares. These lares didn’t have specific names, but they were associated with ancestor worship, hero worship and protection. You can read more about them here.

The concept of the lares gives me latitude to decide what exactly I would like my four bottle dolls to be. If these four are to be akin to lares, then what or whom will they protect? And how can I show that in the artistic representation? There are so many possibilities swirling around in my mind. I’m sure that the four bottle dolls will help me along.

Well, crud:

Today I learned that an art workshop that I was to teach this upcoming Tuesday has had to be cancelled due to COVID restrictions. I cannot say that I’m not disappointed. Teaching art is my second favourite thing to do besides creating art! The person who contracted me to teach a Worry Doll Workshop has rescheduled the workshop for early May. So, I’ll still get to teach! And it’ll be so much easier to wheel my suitcase full of supplies to the venue! Right now everything is sloppy-squishy-slush!

Now what?

Well, for one thing. I’m going to add the last half dozen coats of sealant to the torsos of the four bottle dolls. Then I’m going to start planning the colours for the insides of the torsos. Oh! And I need to make a pattern for the clear plastic windows too! Well, you all know what happens after, ‘now what?’ I get back to making art!

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday!

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Arena Work

It’s strange how time can be flying by at an alarming rate, while at the same time, standing stock still. For me, a large part of this seems to come from the fact that here in Central Finland, we still have tonnes of snow on the ground. Along with temperatures in the high negatives. It’s the same weather we’ve had for months. At the same time the last two months have just sliced through the first part of the year with amazing speed and accuracy.

My daily journal keeps me on track and moving forward. Even though the snow just will not going away anytime soon, I’m still at my work table creating every, single day.

Painting:

The gesso was completed on the bottle dolls. And the painting begun. Like most of my artwork, I approached the painting of the base coats with an “I know” frame of mine. Once the base coats were dry, the plan was to add some more decorative paint elements. I’ve done a lot of this in the past. Especially with my larger, paper mâché pieces.

The base coats of paint are never just two or three coats. These bottle dolls took around six (and some spot painting)  final coats of paint for the base coat. I’m not sure if this has anything to do with my changing of my gesso recipe or not. Time and further work with this gesso recipe will tell.

There is always a point in the first two or three coats of the base paint that I inwardly cringe and say, “Oh crap. I’ve made a horrible mistake.” This was the case with these four dolls as well. Man! They looked extremely rough during the first few coats of paint. I mean, garbage-like rough. It was around paint coat number four that I finally began to unclench and decide the pieces looked okay.

Colour choices:

There was not a whole lot of thinking about the colours I chose to mix for these four bottle dolls. In my head I do remember thinking, “I need two warm and two cool colours.” But not much beyond that. Nor did I make any spectacularly in-depth thinking about which doll would get what paint. That being said, I did discover that I had made some of the colour choices in a subconscious manner.

Realizing the aforementioned didn’t happen until I had completed the decorative painting over top of the base coats of paint. Each of the dolls had additional paint applied with different textures. The yellow doll has its additional paint colours applied with sponge. The purple doll with bubble wrap. The green doll with cling film and the orange doll with my own hand.

Subliminal:

The yellow doll ended-up reminding me so much of butter. Even her head. It’s a butter cube. The purple doll ended up recalling a storybook I had as a child, Put me in the Zoo. The green doll is a watermelon. And the final red-orange doll reminds me of a kachina.

Somewhere in all that in-between space, parts of my lived experience got stuck to the artwork without my even being aware of it. This can be simultaneously cool and really unnerving at the same time. Why did my brain pick these things to place into the artwork I’m creating right now? Butter. Really?

Next steps:

The four bottle dolls will have some additional elements drawn onto their surfaces. I have to wait until the pieces are as dry as humanly possible. Otherwise, the drawing tools will make indentations in the painted surfaces of the doll. The surfaces can even be punctured if I’m not careful.

I have an idea of where I want to go with the drawings on the surface of these four dolls. I’m going to play around with the same concepts on the four rectangular boxes I made prior to the four bottle dolls. The four boxes are bone dry. They also have the advantage of being relatively flat surfaces. Making them so much easier to draw on.

Brooches:

The teeny doll brooches are also bone dry. They too can have the surfaces finished with either more paint or drawing. They are so terribly small. I don’t want to over-do it on the decoration of the surfaces. That would just make them too busy I think. I found some pin backs for the brooches last week. So I’m in a good position to finish them and get them into my online shop.

Something completely different:

I had an interesting…communication (?) on another social platform regarding the four bottle dolls I discussed earlier. It was an comment that instructed me to “unmake” my artwork. Now, I’m a trained, degree-carrying graphic designer. Art school, and especially my graphic design and illustration courses, did an excellent job teaching me how to critique work. This comment was in no way, shape or form a valid critique of the artwork I posted.

This ham-fisted, semi-coherent, decidedly negative critique of my artwork was just, for lack of a more accurate word, dumb. It felt like the least informed or intelligent person you know attempting to make you feel bad because you’re doing something that they aren’t able to do. And while the words are oozing from the dank bits of their communication innards, they think themselves the funniest person on the planet.

So…yeah. That happened. I did not engage them, other than to say, “No.” And a total stranger came to my aid with similar sentiments. The whole thing was just so weird and out of left field. The Transitory Property of Assholery prevented me from from further engagement with the little squidget. As we all know, when you call out a person for being an a-hole, you too become an a-hole in the eyes of everyone witnessing the exchange.

So now what?

I get back to work. There is a lot of art to make, and only so many hours in a day.

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

 

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In Between

My artwork never travels in a straight line. The way in which I’ve been creating since the completion of the Creative Experiment has been the greatest influence upon that. I would also add that I’m a fairly impatient artist. Wanting my artwork to ‘get done faster‘! This is especially difficult when working with glue and gesso.

Half of the artwork that I’m currently working on seems to fall rather neatly into the above description. At times, I need to remind myself that completing my artwork quickly isn’t the main goal. My artwork needs to take the time it needs to help me create it and myself.

Bottles:

My fascination with Erittäin Heino Suomalainen bottles has been documented several times in my blog. They were used for the legs of Blue Doll #10. There is just something about them that speaks to me on a creative level.  Perhaps it’s because they are so distinctively shaped?

About a week ago, I decided to cut one of the bottles I had on hand in half. Then add paper mâché and gesso to the surface. One bottle, cut in two, became two bottles cut in two. Part of the reason for my doing that is because I wanted to have options for the artistic ideas I wanted to use.

Here’s the interesting thing; what these pieces are becoming is not exactly what I initially had in mind for them.

Between:

Just as it’s difficult to satisfactorily describe how I “just know” what do create as an artist. It’s equally as difficult to explain how I change the direction of a piece of artwork mid-creation. Again, it comes down to something similar to “I just know“. Which, even as I type it seems as if I’m not being truthful. Because I don’t always know.

Between the “I know” and “I don’t know” for myself as an artist is the place in where the creative decisions are made. My knowing and not knowing exist simultaneously. With a lot of space between the two, linking them. This in between space is where every artistic outcome is completely possible. Being ability to navigate this strange space is where the artwork is created over and over and over again. Each time with a different end product. My job as the artist is to choose one final shape and bring it in the physical world.

For anyone looking at the final, physical artistic creation, this is what the artist wanted to make. For me, it is only one of infinitely different outcomes. Knowing this propels me as an artist to go back to that in between space to explore more options for the artwork that I create.

Evolution:

The original idea I had for these bottles didn’t seem like it was ‘enough’. The imagined finished piece wasn’t what I felt it needed to be. Within that in between space, is so much stuff. By ‘stuff’ I mean basically everything. There are portions of this space that I actively attempt to bypass too.

There are hard and fast reasons for bypassing some of these places within the in between space. Some of it has to do with styles, some with design. And there are some things that are too emotional. So I just bypass them. They aren’t locked away. I see them. They are acknowledged. I just choose to leave them floating around.

One of the designs that I had been bypassing were fixed, rigid legs. From what I can understand about myself creatively, this comes from a deep childhood desire to have some of my own toys have articulated heads and limbs. These design elements are ones I find so satisfying to look at and manipulate that they have become fairly standard in my doll design.

What’s in that bypass?

The fixed, rigid leg construction for the four bottle dolls just would not let me go. No matter how much I thought about it. This type of leg was the answer. I let go of my fear and just decided to go with it. Then, I started looking at how I would design and create the heads for the dolls.

The “I know” part took over. Each of these dolls would have geometric forms for heads. Period. No more thinking about it. It’s just how they much be created. I made a few sketches to see if I really, really wanted to make heads like this. And the answer was yes.

As I began creating the arms and legs. Then the heads. Some of the bypassed places in that in between space began to come to the surface of my thoughts. That’s when it hit me. What I was beginning to create was similar to the memory of a doll-like toy I’d had when I was very young. The toy kind of freaked me out a little bit. But I liked it a great deal. I was cheap and plastic. More than likely, it was tossed out before I was 10 years old.

Sticky thoughts:

I knew this had to be true, because I had the “I know” feeling. Again. I cannot explain it well. It’s a physical sensation. It’s mental too. Ha! While writing this, I gave it all a test. I thought about the pieces I’m working on. Pulled in the bypassed plastic doll memory, as well as the bypassed rigid, fixed legs. And yep. Totally got the “I know” feeling.

For quite some time, I have believed that the reason I make the artwork that I make, specifically dolls and toy-themed artwork, was because I was making them for the child I was. That somehow, I would have chosen them as my toys instead of mass-produced dolls and toys. But I think it may go a bit deeper than that.

Why specifically would I spend so much time in an extremely specific and short period of my childhood? While the above reasons are true. I think that a greater portion of my rationale may have to do with control. Control of who and what I am. How I think. Where I go. Who I interact with. Perhaps control is too limiting a concept. Perhaps autonomy is a better descriptor.

New meaning:

All of the above being said, and to make a long story just a little longer, I feel as though I’m working in the correct direction with regard to the four bottle dolls (as I’m calling them right now). Working on them is helping me to create myself. Or perhaps know myself in a greater sense. Man. That in between space is wild. I never know quite what I’ll find in there!

Abrupt change of topic:

Gesso. While I’ve been working on the four bottle dolls, changes have been made to my homemade gesso recipe. I decided to try using chalk instead of plaster in my mixture. I’m quite pleased with the results so far. It’s far easier to sand than the plaster based gesso. There are still places in which the paint surface is bumpy. But I’ve found some solutions to this problem that I will be trying in an upcoming batch of gesso.

I’ve also added some talc to the mixture. I like how it gives the gesso added body. And it makes the gesso smoother to paint onto the surfaces worked on. I’ve also finally realized that I need to actually create a recipe for my gesso that can be replicated. Presently, I’ve just been creating the gesso from ‘feel’. As in, it needs more water, it’s too thick. Or I need to grind the chalk a little more, it feels to lumpy.

So…now what?

The concepts and designs of the bottle dolls are working well. And in a direction that I find extremely satisfying. I’m getting my gesso recipe closer and closer to what I want and need it to be for my artwork. OH! And of the four boxes for 12 cm dolls and the 10 tiny doll brooches have been painted! I’ve set them aside so that they can dry completely (five to seven days) and then I can add more paint and drawing to the surfaces of them.

So…yeah. My work is progressing. In the physical world and the emotional world.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.

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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.

 

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Important Parts

There are a myriad of components, mental and physical, that I enjoy during the creation of my artwork. The interesting part is that not all of these parts are enjoyable. But that’s life, isn’t it? To me, what’s the most important is that I learn something valuable during the creating my art. The physical artwork may be sold. But the experience is mine.

No one likes to make mistakes. They are time and materials wasted. As an artist that posts a lot of art-in-process pictures on my Instagram account, showing a failure is embarrassing. It’s humanizing, but still embarrassing.

(To see pictures of my work in progress, you can check out my Instagram account here.)

Brooches:

If you’re a reader of my blogs, you know that there is a certain amount of creating that I do mentally. The ideas go back and forth between paper and my brain until I sit down and begin creating. A great deal of the materials I use are ones that I’m very familiar with. So it’s not difficult for me to mentally turn the piece around in my head; creating it virtually.

My problems with the design were three fold. First being that I didn’t take into account how small I was working. Methods of laminating carton board with glue work well when creating larger work. Lids for the brooches were 5.5 to 6 cm long with a frame of between .4 to .6 mm. The laminated carton board was so difficult to cut cleanly with an X-Acto knife. And it wouldn’t stand up to sanding either. It just smushed-up and fell apart.

Second, the super-simple peg hinge was just not robust enough to handle having the lid slid back and forth repeatedly. This movement also highlighted the fragility of the laminated carton board. Two of the lids simply tore at the hole made for the peg hinge. And there was no way to mend them satisfactorily.

The third and last design problem was that I hadn’t taken into account what the finished pieces were intended to be. Brooches are meant to be worn. And they will get a certain amount of jostling around when worn. My original lid design was not secure enough to prevent the tiny doll inside from potentially falling out and being lost.

Fixing the brooches:

For a while I toyed around with ways in which I could repair the flimsy lids and peg hinges. All of them would result in creating more work to cover for the mistakes I made. To make matters worse, these cover-ups were just not any good. From a design and engineering perspective.

I had some book board left-over from a class I took last autumn. It’s .2 mm thick and stands-up to sanding. Cutting the board was a bit of a challenge. So many curves! I made sure to take my time, as well as several breaks when I found myself getting frustrated. I added a lip around the outside edges of the lids as well. So in the finished product, the lids will stay put. No little lost dolls will occur!

Large rectangular boxes:

Yes. I made a mistake with these four pieces as well. While the mistake won’t require a tremendous amount of additional work. Part of me is just angry that I made such a stupid mistake. Especially since it was one of the very first of the lessons I learned working with cardboard and carton board!

I use carton board as a veneer over the corrugated cardboard in my work. The reason being is that when corrugated cardboard gets wet, it begins to break down. It gets ripply, and stays that way even after drying. My theory is that the gesso I make kind of freezes the rippling into place when drying. Seeing the rippling surface is distracting.

Adding the carton board veneer just keeps the underlying corrugated cardboard from getting too wet. And it preserves a (relatively) flat surface to paint and draw on. My plan for these four boxes is to line them with felt. Veneering them seemed a waste of time and materials. Long story longer, I should have veneered them.

Why? Because in addition to being ripply, they took twice as long to dry than if I had veneered them. Each of the boxes has around eight layers of newsprint and glue on top of the cardboard. The glue saturated the un-veneered corrugated cardboard and took twice as long to dry completely. Around 48 hours.

Fixing the boxes:

Well, there’s nothing much to fix at this point. I still intend to cover the insides with felt. There will still be a plastic window over each of the fronts of the boxes. I have several different designs I want to try for the boxes. These boxes are meant to protect and display the doll. But I would like to make the doll removable as well.

My bigger problem with these pieces is what to call these specific types of boxes. The design of the box is influenced by action figures (dolls) that can be purchased at stores. The hang tab isn’t meant to be used as a hanger. A separate hanger will be added to the back of the finished piece.

Are they shadow boxes? Box frames? Just frames? Display frames? Packaging? It really bugs me that I can’t settle on a name. They are an integral part of the finished piece. Not simply a frame to display it on a wall. Even though that is one of the things it can do. Weird.

New gesso recipe:

I’m also trying out a new gesso ingredient. Chalk. To be specific, ground-up sticks of chalk I purchased at the store. The reason I’m experimenting with chalk is because I’ve been having problems with the plaster forming nodules within the liquid gesso. I tried sieving it. I also tried squeezing it through cheese cloth. Both had limited success.

The nodules that the plaster formed made sanding miserable at times. I couldn’t quite get rid of all them either. Meaning that I had to figure out how to either make it part of the surface texture, or minimize it through the painting and surface decoration.

I’m still trying to get the chalk ground the way that I want it to be. A mortar and pestle has been cobbled together, utilizing a thick, clear glass container and an empty bottle. The coarsely crushed chalk is added to the glass container and ground finer with the bottle. Any small nodules of chalk that do make it through the process can be easily crushed with my finger while wet. Or sanded off when dry, leaving little evidence of their existence on the surface of the art.

Now what?

Well, I’m at that monotonous stage of adding layer after layer of gesso on each piece. It’s not a whole lot of fun. Usually, it takes about ten minutes before I find a working groove, and can just pick-up, paint, put-down and repeat over and over again. The lessons I learned with regard to the brooches will be very helpful to me in the future. Especially considering that I’m having a lot of fun creating the teensie-tiny, itty-bitty dolls. And see more of them in my immediate creative future.

(I kid you not. I just got an insanely cute idea for these teensie dolls. Damn. How did I NOT see that idea before!)

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.

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A Place for Everything

There are several times during any given day in which I find myself muttering, “Now where did I put that…

It’s been said that artists and creative types of people require a certain amount of mess, clutter and decrepitude in their environment to adequately be able to make their art. I don’t know that I totally agree or disagree with that statement. What I know for sure is that I have A LOT of tools, materials and supplies to keep organized. And relatively easy to locate.

My training:

When I was working as an elementary art teacher with a pretty large staff of visual art teachers, mine was one of the names given to new teachers who wanted to learn how to better organize the tools, materials and supplies that they had in their inventories. Organization of a visual art classroom can seem a bit overwhelming. Creating a system for organizing everything just made the job a little easier.

Part of my organizational methodologies regarding tools, materials and supplies had to do with categories and frequency of use within the art classroom. Another part was containers and labeling. It’s a simple and flexible way or getting as little or as much organization to suit your own personal needs.

As a working artist, I rely on the aforementioned methods to keep my personal studio space as organized as possible. These methods feel more important for me at present, because my “studio” is actually just a portion of my living room. Less space requires a few tweaks to my methods. But they still work.

Categories:

My artwork is comprised of several different mediums, with accompanying tools. Storage and organization is required for painting, sewing, paper mâché, wood carving, drawing, jewelry, collage and embroidery just to name a few! There are some categories that have overlap with others as well.

When new materials and supplies are used. And the amount of the supply small. I usually store it with an overlapping category. An example: wire. Until recently, the wire that I was using was simply stored with my jewelry supplies. More wire has been acquired, and now wire has its’ own storage container.

To create your own categories, just stop and take a look at what you have. Break them down into specific categories. This can be done easily during a cleaning of your work area or studio space. You may discover that you have a lot more of some materials and supplies than you thought you did!

Frequency of use:

The more I use a tool, supply or material, the closer it is to my immediate work area. There are eleven containers on my desktop holding pens, markers, pencils, scissors, knives, measuring tools, etc. But the two to my right, containing specific pens (ballpoint and permanent) and a craft knife, small ruler, bodkin (x2), needle nose pliers, a bone folder, a doll needle and a plastic spatula type tool are the ones that I use dozens and dozens of times a day. The other nine  are a little further away.

My paints are stored off my desk. All of my newspaper (for paper mâché) are in a small cubby of a bookcase, as are my buttons, part of my beads, intaglio supplies and empty water containers. Each of these tools or supplies is used at a specific time. Meaning that I need to have something that I need to use them on to need them on my desk. My eleven containers of drawing materials and tools are better kept on my desk than on a bookcase further from my work area.

The right side of my desk is ‘temporary housing’ for some supplies. Right now, I need to have some larger bottles of white glue and paint on my desk while creating some new work. When I finish with them, they go right back to their storage places.

Labeling:

Paint is a large category that requires subcategories. I have acrylic, watercolor (pan and liquid), tempera paints that I use. Each of them is stored slightly differently. Acrylics in cardboard pallets (trays) that can be easily stacked in a storage shelf by my desk. The watercolor and tempera paints are housed in little cases. The liquid watercolor tubes are in an old cookie tin. Each are labeled with what they contain. All are kept in close proximity to one another.

I have an extraordinarily large collection of buttons. They are each stored in second hand metal tins. The buttons themselves are sorted into subcategories of color, material and vintage. Each tin is labeled with what they contain, not just on the top, but on the side so I can easily see them.

The types of labels needed need not be complicated or expensive either. Use whatever small piece of paper I have at hand, including sticky notes. What remains the same is that I use a black permanent marker to write with and I tape the label to the container.

Containers:

With the exception of a few containers, the vast majority that I have are either second hand or recycled. For smaller bits and bobs, like all those buttons I mentioned, second hand metal tins are used. I also have quite a few second hand cookie tins as well. They’re rigid and stack nicely.

I like using clear containers to store my supplies and materials. When I was teaching art, I used the largest clear plastic tubs with lids for most of the supplies for my classroom, as well as my personal studio. One look and you know what’s inside! My work space is much smaller than my previous studio. So large plastic bins just are not practical.

However, I do have dozens of clear plastic bins with lids holding a lot of my art supplies and materials. How did I get them? Easy! Bin candy is very popular here in Finland. The candy is shipped to the stores in clear plastic cube-like, lidded boxes. These boxes are left by the stocking people at the fronts of the store. They’re free for the taking. At most, they require a washing in the sink with some dish soap. The labels are just ignored, or covered with paper and the contents written on with a black permanent marker.

Conclusions:

I’m not perfect. In fact, as I type this blog post, the area around and under my desk has become what my husband calls a “crap slide”. This occurs when my recycled art materials (mostly cardboards and plastics) over-flow their containers (flat bottomed recycled grocery bags) onto the surrounding floor. And yes, I really need to do a major cleaning of my desk and workspace. As well as my supplies and materials. Sorting needs to be done with regard to my supplies and materials. A lot of sorting. So. Much. Sorting.

Guess what I’m doing later this week?!

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