The All Important Shopping List

On the second Sunday of every month, I guest-host a segment of Rebecca Parsons  Blog-Talk Radio show, Artistically Speaking. Today, Rebecca has Cristin Frank–a DIY genius–on. Cristin runs a blog called Eve of Reduction, about reducing waste, clutter, and too much maintenance.

This is the completed journal page I started yesterday, by applying the weed block background. Today I added a fabric butterfly, raffia stems and a paper cut-out of a  sunflower sketch, colored with watercolor pencils and Pitt brush pens.

This is the completed journal page I started yesterday, by applying the weed block background. Today I added a fabric butterfly, raffia stems and a paper cut-out of a sunflower sketch, colored with watercolor pencils and Pitt brush pens.

In today’s interview  Cristin talked about various of her projects, as well as using social media, but the thing that caught my attention was her take on marketing yourself. Cristin suggested focusing on an image you want to create and doing only those projects and activities that support that. She also talked about using a logo and color to identify yourself and then stick to that image and color for all your marketing pieces. It made a lot of sense. (You can listen to Cristin here, use the iTunes directions below).

Cristin’s discussion on marketing made me think about how that idea could also easily be applied to our projects and studio supplies. It’s so easy to take a trip to an art store to pick up something and come home with $60 of materials and 10 ideas, many of which never get done.

Last week, I stopped at the grocery store on the way home from a training session. It was late, and I was really hungry. I over-spent because everything looked good and it was a long time since lunch. We do the same thing in art stores, especially if we go in without a list of supplies.

New supplies, new projects are sparks of light and warmth and we want to fan into a comforting fire, so we buy materials, figuring we’ll get those projects done. But we don’t. Sometimes the bags stay in the car because we are embarrassed to admit we purchased more supplies. Sometimes we convince ourselves we’ll need to do this new project.

Most often, we aren’t exactly clear what the project is. We have a vague idea of something interesting, and buy much more than we need. It’s like a sugar rush–we see the supplies, we have ideas, we feel creatively hungry, we buy the materials, and then we crash–we have so many projects in the works, we don’t have enough time, we don’t really know how to get this done, and the bags get stowed in the back of the closet.

When I went to the fabric store today to buy supplies for a project, I had a list. I also allowed myself one impulse purchase of no more than $5.00. It worked! Before I left home, I thought out the project, made a list of what I needed, bought only that, was charmed by a fabric printed with butterflies, and bought a sample for $2.50. (You can see one of the butterflies in the piece above). I made it back home under budget. And no extra projects that I’ll feel guilty about. Not a bad way to save money, save face, and save time.

This article was sponsored by my word of the year: Let go.

To listen to the show: go to iTunes, click on podcasts, then type “Artistically Speaking Rebecca Parsons” into the search box. You will see a list of two types of podscasts–FAMM and Artistically Speaking. Click on the first Artistically Speaking box in the list and all the recent podcasts will come up, by date. January 13, 2013 is today’s show. It’s free to listen to or download.

—Quinn McDonald is a writer and art journaler who is learning a lot about food, art supplies and impulse.

18 thoughts on “The All Important Shopping List

  1. I totally understand this blog post. In 2012, I worked hard at breaking this kind of art-binge shopping. It wasn’t easy but it made my splurges at craft fairs so very enjoyable! I just keep asking myself if I need or I just want it. And I don’t go near Michael’s if I’m feeling low because that leads to bad shopping.

  2. YES, YES, YES!! This is such a great blog post for me to read today. It’s been v-e-r-y slowly dawning on me that I need to think along the lines that you describe. It’s not even necessary for me to go into the gory details of all the unmade projects and unused materials, because you covered it so beautifully. Something I’m cultivating an awareness of, in my desire to buy less stuff, is how the very act of shopping, especially shopping online, lights up my brain. Lighting up my brain in that manner and impulsively buying stuff online is not serving me well. This does not mean I won’t buy anything at all – if you even suggest that I try and live without all 6 new Dylusions colors, then you are delusional, and if you think I will resist Tim Holtz’s new Distress Paints, that would be distressing, as well. But I am, despite how the previous sentence might sound, being more selective. If I need blades for my paper cutter, I am now capable of walking into JoAnn’s or Michaels and coming out with blades and not an armload of other stuff. Although I will admit to a weakness for expensive magazines such as Somerset Studio…….that’s another item I must learn to cut down on. One day, one compulsion at a time, right? Right?

      • One more thing. While I may be retired and no longer have a paycheck coming in, I recently took a boatload of items to a consignment shop. Handbags, jewelry up the ying-yang, you name it. I’ve already received close to $100 and there’s a check for close to $300 in the mail to me right now. So….this will more than pay for my Dylusions, my Distress Paints, and – oh yes – one set of Tim’s new alphabet stamps. The rest goes in the savings account to help pay for a trip in 2014. Destination not yet decided upon, but I think about it a lot. It’s nice to have options.

  3. I never go anywhere without a list. It’s a family joke. Sometimes I make the list, it’s a work in progress on the frig and sometimes my “navigator” makes the list on the way to the store. It doesn’t always keep me from the impulse buys.
    My difficulty comes in when I come across the “clearance” bins. If it’s marked down low enough I’ll buy it. I’m getting better about those things. It’s nice to know there are others out there taking back their shopping power too. :chuckles:

  4. There are several typesetting machines made out of bits, not atoms, and they’re both fun and useful. PostScript is the most widely known, but TeX (always spelled that way, pronounced “tek”) is more interesting and (probably) more advanced. PostScript is commercial, but TeX has always been free and open.

    TeX is the work of Donald Knuth, one of the most interesting people in the world IMHO. TeX came about because Knuth had written a book, thought the galley proofs were ugly, and decided to fix the problem. He still maintains TeX, and if you find a bug he’ll send you a check (which most people frame rather than cashing). He actually did have a “sample” to emulate: the journal _Acta Mathematica_ from 1910!

    You can see his website, including information about the pipe organ he has in his house, here:

  5. This is a timely blog post for me today because after a visit to craft store last week for one item I came out with 2 bags of stuff. This started me thinking about all the “mystery” supplies I find when I clean up my studio and cannot remember why I purchased them in the first place.

    I never equated my overspending at art and craft stores to a “sugar rush” or to grocery shopping when I am hungry, but that is exactly what it is for me.

    I really like your idea going to a supply store with a written list, instead of just the one in my mind (which I can easily ignore) and especially the idea of a monetary limit on impulse buying.

  6. I’ve been thinking along similar lines recently, but from a different direction. My area is computer software, not art, but I live with an artist and sometimes I wind up in art supply stores, craft stores, fabric stores, and the like. My only task (if any) is to push the cart, so I have plenty of time to look around at what’s on the shelves.

    It seems like a real gold rush is going on, with goods that appear (to me) to be shoddy, low-quality, “oh that’s close enough” junk being pushed to artists and crafters.

    This goes on in the computer industry too, from early home computers (Texas Instruments peddled a machine lacking a question mark key) to recent major systems (The FBI abandoned the “Trilogy” computer project in 2005 after spending $170 million) to software itself (it’s still not unusual to see bins of remaindered “PC Software” packaged in DVD cases).

    This might all be more supporting evidence for Sturgeon’s Law, but in software — and maybe in art too; I don’t know — there’s a counter-trend. My weekend project involved upgrading my home network. Here’s what it took:
    – Replacement firmware for an old wireless router
    – Replacement operating system for an old computer
    – Web server software
    – File server software
    All of *this* software cost nothing, and is better made than commercial alternatives (when there is one).

    By getting one step closer to the “source”, so to speak, what you get in software is better, more carefully made goods that you pay for, if you want to, by sending a donation (which, by the way, might not be money; it might be time in the form of “help with the project”). I wonder if there’s anything like this in the art world?

    • Many artists make their own tools and equipment. But there is a huge push to buy machines that “make it easy,” or do it for you. Of course I understand the lure of typesetting, die-cutting and gluing machines, all of which exist and none of which I own. I still want to create my page the old-fashioned way, by hand. My big fear is that all these machines don’t contribute to creativity at all, but to two major values in the business community–saving time and getting it perfect. A lot of crafters today measure their achievement by how much like the sample their piece looks. I have no interest in that approach at all.

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