6 Creative Studio Organization Tips

There’s no better time than spring to clear out the cobwebs, paper scraps, and stray threads from your studio and get things organized! Studio organization is essential for stress-free creativity; there’s nothing worse than spending a half-hour searching for that perfect rusty key for an assemblage. For imaginative storage ideas, we always look to the artists featured in Studio Spotlight in Cloth Paper Scissors. We’ve curated a few of our favorite ideas to inspire your studio cleanup. Feel free to leave a few of your own tips in the comments, and happy organizing!

1. Clip it, clip it good: Debi Adams came up with a brilliant way to display artwork and notes in all stages of development: put them on clipboards, and hang the clipboards on the wall of her workspace. “The clipboards are like sticky notes for me,” she says in Studio Spotlight in the January/February 2018 issue. “Some have schedules for important events, and many are filled with ideas and sketches. A lot are misguided art pieces that will eventually be incorporated into other projects, while others are filled with my watercolors, drawings, and mixed-media pieces.”

studio organization
Clipboards are inexpensive and don’t take up much room, making them perfect for studio organization. (Art by Debi Adams, photo by Denzil Quick)

Clipboards make it easy to change inspiration pieces, half-finished artwork, and notes when needed. Choose vintage pieces, or decorate modern boards with collage.

Clipboards can also become changeable art pieces in a studio or workspace. (Art by Debi Adams, photo by Denzil Quick)

2. Ponder the possibilities: Before Jen Cushman did any studio reorganizing, she put considerable thought into her creative process, taking a complete assessment of how she likes to work: “I wrote down what materials I use most often, where my stumbling blocks tended to occur, and what drove me crazy,” she says in the November/December 2017 issue. Her next move was to create a space suited to her organization system and workflow. That includes areas for using drills and torches, and another for patinas and wet mediums. To make your space as efficient as possible, think about the tools you use most often, how you like to work, and what can trip you up.

3. Vintage vibe, Part 1: Vintage items are great to use for storage, and they give a studio or workspace a unique look. Choose one era or look that suits you, or mix it up. Victorian cabinets, mid-century modern bowls, and 1930s suitcases can all be used to stash supplies, books, and artwork. Practical meets pretty in Debi Adams’ pink floral tin paintbrush holder and tray. In the May/June 2017 issue, Nathalie Kalbach revealed that she shipped a vintage letterpress cabinet from Germany to New Jersey to use for storing stamps, stencils, and found objects. When you have something that cool, you don’t want to let it go.

studio organization
In Debi Adams’ studio, retro pieces are both attractive and practical. (Photo by Denzil Quick)

Flea markets and thrift stores are great places to find vintage pieces, and many are inexpensive. Just make sure they can hold up to what they’re holding, and that they have a starring role in your space.

4. Vintage vibe, Part 2: You can also use antique and retro pieces to display artwork. Jen Cushman fills her studio with pieces like vintage mannequins and old bicycle wheels; the mannequins display her jewelry, and collaged tags are clipped to the wheel. When choosing items, keep in mind that a piece used for exhibiting artwork should enhance the art, not steal the limelight.

Vintage mannequins are the perfect backdrop to Jen Cushman’s unique mixed-media jewelry. (Art and photos by Jen Cushman)

5. Let’s turn things around: We all have canvases we’re not crazy about, but there’s no reason to discard them when they can do double duty as studio organization pieces. Cathy Nichols realized that when she turned an old painting around, the cradled board could hold bits of inspiration. A stabilizing bar in the middle of the back side of the board worked well as a shallow shelf. In the September/October 2017 issue she explains how she painted the inside white, did some decorative painting around the edges, and used it to display small pieces of artwork, both hers and her children’s. If unwanted canvases and boards are taking up space in your studio, repurpose them into something useful.

studio organization
An unwanted canvas became the perfect inspiration board for Cathy Nichols. (Art and photo by Cathy Nichols)

6. Bragging rights: When your studio is all nice and neat, put your artwork on display. This not only makes visitors aware of your artistic voice and vision, but it can inspire you, too. In the January/February 2017 issue, Rae Missigman says her art is front and center in her studio to remind her “to always try harder, do better, and grow as an artist.” She adds that her art journals especially are “a great source of inspiration. I like to leave them open to a favorite page for days at a time until some new idea springs forth from beneath all the color and marks.”

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Display your art proudly in your space, and let it inspire you. (Art and photos by Rae Missigman)

Learn how to make Cathy Nichols’ canvas inspiration piece in this blog post!

Spruce up your studio with a beautiful and functional piece and learn tons of techniques in the video Mixed-Media Chalkboard with Cast Resin with Jen Cushman.
See how artists around the country live and work, and how they’ve made their studios their own in this Studios and Artists & Makers Collection 2014.
Give your creative practice the boost it needs with the prompts, ideas, and exercises in Creative Strength Training by Jane Dunnewold.

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