“It’s for five days” my husband announced as he showed me the tickets to Mexico. He’d checked out a travel agency on his way home from work. (Remember travel agencies? Yeah, me neither…this story is from 1997.) With tickets in hand, we dug out our suitcases and made plans to scuba dive for five days. My husband and I had both taken scuba diving courses while in the military, however, the most exotic dive we’d been on was in the murky waters of Lake Ontario to find a sunken ship. Dream sightings of coral reefs and colourful fish danced in our visions. The travel agent had told my husband where there was a great scuba club. After a plane ride that seemed to last 12 days, we made it to our destination. We found the scuba club, and enjoyed three glorious days scuba diving. On the fourth day, the sea was a bit rough. I had spent time in Newfoundland as a child, and was pleased to discover that the salt water still ran through my veins. My husband…not so much. Oh was he sea sick. The instructor told him to “keep your eyes on the horizon”. So while I held on to my seat and enjoyed the roller coaster ride, my husband desperately searched for the horizon. It helped. He was able to “find his legs” later in the day and enjoy a nice dive with a sting ray and shark sighting, which were highlights of the trip for him. If he had not been told to keep his eyes on the horizon, he would have missed the next few dives, which were the most spectacular and the most memorable.
So how does this story fit in with my search to find my lost creative mojo in my messy studio? Well I’ve hit the point where I’m wondering why I started to tear my studio apart. One day this week, I was lying on a pile of stuff in my studio—feeling slightly sick and looking out the nearby window for the “horizon”. I heard a car pull into the driveway—feebly I lifted my head enough to recognize the car of a friend. I heard my kids talking to my friend who must have asked for me, as I could hear my son’s shrill little boy voice exclaim that I was “in the pit”. Yes, my studio has a nick name and it is “the pit”. My friend was able to follow my voice and find me in “the pit” lying on a pile of stuff that had “avalanched” over. She could tell by the look on my face that I was not going to make it through this studio clean up. There had been other attempts in the past, so she knew the signs. She offered “helpful advice”. “It looks worse before it looks better”, “It’s the storm before the calm”….I think she made that up. I know she was trying to help. “Just work on one square foot at a time.” Okay…that one I could do.
I am now working my way around my studio looking at each square foot. “What does not belong” is the question I ask myself. I can’t sort and organize or even move in here until some things leave. Moving anything around in my studio is like playing one of those slider games I had had as a kid. Sixteen things have to move before I can put what I want, where I want it. Working on one square foot at a time and picking out what does not belong is working. I first had to define what I want this space to be. It is a jewellery studio. Not a depository for wayward household items. There is no room for bins of pottery from my pottery days, or for things not needed in the house, but relegated to “the pit”. I’m slowly making the postponed decisions on items…and I filled my car and a trailer with all of the “good stuff” and righteously took them to my favourite charity thrift store.
While I was dropping off my donations, my kids and I could not help but poke around and do a little treasure hunting. “Score!” I shouted to myself—when I spied an old, heavy oak desk. And luckily I’d cleaned out enough in my studio that I needed to use our trailer today! Yay for me for parting with so much “good stuff”. I could bring my find home right away. As we drove home I would periodically glance back in the rear view mirror at my find. The old desk bounced happily home in the trailer. I have visions of turning this desk into a jeweller’s bench. There are many ideas online, and I have kept myself busy filling up our Pinterest page “Goodies for your Studio”.
Each jewellery bench seems to be as unique as the artist. I’m trying to think about how I work. What do I like where. (Besides in a big pile–that leaves me staring at it looking for a tool that is right in front of me!) How can I work better? How can I incorporate metal clay work, with metalsmithing and finishing? I saw this bench a few years ago…the original “Franken Bench”. (Click on the images to go to the source sites.) There are as many variations on this idea as there are old wooden desks. While I ponder what to make with my desk, I need to figure out where to put it!
I’m back to reading Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up- The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing.” (I was reading this book at the start of my adventure in my studio…but lost the book in the chaos.) Now that I’m seriously digging out, I’m more interested in her tips about how to avoid getting back into this mess. She shared in her book, “Why does my room still feel cluttered when I’ve worked so hard to organize and store things away?” I wondered. Filled with despair, I looked at the contents of each storage unit and had a flash of revelation. I didn’t need most of the things that were in them! Although I thought that I’d had been tidying, in fact I had merely been wasting my time shoving stuff out of sight, concealing the things I didn’t need under a lid. Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved.” This woman is speaking directly to me…I just know it. I have so many bins I should have taken out stock at Rubbermaid. Marie Kondo continues, “But sooner or later, all the storage units are full, the room once again overflows with things, and some new and “easy” storage method becomes necessary, creating a negative spiral. This is why tidying must start with discarding. We need to exercise self-control and resist storing our belongings until we have finished identifying what we really want and need to keep.”
Kondo describes a “state of perfect order” that only has to be achieved once and forever will be maintained. I realize that she talking about “normal” people. I am not normal. I see art materials in recycling bins, broken electronics, even in damaged books. I want a “state of perfect order” but wonder if I will settle for near perfection in my studio. No! I must dig deep. I will always have new ideas, in fact that may be the crux of the problem in my studio–I have more ideas than days. There will always be more “stuff” to experiment with and work with. The fact is my studio is stifling my creative work. I haven’t really worked in there for maybe 2 years! I keep bringing supplies and tools into my home office, rather than work in a proper space. Something’s gotta give! Kondo says it is really simple. “When you tidy you, you are dealing with objects. Objects are easy to discard and move around. Anyone can do it.” I’ll keep at it! I haven’t given up yet!
The “60 Day Studio Challenge” is catching on! Artists all over the world are digging in.
I hope that when you hit the point where you are lying on stuff and ready to give up…you find your horizon. Hang in there. I am motivated by the images shared on Facebook and the comments here. Take photos as you go…we’re going to have a few contests along the way. “Studio Mascot”, “Strangest Item Found”, “Most UFO’s”, “Best Storage Solution”, “Most Weight Lost”. Mark your shared photos with the hash-tag: #60daystudio so that I can find them online. Or send your images to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll collect the photos together.
Until next time, “Keep your eyes on the horizon”.
(Here are two online slider puzzle games I made, just for fun!) Horizon Puzzle
More Jewellery Bench Inspiration: (By clicking on the image you can go to the source for each photo.)
Source: Kondo, Marie. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. USA: Ten Speed Press. 2014.
Cover image copyright: Vadim Georgiev/Shutterstock.com