I manage two studios-one at work and one at home. For both, I have some general organizing principles. If you can’t find anything in your studio space right now, I am going to make a suggestion you probably won’t enjoy very much. Stay with me now, there is a method to my madness! Dump everything out in a big pile. You read that right. Take everything off the shelves and dump out all the boxes and bags filled with a mish-mash of stuff. When you are done crying, we will get started on organizing.
Gather some containers-anything will do-coffee cans, shoe boxes, cigar boxes, tackle and tool boxes, Mason jars, Ziploc bags, etc. Start grouping like things together and placing them in containers. Don’t worry if you start to outgrow a container, just transfer everything to a larger one. Don’t worry if you have some strange groupings. I have containers marked “shreds,” “switch plates,” and “religious.” As long as you know what it means, don’t be concerned about how esoteric your collections are. Be precise with your sorting. Fabric for example can be separated by color, size, and intended use. Paint can be separated by type-watercolor, acrylic, oil, gouache. The goal is to be able to immediately put your hands on whatever you need, so be specific in your sorting. You don’t want to have to root through a big box of paint to find the liquid watercolors. Once you have everything sorted you are ready for the (sort of) fun part.
Labeling machines: own them, use them, love them. I have one for each studio and I use them all of the time. You don’t need one, but I guarantee you will surely love using it. It also just looks cleaner than using tape or handwriting your own labels. Make a label for every single container. This helps when you are really in the thick of art making because you can just “grab and go” with whatever material you need-no need to interrupt the flow to discern the contents of a container.
Whatever the size of your working space, be it an entire room or the corner of the dining room table, you are going to need some shelves. I have some inexpensive ones from Home Depot, a few donated cabinets, and some nice cabinets with doors from Ikea. Think about whether you want open storage or want to hide your materials behind curtains or doors. Both have their advantages and depending on where your storage space is you may want to have a cleaner look by having a closed cabinet. Now get that labeling machine out again! Make a label for the shelf that corresponds with the label on your container. Now you know where everything is and where to put it when you are done with it. I find this is especially important in my art therapy studio at work, as clients are easily able to retrieve and return materials to their proper spot.
I will confess that for all of it’s organizational glory, my studio is often rather messy. It’s where I drop everything at the end of the day and I often have bags of materials that I schlepp back and forth from work and school. But here’s the beautiful thing. When I clean the studio, it is a very quick process. I know exactly where everything goes. Everything has a suitable home and it is just a matter of putting things back in their place.
Happy organizing and Happy Holidays! I hope Santa brings you a labeling machine! Cheers!