Clear The Clutter and Make More Art

Dear Wonderful, Creative You:

For some of us, it can be hard to make time and space for art making. It’s easier to buy art supplies than to create with them. It’s easier to put the things that need to be dealt with in your art space, than to deal with them.

Some of the issue is not knowing how to organize effectively, but I find a bigger issue is needing to be more intentional about your art space. This is a useful question: Which things in your art space move your art practice forward, and which get in the way of it?

Does all that stuff help you create more?

Do any of these clutter predicaments sound familiar?

There’s no open table space for you to work on. 

You have supplies for types of art you never practice.

Supplies that looked enticing in the store intimidate you at home.

You have too many supplies and can’t find the ones you’d like to use.

Your art work is piling up and you have nowhere to put it. 

Acquiring more supplies, more art classes, and more material things is a bit of a disease in Western culture. It’s no wonder – we look at little screens all day and we are promised again and again that material things will be the balm that calms the anxiety and unrest inside. And while it helps for a bit, it’s short-lived, and like an addict we go back for more.

I’m inviting you to clear the clutter from your studio, not in service of perfectionism or color-coded book shelves (unless you love that), but in order to make space for an open, wild, creative process. I’m inviting you to an art process that is adventurous, and focused on exploration What makes you curious? What would you like to explore further? What are your what if questions?

Join the Studio Clear Out Challenge July 11 – 15, 2022:

I’m inviting you to pare down to the things that truly move your art practice forward, not the distractions that promised a quick fix.

I could see this much more clearly when the world slowed down in 2020. I could no longer go shopping or buy myself a coffee when I felt uneasy.

Instead I went into the woods. I brought my anxieties to the trees, the stream, and the leaves. They listened. It helped. And I brought these inspirations home to my studio. My art listened. It helped. My art evolved because of the deeper conversation I was having with nature, which created a deeper conversation with my art.

As much as we want to make art, as much as we want to develop our practice and our “voice,” it’s scary. There’s a lot of judgment that might fall down on us – the world’s and our own.

There’s a difference between clutter and things that don’t get in the way of your art process, and a good percolation station. Artist Jenny Phillips creates a new wall of natural inspirations each year and allows it to help direct and influence her work.

Artist Jenny M. Phillips gathers inspiring materials on her wall.

I love to let different pieces sit and percolate together, and see how they might influence each other or come together.

My goal is to help you have the deepest, most joyful and fulfilling art practice you can. But I believe having a joyful and productive art process means having respect for your art space; making it sacred and bringing things into it in a purposeful way.

This week we are coming together as a community to do a Studio Clear Out Challenge. Each day I will visit your inbox with a written prompt for a category to thin down and clear out of your studio.

It’s not too late to join us, and we would love to have you. You can sign up here:

Creatively Yours,

Amy

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24 Comments

  1. Carolyn

    Thanks, Amy! I work in a basement space, and while it’s pretty well organized (like with like, for example) I don’t have natural daylight or a “pretty” (to me) environment to create in–gray concrete block walls, shelving units with, eg, lightbulbs, batteries and house painting supplies. Enjoying following along with the studio clearout and hoping for suggestions you and others may have!

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      Sounds like you do have some great organizational options there. 🙂 The Studio Space class is really what addresses these issues of envisioning what might be in your space and lighting, etc. But briefly, I would wonder whether you are truly certain that there’s no space in your home with natural light that you could occupy? And this next part of what I will say may feel like it applies to you, and may not – so take your own wisdom on board…

      In the studio inspiration section of the class, for example, there are 12 different artists studios, and there’s Emma Freeman’s bedroom studio, and Connie Solera who occupied the entire downstairs of her home. I’ve learned from other artists – especially Connie – that it’s about the space you claim. Cheers Carolyn! xo

      Reply
      • Carolyn

        Thanks, Amy!

        Reply
    • Elaine Bishop

      Hello Carolyn,
      Perhaps you could make your studio space better with some nice shower light fabric curtains to cover the shelve units. They make some pretty nice ones with mandalas and such. Also, some bright “Daylight” bulbs to aid in the better light.

      Reply
      • Carolyn

        Thanks, Elaine! I’ve been using old sheets but may need to choose something fresher!

        Reply
        • Kay Creasman

          Paint on the sheets rather than the wall. You can change things as you need/want to. Also consider 4’-8’ insulation sheets from the hardware store. You can push pins in it easily to add you inspirations. I cover mine with batting because I’m a quilter, but you can cover with your sheets.

          Reply
      • Crystal

        Can you paint the cement?

        Reply
        • Linda Higham

          Yes you can Go to Home Depot or Lowes and tell them what you would like to do and they are very helpful. Good Luck

          Reply
  2. Doris

    Amy, I am in a similar situation as Carolyn. I have my studio in our basement, but I do have one window in one room and a door in the other area. Many of my supplies are in 13″ x 13″ plastic containers that I purchased from Michaels. They are labeled, but I am drowning in materials I have set aside for collages.

    I look forward to your Studio Clean out suggestions.

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      HI Doris:

      Sounds similar indeed! It sounds like the perfect time to narrow down indeed. Another thing I’ll say that I find helpful is to go on a “finishing spree.” I go back to several unfinished projects and just finish them one by one. I give good effort, but I don’t overthink and it’s very satisfying. This clears space too. I hope that the suggestions in the challenge help! Happy creating! xo

      Reply
  3. Linda

    I’m in the process of moving to a smaller home. My art space will be larger than now, from a corner of the laundry to half of my bedroom. While that sounds good, I’m looking forward to some storage ideas!

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      HI Linda:

      Congratulations! How lovely that you are going to be claiming space in your bedroom. It’s such a lovely place to have a studio – I had many bedroom studios myself. Narrowing down, especially when you are moving, is a great place to start! I’ve got lots of creative storage ideas in my Studio Space class, from dressers that you convert to use for art supplies instead of clothing, to pull down tables that mount on the wall and fold up. Happy planning! xo

      Reply
  4. Sharon

    I moved some months ago to a larger house that would afford me a studio. The room over looking the garden looked ideal.. I had no natural light in my previously bijou cottage.
    Well it’s not working- too small, too bright, too hot.
    So I’m relocating to the attic .. more room, north facing and hopefully will be able to have things to hand

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      Such a good choice to change course! XO

      Reply
  5. Latifa

    Hello Amy,

    i am currently in a temporary home much smaller than one we moved out of, but hopefully we are able to move to our new home in spring next year.

    Whilst i have part of my supplies in roller containers under my bed now ( rest in storage), I would love to catch on some clear clutter and storage suggestions.

    Would it be okay for me join?

    Thank you

    Latifa

    Reply
  6. Jennifer

    Thank you so much for your time and energy in creating this challenge and the accompanying materials! I am a sketchbook artist and a fiber artist. I overhauled the space and stuff pertaining to my sketchbook work late last summer, and that was the best thing ever! My fiber arts stuff and space, however, currently needs a massive amount of re-doing, and the supplies for this work are just by nature very bulky and space-hogging. In both the sketchbook and fiber areas, I have on-going difficulties dealing with inspiration/reference/instructional materials (which in my case means mostly piles of papers or similar) and dealing with completed works. An even bigger problem with the fiber arts area for me is that I have recently realized that I have been at a sort of crossroads for a while and feel sort of directionless about where I want to go with it. I think my on-going unclarity in this area has been holding me back from cleaning/organizing that part of my creative life. For instance, it’s hard to know what to get rid of or keep if you’re not sure what types of things you want to be doing in a particular creative area. I think what I really need to do first is figure out what my focus and current source of motivation are/should be, so I know how to move forward. Do you have any blog posts or other materials that address these types of issues? Thanks again for helping us think about our creative spaces/lives!

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      HI Jennifer: Besides my class, Studio Space, that helps you envision what you want for the space, what occurs to me is that that you might want to check out the page for my Small Creative Acts class. It helps you go back and forwards in time about your art process and find ways to do a bit each day. Other than that, it sounds like some good old fashioned writing to yourself about what you want and what your practice feels like and what you wish it felt like, might help. Cheers!

      Reply
      • Jennifer

        Thank you for your reply! I will take a look at the page you suggested. I actually got started sorting in a portion of my area today because of your studio cleaning challenge, and now I think maybe just looking through my materials might help me also sort out my brain a bit! I just hadn’t really been able to get started and felt overwhelmed, but your challenge format is inspiring and helping me to dive in!

        Reply
  7. Reensarai the artist

    so interesting,I am on day 2 of the challenge and I am finding some liberation to release the art supplies that have dried up or the colors i painted with few times,colors that don’t appeal to me that have now dried up.Finding supplies that I forgot I own.I change my art space every season sometimes it is a fold out table sometimes it is an empty desk sometimes a window sill.

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      It sounds like you are well versed in clearing out Reensarai! Cheers!

      Reply
  8. Nancy Scarzello

    Wow! This clear out has really challenged me! I live in a very small house with my “studio” having taken up residence in the loft space that my office occupies, my library, a futon for guests and spiritual practices (meditation and yoga). Having moved back here in 2020, still some things stored and unpacked from the move since I had no where to put them. So, very cluttered and crowded with boxes and supplies and my art table in the middle of the room shoved up against the futon….not knowing where to start as to clear one area, another had to be cleared first and so on down a rabbit hole and I have been very rabbit-ish and freezing doing nothing! So, yesterday I budged and then gained momentum as things found a home….all storage and accessible space for art was taken by boxes and sewing machine and office stuff behind the futon, but where they needed to go in the bedroom was taken up by boxes of books and winter clothes needing to find a home, which needed to be unpacked (the books) and sorted for giveaway and put on the shelves on one wall, which was full of my jewelry and other stuff that needed to go in my dresser, which needed to get the winter clothes out to make room for them. Once I found my way to the beginning of the “trail” of clearance I could begin! Got the winter clothes out and away, moved the jewelry off the shelves into the dresser, moved the kept books to the book shelf, moved the sewing machine and office supplies to another space tucked away! Phew! More space now to breathe and continue organizing supplies that I didn’t even know I had and couldn’t get to! On to today to continue and it feels sooooo good!

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      Nancy – wow this is such a wonderful testimonial to how following the thread can get you where you want to go. Step by step you get there! xo

      Reply

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