I am lucky to have a room in my house designated â€œmy studio.â€ I feel a little bit pretentious when I call it that, but that really is what it is. In the state that itâ€™s in, it could not possibly be used for anything else. I donâ€™t imagine accountants are embarrassed to call their office â€œmy office,â€ but I think itâ€™s a hurdle for people who make art, even for a living, to say the words â€œmy studio.â€ I usually have to say “the.” Anyway, I know Iâ€™m lucky to have this 9â€™ x 26â€™ space with lots of windows, all for making art. So lucky!
But it is â€œa bit of a dogâ€™s breakfastâ€ (see Merrythoughts, 9/20/21) all of the time. Itâ€™s a giant mess. I really hate that itâ€™s such a mess and the mess is all mine, so wouldnâ€™t you think I could just tidy it up and make it more pleasant? Youâ€™re thinking yes. Iâ€™m thinking yes, too, but also how?
When Covid hit and the shutdown happened, I thought it would be a perfect time to straighten and clean up my studio. Did I do it? No. In the Before Time, I had sometimes had Open Studio Shows, during which people would actually mill around back here. For those (although not always) I would make myself clear off the biggest flat surface (not the floor) so that I could display things properly on it. That only lasted for the duration of the Open Studio, though. And then, since Covid, there have been no Open Studio shows, so that has only exacerbated the problem.
Like most creative people (lately called by the dubious word, “makers”), I have accumulated scads of art supplies and pieces of thing that I imagine one day might go into the making of something amazing. Some of this I have never used. There are books about art and art-making. Blank books to fill up in some cool way. Sketchbooks. Washi tape. Pastels, crayons, markers, special colored pencils. Baskets full of framing supplies, gewgaws, ribbons, fake jewels and embellishments, rubber stamps, etc. Cigar boxes. Various (empty) containers in various shapes. All manner of glues. Old dictionaries, maps, and other paper stuff for collage. Packing materials for shipping cards and stuff that I sell online. And my giant rack full of handmade papers, which Iâ€™ve already cut down to half its original size, in an effort to make room and tidy my studio.
To complicate things further, I began painting this past summer, which brought in a whole other area of supplies that lie around in piles–paints (so many tubes of paint!); paper, boards and canvases to paint on; brushes and all sorts of mark making tools; masking tape; a large art journal; parchment paper; a hair dryer AND hairspray(!); and several stacks of things that I have painted. (I am hesitant to call them paintings, just yet.) And that large flat surface (not the floor)? Covered with paint now.
People say, â€œOh well, itâ€™s a happy mess!â€ â€œYouâ€™re an artist!â€ â€œItâ€™s fun!â€ Blah blah blah. But all of this stuff really does get in my way. I have very little surface upon which to work. Iâ€™m always having to shove something out of the way, or move one of the piles of thing two feet to a different spot. A friend has offered me an easel, since I took up painting–but I think, where would I put it?? It is stifling, really, this mess. I do feel that physical clutter does clutter up the mind. And yet.
Help me,Â Marie Kondo!!
â€œA sane man who is untidy seems crazier than a tidy man who is insane.â€ Mokokoma Mokhonoana
â€œThere are three approaches we can take toward our possessions: face them now, face them sometime, or avoid them until the day we die.â€ – Marie Kondo
â€œPutting your house in order is the magic that creates a vibrant and happy life.â€ Marie Kondo
If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on myÂ website. And if you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.
Thanks for listening,
P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”