4 Simple Organizing Techniques for Artists

Owl-Mask-LeatherWorkingEighteen hours from now, I will be hanging pieces at my first solo art show in over five years. My artwork: 20 masquerade-style leather art masks currently in various stages of completion. And my studio? After an all-nighter to get everything sculpted so it could dry in time, my workbench was buried.

Was. Last year I would have shoved everything aside and struggled to work in a bare corner. But it’s a new year and I’m developing new habits.

Here are four simple ways to increase productivity and organize your space:

1. Put everything in its place. Even if I knew I would need it again, it went back in its drawer, on its shelf or wherever it goes when my studio is “clean.” It seemed overwhelming and time-consuming at first, but only took 15 minutes or so. Now the entire work surface is available and I know where everything is, which will save precious time later. I also took a moment to sweep up yesterday’s scraps, making today’s work feel like a fresh start.

2. Separate the art into categories. I made little groupings of the pieces that still need paint (all of them). Realizing this wasn’t going to help, I further categorized them by how they’ll be arranged on the wall tomorrow. Five traditional Mardi Gras styles, four birds, four dragon-like creatures, five gargoyles and two so odd they don’t even have category titles.

3. Choose a subset to begin with. At first I thought the Mardi Gras styles would be best, but quickly realized these will require the most time to paint. I set them aside and painted all the birds first. This gave me a sense of accomplishment early on and filled me with excitement to work on the next batch. I wanted to see how my dragon would turn out, so I painted that next.

4. Take (healthy) breaks. I drank two glasses of water instead of the second cup of coffee I craved. My body needed water more. (Technically, as I write this, I’m still on break, but I wanted to share these thoughts while they’re fresh).

Past art shows taught me that if I can’t finish all 20, no one will know what’s missing from the display except me. And if I don’t finish all of them, it just means I have a head start for next time.

Take it from me: Start fresh. Break the work into smaller components. Take care of yourself. And don’t panic.

Brown Paper Tickets‘ Doer: Maker Advocate Tamara made the super-cool owl mask above. She’ll be sharing more tips, thoughts and words of advice from her life as a leatherworker and her involvement in maker communities.

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