Working Space Quandry

As long as I’ve had a studio, I’ve had the following unanswered questions. Let me know if you have an answer:


Michelle Allen’s workdesk. Mne is no better. Her site is Close To My

1. I’ve had big studios and small studios, but no matter how much space I have, when I’m working, I’m using  about one square foot of space. Everything else is filled with ink, glue, and papers. I swear, if I worked on the surface of an aircraft carrier, I’d be working in one square foot and the rest would be piled up with stuff.

2. As soon as I buy something and put it away, it disappears. I can look till my eyes cross and can’t find it. The instant I buy another one, the first one appears. Jumps out of the closet.

3. Finally, in an effort to reduce clutter, I decide to get rid of boxes of supplies I haven’t used in months. The instant they are gone, I desperately need one of those supplies and have to re-buy it.

4. I own four or five aprons. But there is never a clean one in arm’s reach.

Not at all a studio apron, but I wouldn't be surprised if it were hanging behind the door.

Not at all a studio apron, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were hanging behind the door.

5. Putting on an apron does not occur to me until I have a lap full of glue or gesso. This has been true for the last 30 years.

6. The book with the instructions that I need right now is no longer in the book case, where it has been for 12 years. It is now gone.

7. The book I do not need smiles at me from the book case. In fact, both of them do. I ordered that one at least twice.

8. My favorite tool is the one that has just been discontinued.

9. I stop reading magazines to have the time to work out a project problem. Takes me weeks. I finally brag about my clever solution on Facebook. A dozen people tell me the article that solved the problem was in last month’s Cloth, Paper, Scissors. There’s a video, too.

10. I proofread my business card three times. I show it to a friend to proofread. It’s fine. The package of 500 cards arrives, and the one they company used as a label has a typo. I see it before I even register what the box is. Yep, a missed typo. On all 500 cards.

–Quinn McDonald thinks her studio is haunted. Or possessed. Or possibly just over-run with supplies that know how to vanish and appear at will. 10.


62 thoughts on “Working Space Quandry

  1. Pingback: Guest Post: Working Space Quandaries | Collidescopes Blog

  2. Oh all of these are so familiar – as well as ‘if it is out of sight, I’ll forget about it in the excitement of playing with toys in my eyeline’.

  3. This post made me laugh, but I feel like such an odd one out. I never lose anything in the studio (or outside of it art wise). Yes, I’m pretty organized and like goes with like, but in a very loose way. I just know where everything is. I don’t organize by color or theme or anything that anal. I just put the paper with the paper (and I have a lot of paper!), the stamps with the stamps and the pencils with the pencils, etc. That’s all. Except for a few boxes on top of each other hardly anything is labeled either. Maybe it helps that I’m a librarian turned archivist and sorting stuff so people can find it has become my nature. 😉

    • You may also have less and do more with it. You may not fall victim to the “if I purchase this new, much advertised art supply, I will be a better artist.” Or “I HAVE to have this, or I won’t be able to talk about it.” In my case, because I teach, I have teaching supplies and personal supplies. I tried using my own supplies to teach with, and it didn’t work well. And because I keep inventing more classes. . . well, it does get out of hand.

  4. Oh. My. I felt like I was reading Erma Bombeck the Artist when I read your article! Laughed so hard I cried…and a little bit because there is something so warm and wonderful in knowing there are zillions of people out there that do like I do! It feels just plain GOOD knowing that! It doesn’t help me find the lost item, but it does make me feel I’m not nuts!! Thanks so much, Quinn.

  5. You didn’t miss on funny – the article is hysterical! I’m printing it out and putting it by my drawing board to help me remember I’m not the only one 🙂

  6. in my studio, for things that are missing overnight, we blame the cats….and if something is missing during the day, my assistant’s or my first comment is “look on the floor]. thank god there are floors!

  7. Quinn, well someone already mentioned Murphy’s Law. You just wrote Murphy’s Law for Artists. Hey, a new book idea! I am a sewer and quilter, and boy, am I glad for those orange-handled scissors. I can’t “see” other colors.

  8. I was in my studio just a few minutes ago, and went to pick up something I just used last night, and of course it wasn’t where I put it. I swear my studio is haunted, or there are little gremlins somewhere laughing at my frustration. I keep telling myself how simple it would be to label each area with a really big marker. But somehow it doesn’t seem to get done. I think I need therapy!

  9. Ooops — yes. forgot to tell you —- myfirst 500 business cards were printed with “stationary” instead of stationery. ugh

  10. An apron? An APRON?! I thought that was what clothes were for. I have one appron, a gift, somewhere, I don’t wear it, ever. All my non-day-job clothes seem to have paint on them (and some of the others too).
    As for studios, mine is a small office . . . and the dining table . . . and the kitchen bench . . . and the living room floor. Fortunately I don’t have to share often so they can stay covered in supplies for weeks on end. And despite have shelves and drawers and transparent bins I still can’t find anything either . . . gremlins. I don’t care if you don’t. 😉

    • Yeah, I have some new clothes for work. And some new clothes for non-work. Until I get to my idea weight, I have to make do with very few selections, so the apron is a must. I have thought of just going commando, but my studio has a window and I live in a city. ’nuff said.

  11. How about the floor? I believe that the floor is a flat surface that doesn’t get enough credit. It has offered me hours of fun, negotiating the pile maze and earning bruises. I’m not sure I even remember what kind of floor I have underneath it all.

  12. I have unanswered questions, too. Why is it when the wind blows stuff in my yard, why isn’t it ever good stuff like pastels or tubes of watercolors? When people try to unload stuff in yard sales, why don’t they ever try to unload stuff like Sennelier soft pastels or something?

  13. Oddly enough it’s comforting to know that I am not the only one that deals with the things you listed. I too find myself working in a 12″ x 12″ space (sometimes smaller!) with supplies piled up ALL around me. Then I go digging around for something that I just used and it has disappeared. It’s maddening. That leads me to start talking to myself. . .”Where is it? Where did that (insert supply name) go? I just had it!” Quinn have you ever “misplaced” something for 5 years? I have. . .a block of beeswax. I tore up my entire studio some time ago looking for it. I was beyond myself and thought that it had literally disappeared off the face of the earth. On a positive note, It was like Christmas going through all the nooks and crannies of my studio because I discovered stuff that I had long forgotten I had! I never found the beeswax however and was again totally stymied wondering where in the world it could be. About 2 weeks ago I was looking at my daughter’s old computer desk that I have things piled up on in my studio and I did a double take. . .what was that to the left of the keyboard tray??? It was a small drawer that I have overlooked for years now. As soon as I saw it I knew that when I opened it up the mystery would be solved. And it was. There in the back of the drawer was my block of beeswax and some paper clay that I totally forgot about. What a relief to finally figure out where it had gone. It was in that “safe place” I put it so I’d remember where it was. Ha!! I also agree about needing something the minute you get rid of it and that’s what keeps me from getting rid of art supplies. Thankfully my decision not to get rid of something recently paid off because I used it in an assemblage I wasn’t planning on making. After reading everyone’s comments, I think we need to start a support group! If your readers want a chuckle, they should watch this video as I think they could ALL relate:

  14. hahahhahahaha! oh, truer words were never spoken! why is that????? I do exactly the same things which totally cracks me up….a huge room and with shelves and drawers and flat spaces and there I am working in my little square foot of space……hilarious! of course, every single pair of pants i own, including pajama pants, has glue and gesso and paint on them, sigh. but i have fun and so do my grandchildren and that is all that matters AND we get to make delightful stuff, yay! thank you for a truly funny post, i laughed out loud.

    • That’s SO true. I have several shirts with gesso on them, or paint. In places a bit too embarrassing to use them out of the house. And you are right–we have fun there, and that is so important!

  15. Hi Quinn,

    I’ve been enjoying seeing the continually expanding creativity in your blogs.

    If you ever get tired of being a creativity coach you (which I hope you never do) you could become a comedian! I don’t think David Lederman could have come up with a better top ten “sad but true” list than you have in this blog.

  16. I get so frustrated by these same points that i eventually avoid the space altogether……….if only I had all those finished paintings in my head in my studio instead.

  17. This made me laugh till I snorted. Truer words were never spoken. I had the suspicion that perhaps you’d been spying on me in my craft room (crap room as my family affectionately calls it). Then I remembered I don’t even own an apron. Thanks for the chuckles.
    (Interestingly my auto-correct tried to say thanks for the chickpeas. Another phenomenon commonly experienced I’m sure.)

  18. I am a very organized person and deal with all the same stuff. I always think how great it would be to have a large, wonderfully organized, beautiful studio but I know I would still work in a very small area. I’m trying to embrace the small space idea but I keep dreaming of big and beautiful.

    Thanks for a great laugh this morning!

    P.S. I can offer no help with solutions. I also think most artists will feel the same way. I love to see other studios in productive chaos! It makes me feel somewhat “normal”.

  19. Oh Quinn I am laughing so hard I cant see hahaha, I am with you right up to number 8 after that I haven’t had the experience yet. I have a big craft room upstairs totally stuffed so now Iv’e sprawled all across the landing and now I’m back in the kitchen downstairs at the table using a space the size of a place mat coz all the things I need to use are dotted all around the rest of the table. This is where I started all those years ago and where my husband and I had the bright idea to convert the roof space to make a craft room for all my stuff! LOL, crafty hugs, Sharon xx

  20. Oh Quinn, I thought I was the only one with these problems. Of course, I am packing up my studio (in order to convert it back into a master bedroom so I can put my house up for sale!). And I have found all those fugitive items as I pack up! And I found stuff that I forgot that I had!!! BTW, I have ALREADY needed something that I JUST PACKED!

  21. Good Morning Quinn,

    Your post has me laughing (much needed as I listen to the news) and I agree so much with # 1,2,3,6,7…I never use aprons but put on my painting pants (most of the time) before I begin.

    Wishing you cooler days in a Happy September.

    Ilsa in Kansas who adopts your writing style for signing off in her emails these days…..

    PS #1 is ME ME ME…

  22. Sounds like you are having problems organizing things. I have similar problems, usually relating to the clutter in the room. Sometimes I can put something down, and I can’t find it for days. What I have been trying to do, is to designate locations for an item, one at a time, and to have a “reason” for picking that designation. A lot of the time, it’s easier to remember the “reasons” than it is to remember the actual locations. And also, getting into a routine for putting certain things away helps. For example, when I come into my apartment, I put my key ring on a peg that is by the door, put my hat on another peg by the door, and my glasses in a set location on my computer desk. Placing these three items immediately when I come in will guarantee that I won’t forget any of them. These are the 3 items that I need to have before I can leave the apartment. Believe me, this works! In the past, I had spent sometimes more than an hour just looking for my keys.

    • Nahhh, I’m super organized. Never lose my keys, have all my business books in order by topic and author. Separate cheese from veggies in the fridge. I’m all organized until I get to the studio, which is also the guest room. That’s where the room does too much and I want a bigger room. but thanks for the tips. I wrote the whole article to be funny. Sometimes that’s a miss, too.

Join the conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.