Posts Tagged ‘organization’

studio on Design*Sponge

My summer studio transformation was featured on Design*Sponge yesterday. Thanks to people for their kind comments. Some common questions kept arising, so I thought I would address them here and post a few more photos for clarification.

I’m paraphrasing some of the questions and include responses below:

1) I see a bunch of art supplies in the “before” (read: ridiculously messy) image; where did they all go?

Well, this image was taken awhile ago. It was the only image I had that showed this much of the space from the doorway. I guess I was never happy enough with my studio want to photograph it. I may have hoarding tendencies, but most people who know me know that I am actually a pretty neat and organized person. I probably took this photo because of the remarkably messy state of the studio. As I recall I was framing and shipping a batch of drawings all while completing the mammoth task of my third year document (pre-tenure) document for school (I teach at a local university).

Anyway, here are some images of organization and storage solutions, i.e. where I put a lot of that stuff (the stuff I didn’t haul away, discard, take to the basement, etc.):

The shelves we built now hold my small framed work and much of my paper work and application supplies are vertically filed on the gray-ish blue shelf under the Ikea magnetic boards. The shoe organizer holds all of my office supplies and other random stuff like my glue gun and glue sticks (all with blue tape labels). That’s Wobbly Bob, one of our cats.

I used the closet to house cans of paint, a wall-mounted drawer system for organizing small hardware, and many labeled plastic crates, totes and drawers for various odds and ends, all categorized. I took off the closet door to have easier access to all of this stuff and to reveal more wall space for hanging work.

Also, that’s Ramona, and that’s her chair. I can’t take it out of the studio for fear that she would perish of sadness, as it’s her favorite place to be ever. I should mention that I have no personal need for this chair anymore since it’s too tall for my work surfaces. So in my highly efficient new studio, I have a chair just for a cat. At least it keeps her from walking all over my drawings.

2) How in the heck did you do all of that with a 500.00 budget (also where did you get your flat files)?

I put together a budget afterward to see what I had tallied. Here’s how it breaks down:

-Wood/doors–used for the table tops
(Home Depot):                                                115.

-Table legs and brackets x6 (”):                          60.

-Paint: (Benjamin Moore):                                  50.

-Flat file (craigslist):                                         160.

-Small file cabinet (local Re-use center):             10.

-Sandpaper, paint rollers, casters, etc.              100.

About:                                                            500.

We designed our own shelves and supports, but you can find some pretty great pre-made shelves and brackets out there. I first sanded and primed, then sanded and painted the worktable and shelves with Benjamin Moore’s GRAHAM Ceramic Satin Interior water borne enamel in Decorators White. Little foam paint rollers gave the surfaces a pretty smooth finish.

I looked all summer for a flat file on craigslist. I found one that was the right size for my small studio (in the bedroom of our ranch house) for a decent price.  It’s precisely: 40-3/4″ W  x  28-3/8″ D  x  15-3/8″ H. It had to be cleaned up a bit, but serves my purposes perfectly.

3) (From Lauren) Can I have your sweet orange chair when you’re done with it?

Yes. And I probably won’t be. I’ll will it to you though. It’s from the University of Michigan’s very excellent property disposition center–from their dental school I think. It cost about 15 dollars as I recall and badly needs to be reupholstered.

4) It looks too clean now; where did your mess go?

Naturally I took the photos at the completion of the project when everything was shiny and pretty. Now that I have had some time to live in it, there are little scuffs on the tables and my stuff is getting spread out everywhere again. When I want to reign it in between projects though, it’s that much easier now. Here are some images of my slightly more lived-in space with drawings in progress:

After the craziness of the start of school, having friends in town for labor day weekend and some traveling this weekend to drop off work for a show, I finally get to spend  Tuesday all day long in this space. I can’t wait. I promise to make it even messier.


it all started with a flat file…


This studio transformation was recently featured on Design*Sponge. I wrote a follow-up post answering some of the questions that arose in the comments and also posted a few more images here.

With the help of Mark, I spent the entire last month in major house studio overhaul mode. I had five year’s worth of paperstuffs, random art supplies and countless odds and ends to sort and either discard or organize. It all started with my desire for a flat file, since all of my flatwork and papers were sloppily vertically stored against the wall behind a closet door.

The organization project evolved into ditching my drafting table and our old kitchen table I was using as a desk in favor of clean, white tables easily made out of doors and painted white. Mark built me wall shelves for storing small, framed work and we got them installed yesterday. Now the studio feels so much better, I want to be in here all the time. Just to show you how far it’s come, at one point, it had devolved into this:

Here are some overview shots of the new setup:

…and some detail shots:

Now to start making a mess again.

fekete leves

I didn’t really want to write any details about my and Nannette’s exhibition until all was said and done in case we didn’t pull it off in the way that we wanted.  But now that a successful opening has come and gone, I am happy to tell our tale.   I went to Budapest with only the goal to finish a video project Nannette and I began last summer, do a couple of drawings, and see a few museums…maybe hit the spring baths.  In short, I was going to take a break over break–treat it like a mini residency.  Instead, pretty much as soon as I arrived, we started hatching major plans.  We planned to both make work for the entire week and put a show together in addition to the video (which quickly transpired into an installation).  We had hints of possible venue spaces at the beginning of the week, but it wasn’t until Monday (or Tuesday?) that we secured the venue (for a Thursday night opening…).  Nothing like cutting it close, right?

Nannette’s background is in photography and video, but she is a closet draw-er and makes these gorgeous ink drawings on crayon resist with faint, meticulous etching which she never shows to anyone.  I was flattered that she showed them to me and excited she was considering exhibiting them.  So she got down to work on a larger-scale series of those drawings and a photography project based on rivers.  Meanwhile we were going to the office every day and working on the video together, and I was furiously drawing in the mornings and evenings- (into the mornings again).  It turns out that the venue, Chinese Characters, has the perfect back space for video projection, and was the perfect width to create a reflecting pool for the video (which contributes enormously to the content of the piece).  We we aided immensely by David, who did a lot of the heavy-lifting during the installation, including making the structure for the pool.  Working collaboratively all week was wonderful, as even our 2D work influenced each other’s to a strong degree.  We brainstormed titles for awhile and came up with fekete leves (where the sky used to be). Fekete leves literally means “black soup” in Hungarian (Magyar).  When used as slang, it implies a sense of foreboding or bad things to come.  Where the sky used to be is the name of the video project, upon which the rest of the show hinged.

Here are some snapshots from the show.  Sorry about the quality of these images.  I only had my aged point-and-shoot, but Nannette got some great install shots with her camera, so as soon as I get those images, I’ll update this post.  Thanks to everyone who came out to the opening!  For those who didn’t make it, the orb-looking images on black are C-prints by Nannette, and she also has the black ink drawings (installation) on resist with scratching.  We each made one of the white “north” drawings and collaborated on the video and installation.  Mine are the small gouache and ink drawings on blue paper.

front right corner

entrance from Vittula into the gallery space with two of Nannette's C-prints flanking two of my drawings

a C-print and my other four drawings- along the left wall

her drawing installation

the near and far left walls of the space

view from the entrance (the video installation is through the black curtains)

North 1 and North 2 (Nannette-left, me-right)

Where the Sky Used to Be- video installation with reflecting pond

Thank you to Nannette and David for putting me up (and putting up with me) all week, to Tim of Chinese Characters/Klub Vittula for providing the space, libations and an open mind, and to Fabian for DJ-ing and acting as impromptu photographer.  Next I’ll post images of the six drawings I made while there and maybe a couple of shots from the opening.


I updated my website, and that’s no mean feat, considering how behind I was.  Head on over there and check it out, won’t you?

new art = new set-up

Mark and I were inspired by our friends Abigail and Stevens‘ decor, specifically, the way they display their art collection.  We even found out where they get their pieces framed and promptly followed suit.  The day I picked up the framed pieces, I was on my way out to pick up Mark for our date I wrote about in my last post.  When we got home, I got to show him all of the pieces all framed up.  Opening each one from it’s brown paper was a little bit like Christmas morning, and it prompted us to do our semiannual Purge and Rearrange of the house.  It definitely deserves to be capitalized.  Now this occurred on a Friday night.  Let’s just say that by the end of the evening Saturday, our entire living room had been rearranged to make way for the new art.  Also by the end of the weekend, we had dumped a van full of recycling and stuff off at their respective locations (Re-Use Ann Arbor for the furniture and household stuff)…and rearranged the entire living area in the basement.  Which included Mark’s music studio.  We felt like industrious squirrels getting all of the odds and ends in order for winter.  Whew!  I’m tired just writing about it!  Behold.

butterfly mosaic

Here’s one of the pieces that spurred the change.  All pieces framed in white are part of the art makeover.  This particular piece made the greatest transformation.  Formerly, it’s glass was old and dusty and it was in a thrift store frame.  Now this vintage butterfly mosaic is much happier. Here are a bunch of images of the new living room set-up with art in place.  We’re fixin’ to paint the walls gray and the trim white.  What do you think?


living room


Here’s the Mike McFalls sculpture installed in its new home in the dining room.  For the the time being, this is where it lives.

dining room

So in short, buy or trade for some new art.  Or invest in some frames for your art.  Your collection needn’t be extensive or expensive to spruce up and I think you’ll like the way it makes your space feel!


I haven’t been able to write in awhile because of all of the end-of-summer activity going on right now.  I wanted to post about my weekend trip to Quincy, Illinois.  Why yes, that is the famous site of the Lincoln/Douglas Debate.  Glad you mentioned it.  I went because I wanted to see two dear friends from grad school who are seldom in the same place when I have time to travel to them. This time the stars aligned to make it so, such that Thursday I found myself aboard my first ever U.S. passenger train headed toward Quincy via Chicago.  It was a wonderful weekend of art, friends, good food, catching up, and a  lot of laughter.  I stayed at the impeccable 1914 bungalow of friends Jen and Todd and got to hang out with their kiddos Trevor and Joel.

Jen and Todd's home

Of course I was inspired by the people I was with, but since I am always mesmerized by other peoples’ spaces (thus my infatuation with sites like The Selby, Apartment Therapy and magazines like Dwell), I thought I would post about it.  Jen and Todd (and even her parents) worked hard to make their basement into a space where Jen would want to have a studio and where the boys can play year-round.  They sealed the walls, cleaned up a lot and spray painted the heck out of the ceiling.  The result is a clean, crisp space with painted walls, floors, beams and trim that coordinates with the rest of the house.

Jen's studio with completed and in-progress paintings

Jen's studio with completed and in-progress paintings

Jen's latest painting

Jen's latest painting

To see more images of her work, visit her website.

The boys' "studio"- I love the colorful art lining the walls!

The boys' "studio"- I love the colorful art lining the walls!

The occasion for my visit was our friend Kelly‘s exhibition at the college where Jen teaches and runs the gallery.  I got there too late to attend the opening, but did get there in time to: attend (even help out with)  Kelly’s mural painting workshop, go to the farmer’s market, do some thrifting ($25 pair of Lane end tables- score!), enjoy several delicious meals, play soccer with a pair of squirts, partake in raspberry AND lemon sorbet at a sci-fi/horror themed ice cream parlor (Eye-Scream anyone?).

farmer's market flowers

farmer's market flowers

Indian corn

Indian corn

Saturday night we were awestruck by a breathtaking sunset.

sunset in the Q

sunset in the Q

Here’s my attempt at one of the photos that inspires Jen’s paintings:

sunset bridge

Even with 18 hours on a train, it was a very complete and restoring weekend.

i done got tagged

photo credit: Susan Tusa, Detroit Free Press

photo credit: Susan Tusa, Detroit Free Press

I am waiting for plaster to dry on some islands, so it’s as good a time to blog as any.  Lauren of Dear Golden tagged me with a “ten things” request.  Now my job is to post ten things about myself you don’t already know.  I think I will try to keep these art-related as that’s the nature of the blog.

1. I have attended four artists residencies: in Illinois, Newfoundland, Southern France and Budapest, Hungary

2. It must say something about me that I have twice been offered dead birds and have twice accepted.  In my freezer are a dead hummingbird and a dead cardinal.  They were that way when my friends found them, I assure you.  What will I do with them?  I’ll let you know when I find out.

3. I have been in academia since kindergarten with only summers off.  I went straight from high school to college, from college to grad school, from grad school to teaching adjunct and from teaching adjunct to assistant professor.  (Does kindergarten count as “academia”?)

4. I have taught three summers at Interlochen Arts Camp in northern Michigan near Traverse City (03-05)–painting and life drawing.

5. I have taught three classes that I never actually took when I was in school.  What are they?  Hmm… it’s a mystery.

6. My top three four favorite art shows I have ever seen are (in no particular order): William Kentridge retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (2004), Mapping the Studio: Artists from the François Pinault Collection in Venice (2009), Drawing Now: Eight Propositions at Museum of Modern Art (Queens) in New York (2002), damn, I remembered another one (thus the strikethrough): Peter Doig at the Tate Britain (2008).

7. I am working on a video, and a sculpture (of sorts) right now and am pretty inexperienced in the particular media I am using.  I am googling a lot and relying on my friends for help.  Thanks guys and gals!

8. Despite the above statement, I generally don’t work collaboratively.  I tend to prefer working alone in the studio, usually listening to audio books, NPR or music.  I am currently listening to The Plot Against America by Philip Roth and The Terror by Dan Simmons.

9. I am starting four large scale paintings, and am a bit scared of them at this early point.

10. I have a REALLY hard time balancing  a regular work-out routine and an art practice.  I tend to be sporadic with both and can rarely sustain the two simultaneously, though they’re both so important to me.

So that’s it- my ten things.  Okay, I am going to pass the tagging love around to:

Mark from Irreverent Vegan

Val and/or Ryan from i’m just doing this thing

tabula rasa

When I start a new body of work or major studio session, I like to clean house a bit.  This time I went a little nuts and put all of the old paintings away, took down old influence images and created a blank slate of a studio in which to work on the large island paintings.  At first it’s not very glamorous, just a bunch of canvas stretching and gessoing.  I will assuredly keep you apprised of my progress.

Oil studio 1

Oil studio 2

Oil studio 3

Oil studio 4


So, what with all of the vegan brunch hosting, Shadow Art Fair going, blogging, and uploading and categorizing hundreds of travel photos to flickr, the semi-annual rearranging of the water studio has suffered a bit.  But fear not!  It’s ready for action and with more work space and room to move around, I can’t wait to nestle in with my audiobooks, drawing pens and fancy papers.  Behold the glory that is organization!