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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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New Daily Journal

In the first blog post of this series detailing how I organize my time, materials and ideas for art making, I wrote about the daily journal that I maintain. Having my daily journal keeps me mentally focused and moving in one direction. At a glance, I can easily see what I’ve gotten done, and where I need to apply more of my time and energies.

My daily journal is last thing that I touch on my desk at night, and the first thing I touch in the morning. It’s important that it be at my right hand when I sit down to work in the morning. This morning, I finally had to come to terms with the fact that my current daily journal will ‘run out’ as of the 31st of March. My new daily journal would have to be put together. The sooner the better!

New daily journal:

A few weeks ago, I picked up a new blank journal at Suomalainen Kirjakauppa. It’s a little different from my current daily journal. The book itself is a little larger. The paper is thicker, nicer paper too. There’s also a dot graph, instead of a grid on the pages.

The covers are hard book board, with a large wire spiral as a binding. The spiral is large enough for a pen to fit into, which I like. There are red roses illustrated in red ink on the covers, which I’m not fond of. But, it’s not a big deal, because I can just cover it with something I like better.

Large wire spiral bindings aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. My husband detests all spiral bindings. He’s left-handed, so they can be terrifically frustrating for him to write in. I like how the spiral binding allows the book to lay completely flat. I just can’t seem to trust the bullet journals bindings. There’s a part of me that feels as though it’s going to snap shut while I’m writing in it.

Additional parts:

This particular blank journal holds only four months of the year. Believe it or not, this was a point in the books favour. I knew that I would be adding a few new features within my daily journal. These four months give me some time to see if I like the new categories and slightly altered layouts without committing to an entire year.

I’ve added a page at the beginning of each month that is simply a list of the days of the month. There’s also a sticker with the month for 2021 for reference as well. One of the things that I wanted to become better at was long-term planning for the different projects that I work on. This page will let me know (again, at a glance) when I need to post the twice weekly blogs, Go Marielle, a new monthly newsletter as well as other yet to be revealed projects.

The layout for each individual day has also been altered. I’ve added new, separate sections for Go Marielle and the monthly newsletter. And I’ve changed around some headings for each of the different sections so that they better reflect what they actually are about. “Computer Work” was too broad a term. It’s now “Social Media and Marketing”. This just makes more sense.

Colour coding:

Colour coding has always been something that I delight in creating. My favourite element of art is colour. I know when I see green in my daily journal, it has to do with art production. I’ve made yellow the colour for the blog entry category. There are a few new colours have been added for the new categories too.

When putting together my new daily journal, one thing that I wanted to make neater was the colour coding for my categories. My previous daily journal was a little scribbly and less precise than I wanted it to be. I use Stabilo highlighters to colour code my daily journal. Sometimes the highlighters smear the ink if I write first, then highlight.

The solution was to create a template that I would use to add the coloured highlights to each individual page first. Creating the template wasn’t difficult. A page from the back of the new journal was removed. The grid on the page allowed me to easily see where I wanted to create the rectangular holes in the template. The paper template was transferred to a heavier piece of paper and was ready to use.

Blue, green, purple, pink, yellow, yellow, repeat:

The template came together quickly. It took much longer to add each colour to four months of pages. The template was cut so that I just had to align the bottom edge and the first vertical row of dots. Then I added the highlighter colours. While the colours are applied in a much neater manner than my current daily journal, it doesn’t bother me that they aren’t perfect.

The paper is thicker in this new daily journal, so the highlighter doesn’t show through. This made me happier than I thought it would. I use the bright shades of Stabilo highlighters. Sometimes the ink can pop-through the paper a little, especially when you go over something twice or more.

Writing in everything:

By the time I had finished using the template to add in my colours for different sections, they were dry enough to write on. Here again, I decided to make some changes. Stabilo Point 88 Fine Line pens in colour are being used to write over top of the highlighter in each section.

I’ve written each individual day of the month at the top of each page in black permanent fine line pen. I’m also using this same pen to write the list of days as well. I need to add the numbers of the week on the individual pages. As of the time that I’m writing this blog post, I have a lot to write into my new daily journal still!

So, now what?

Well, I need to finish all of the writing for starters! There are also some additional design elements that I want to add, like divider lines between different categories for one. I’m confident that I’ll be ready to use my new daily journal on 1 April 2021!

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

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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!

 

 

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Size and Relative Dimension

This is where I make my art.

Over the past few months, I’ve been seeing pictures in magazines and posting on different internet platforms that show an artists studio. This studio could be a room in their home, an out-building, or a rented commercial space in which they create their artwork. There are times in which I find myself both green with jealousy and completely baffled at the exact same time regarding these spaces of artists and creators. Jealous when I see such lovely spaces, totally dedicated to the pursuit of creating art. Studios with big steel sinks, kilns, banks of windows, racks on which to dry prints, paintings or fabric, big, long tables with vises where large three-dimensional pieces can be constructed, as well as sections where multiple sewing machines can be set up, with adequate space to lay out, cut and store fabric and sewing supplies. Shelves upon shelves for storage of everything a given artist could possibly need or want to create their own unique pieces of art.

This all makes me green. Very, very green with envy.

Some of the photos look impossibly perfect to me though. Some look tremendously styled, with items placed here and there, ‘just so’. It makes me wonder how art can be made in such a place. Then I remind myself that photos are styled to look good, so that people will actually want to look at them and go ‘Oooooh! Ahhhhh!’ and dream about their own creative spaces where things can be ‘just so’ for them as well. Those photos are an idealised vision of what a studio could be, can be. The photographer is an artist after all, telling a story with their art.

Over the past few years, I’ve carved out what my husband affectionately calls “The Midden” My work space is at one end of our flat, with a fairly large desk, facing out onto the lake just a few hundred meters away. My tools, materials and supplies are tucked-away in boxes, bags and stashed here and there in baskets and cupboards. I have a small set of drawers to use as well. All in all, it measures a few square meters at the most. All of the artwork that I have created in the past few years has been created in this very small space. Papier maché, clay, painting, drawing, sewing, bookbinding, weaving, sewing, embroidery, appliqué, etc., has been done sitting at a small desk looking out on a lake.

When compared to the photos that I’ve been looking at, my studio space seems small and rather shabby by comparison. I mentally berate myself, telling myself that a ‘real artist’ would have a better workspace, a ‘real’ studio, something rented in an old building, where lots of other artists worked. My work would be taken more seriously then, right?

I don’t think that’s true. The idea just runs roughshod through my head, especially when I’m feeling a tinge of ‘green’ coming on. To be truthful, my physical surroundings, when it comes to the creation of my artwork is important. I need to be able to do the things I want to do, to create the types of artwork that I want to create. I’m not wealthy and my childhood taught me important lessons about ‘making do’, and my internal creative drive has made me fairly adaptable to a variety of creative workspaces and conditions.

What it all comes down to for me is that the vast majority of my creating takes place is within my own mind, and that doesn’t take up much space, so the relative smallness of my physical workspace doesn’t seem to matter in comparison.

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