I recently had to gather papers for an article and, when I went through my personal stash, I realized that there had to be a better way to store them than what I'd been doing. It had been a while since I had really gone searching, so I didn't realize how out of hand things had gotten. I actually ended up having to iron some of the papers in order to have them photographed.
I realize that sometimes it doesn't matter if the papers are wrinkled, but sometimes it does, so I contacted one of our "paper aficionados," Dea Fischer, to see how she organizes and stores her many papers.
Dea is inspired by color, and said, "When a certain color or combination starts to jump out at me from my surroundings, I know inspiration is warming up and I like to be able to go into my studio and do a color browse." As a result, Dea says she organizes her papers by color . . . but she also organizes by size.
Here's Dea's system
Full-size sheets are organized in a large artist's portfolio that stands against a wall.
"Some people use flat files or map cases, but I just don't have room for something like that in my little 10' x 12' studio, and I don't keep a very large stock of full-sized sheets. This works for my purposes and keeps the floor space clear."
quarter- to half-size sheets (which I use probably more than anything else)
Dea stores this size in a wooden file box, " right next to my desk, so I can see them clearly and just reach in and grab."
"I keep these papers in a stacking unit with clear plastic drawers, so, again, I can easily see them at a glance."
small pieces (around postcard size)
These pieces are kept in ready-to-hand boxes and again organized by color.
small scraps/ collage papers
The color of the box indicates the color range inside the box.
Dea uses candy boxes, about the size of a flat glove box.
Photos by Richard Berry
Dea said she organizes her papers in this manner because, "I understand very well how my creative vision works, and I have organized my environment to respond to it. I can enter my studio and within seconds have the materials my heart is calling for under my hands."
I take away two lessons from Dea's method: Organize to suit your space, AND organize in a way that works with your creative vision. In other words, organize so that your materials and your space work for you and with you, rather than against you.
Have you found a way to organize your papers so that they're not only easy to access but also feed your creativity? Share your strategy with us. Leave us a comment.