Paper box, size 4

What drives you to clean out your studio?  Is it spring cleaning, or by force when you can’t find that particular scrap you are looking for to finish a project?  For me, a new year and the packing away of Christmas decorations leaves the house looking spare and sparkling.  The spare feel puts me in the mood to have the whole house looking that way.  This is the time when I attack those sorting  jobs that have been waiting.  And so, this weekend is time for my studio’s semi-annual spruce-up. 

My studio is my place to immerse, to work, so it isn’t often that I pay conscious attention to the studio itself.  During the normal course of work, I usually only really notice my studio when a tool isn’t in its correct place to my habitual reach, or I can’t find something.  The rest of the time, it is like a cocoon, surrounding me comfortingly in a blanket-like presence.  It’s not that my studio is without it’s own presence or personality – actually it is full of colour and movement, and objects to assist contemplation.  But when I’m there to work, I tend to lose myself, go so deep within that I am not aware of my surroundings much at all.  It is such a pleasure from time to time to make the shelves, drawers and cabinets of my studio the focus of my attention, to lavish loving regard on this space that serves me so faithfully year round. 

I reap the benefit of this time in so many ways.  Of course, not least of which because all (at least for now) is tidiness and organisation and I can lay my hand on what is needed easily.  However, the greater benefit is the chance to revisit with my stash, to be inspired.  The tidying, sorting process provides me with many new and surprising juxtapositions that lead to new ideas and new work.  It never ceases to fascinate me how different artists work, how they generate ideas.  My ideas come from colour.  When an idea is germinating or a new piece developing, I suddenly start to be drawn to a particular colour.  I see it everywhere, it jumps out at me in my home, or while I’m shopping, or browsing a magazine.  It is for this reason that I keep all my supplies organised by colour.  Once a colour theme starts to speak to me, I can go to my supplies and quickly and easily begin to pull materials out that fit that theme.  From there, I can pull embellishments, threads, wires and other materials to build a set to work with.  I then box these sets ready for work, and to keep themed materials together when I have to switch from one task to another.   

Work box
Work box for a sea theme collage.

Working in collage and as a bookbinder, I necessarily have a very large stash of papers.  I store them by size (size 1 being full size sheets, down to size 6, small scraps), and within size, by colour.  No scrap is too small – if it’s a nice scrap with soft edges or good pattern, it’s bound to end up in a collage one day or other.  Ephemera is filed along with the rest, by colour.  If I keep things separate, I won’t see it when I’m doing a colour browse, and it won’t get used. 

So far, I have been sorting and filing for most of the day.  And so far, I haven’t thrown much away (a few scraps and one piece of paper with a pattern I hate and know I will never use).  Along with those scraps, I’ve thrown out quite a few old ideas though, and reaped a whole bouquet of new ones.  Altogether, New Year is a time of cleansing, refreshing and renewal.  Out with the old and in with the new.  Happy New Year!