Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Studio systems

Well I am sorry folks. I promised you lots of photos of my sewing space but Blogger is refusing to let me post a single one so I shall just have to do that another time and tell you what I have been thinking instead.

Which is that my problem is much less about space than it is about systems.

For example, I do not have enough table top space in the dining room where I sew. So I end up with fabric scattered all over the table so after an hour or so it looks like a second hand clothes stall on a Ugandan street market. More ends up on the floor, or left on the ironing board which gets used as a second table ( and never put away because have to carry it all through the lounge and hall only to get it out again the next day). I need another table or eight. Or, just maybe, I need to learn to scatter less and fold more.

Another example. I created a painting space in the garage where I could make a mess. I store all my art stuff there. The day I decided to spend some time drawing in a cafe I took a plastic box and put in some pencils and pens. That box is in my work case which is in my study upstairs. Why? Because its freezing outside and the very idea of moving the stuff outside makes me curl up with anticipation of getting cold. Only the box has no home inside so it stays lurking in the way. It is true that when it is warm I like having that dedicated space for sketchbook work - it puts me in the mood because I am physically 'in the zone'. Its true that I cannot dye or monoprint inside the house without endangering good furniture. But a system of 'winter storage' which allowed me to have a caddy for 'safe' art items inside might well enable me to stop putting off the sketchbook work I believe I would do if only I had a warm purpose built studio.

I have a tendency to gather 'piles' .Stuff just accumulates. On the chair in the library. On the sofa in my storage room which is the second bedroom. In the Berber basket I use to carry the piles up and down stairs when I am in a more organised mood. On the drawers next to my sewing table. On the chairs behind them. On the coffee table in the lounge. On the wicker drawers in the bathroom.. well you get the picture! STUFF everywhere, annoying me. Not huge teetering, even- the -fire-brigade- could-not-get-through piles. Not even stuff that I should get rid of. Just a light scattering of stuff so the eye never has a clear place to rest.

There is in fact room to store all that stuff. It just that
(a) I am blind. I put a item down and I don't see it. I repeat that twelve times and suddenly I see it - a pile of STUFF!
(b) my head is too busy. Many piles represent good intentions. One pile may be for the magazines I am going to fillet and file the keeping stuff in my filing cabinet (already equipped with folders helpfully labelled 'applique' or 'bag patterns'.) Another pile is for sticking in a sketchbook in which I am designing a new quilt. Another is for a City and Guild project, another is to take to my Mum .... and so on. I can pile up much faster than I can do.
(c) I can't use it and put it away without walking the 38 steps between sewing table and main storage cupboard. (Yes, I counted that's the actual number). So I set it down to go upstairs later and then I don't see it.....

I need a system for replacing items and to review if the use of storage is as ergonomically practical it could be.

It is tempting to think that 'systems' mean expensive but cleverly designed storage systems from shops like A Place for Everything. In fact in the case of my storage cupboard it might well have a little do do with that. A good part of the room in there is behind a solid wall so it is hard get to and the two bottom shelves are very deep indeed so its hard to do more than, well, create teetering piles. In fact on one shelf I have piles of three high storage boxes for scraps. In theory it is a good system - one box per colour. In practice it is bad because if I want to add a teesny bit of say blue to the box I have to life two boxes off the top. And these are Ikea boxes with those lids that kind of just sit there and don't really make more than a token effort at clipping on. So when the scrap box get a bit full the lid comes off. An elastic band solves the problem but then that has to be removed too and oh you know what? Lets just shove the fabric in the vague direction of the bottom blue box and be done.

I am thinking that drawers may be better. Or Really Useful boxes which have much better clip on lids. Or, how about I forget about furniture and start using scraps up before the lids start coming off the boxes?!

I am a great believer that if you have a problem to solve there is probably a book about it. Indeed I have just paid a penny for Julia Morgenstern's Organising from the Inside Out. The best that will happen is that she will teach me how to stop being a blind, lazy, disorganised over-optimistic person. The worse is that it can go on the pile with the Studio Magazine back copies.


Kristin L said...

Sounds to me like you need to do some prioritizing and then a major weekend house-rearranging project... If I understand, you've got a 2nd bedroom and/or storage room, a library (where you work from home?), and a dining room all which hold bits and bobs of your art supplies. Would it be remotely possible to dedicate one of those spaces to the art and chuck all the piles in there? Could second bedroom be guest room/office, the library be dedicated to art, and the dining room revert to a dining room (maybe with some of the books and then the storage in the garage? Or maybe, dining in the dining room isn't a priority as perhaps the two of you eat more often on a small table in the kitchen? Then you could dedicate the dining room to your art. Of course, you'd still have those chairs to contend with...

Quilt Pixie said...

finding a way that everything has a home and goes to its home easily is the biggest hurdle to conquoring "stuff". Honest. When things don't have a home, or its too hard to get them to their home, they don't go home -- they lurk around. everywhere... Personally I find too many boxes/drawers/bags/containers a problem. They look pretty, but just are not too useful for me in terms of being easy to stuff something away. I'd rather route through lots of colours of scraps in a single bin and actually toss scraps into that bin, than have them sorted by colour family and never get the bits into the bin... Trying parger categories might help with the sort -- for example "magazines to be cut up" rather than a pile for sketchbook, one for idea files, and another for colour study; A single spot for things to go upstairs...etc.

just an idea

Paddy's Daughter said...

I laughted as I read this post - I think you are writing about me! I have a largish house, a dedicated sewing room, a garage now used for dyeing, and stuff everywhere! When you find a solution, please post the answer and I shall follow suit! As it is I seem to spend more time trying to tidy and organise rather than do - seems wrong somehow.

Shasta said...

I have that problem too. I think for me, no perfect box, closet, furniture, is going to work. I have joined flylady.net, and am working on creating habits to clean up after myself. Also cleaning a few minutes everyday, before the mess turns into a big project. I have also tried to think about how I actually would prefer to have things work - that's why the dining room is now an office, and the living room is now a sewing room. Works better for me, even if it looks strange to visitors.

magsramsay said...

Everything that doesn't have a home ( fabrics being sorted; a variety of projects at different stages of completion; offcuts from finished quilts; magazines for filing etc etc) gets put in cheap plastic baskets that I can move around. When the piles get too teetery (technical term) they may get sorted out properly and as you deal with a basket at a time, it's not too daunting.
I also have several sets of art equipment that live in different rooms ( in baskets :-),
I made drawstring fabric bags for my scraps- they squidge ( another technical term)into small spaces and it's fun to dip into them. I was just thinking I should have made them to match the colour of the scraps contained in them but that's too cunning.