This is what my work table looks like right now:
There is an entire lovely magazine devoted to the subject of where women create, chock full of nicely organized and equipped studio spaces. I’m not likely to be featured, unless chaos is welcome in the pages.
It’s tempting to tell you this is what the table looks like when I’m really disorganized, but this is pretty much the permanent state of my work surfaces.
The tables look worse when I’m working on multiple projects and traveling, better when I clear the decks and just work on one thing at a time.
Work in progress: who says it’s tidy, anyway?
I still haven’t unpacked the DIY postcards I made or finished up the travel journal I started in Portland last month.
What is *finally* finished is the memoir book filled with excerpts of my journals, Sketchbooks.
Which means my two writing tables (one for digital work, one for analog) are in similar stages of disarray.
Eventually, (everyone has their own tolerance level for table surface chaos, mine is clearly high) this makes working… difficult.
At this point you’ll find me hiding out somewhere with my nose in a book.
There are worse forms of escapism, like, when I bring a bag of gluten-free chocolate chip cookies along to the reading binge. But I digress.
The dilemma of visual thinkers goes along the lines of:
Out of sight, out of mind: If I can’t see it, I can’t find it. Or I forget I have it.
In sight, out of my mind: Seeing all of this stuff all over the place clouds my thinking. It gets overwhelming.
Here are a couple of ways I’ve found that help me bridge the tension of these two opposites and lessen the overwhelm:
1. Limit the materials I have out based on what I’m working on right now.
2. Group like things together and then either display in a nice container, or else put them out of sight.
The vintage metal tackle box holds an array of supplies that I both like to look at and want to keep handy for working in my sketchbooks and visual journals. Get my sketchbook/visual journal supply list here.
This tackle box is heavy and doesn’t latch properly, but when I saw it in the back of a junk shop in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, I swooned. It was already painted turquoise, so love at first sight.
I have a thing for metal containers. Don’t even get me started on Bento Boxes. Or the lunch tins used in India.
Rolls of kraft paper, used to cover my work tables, make sketches, map out strategic plans, brainstorm, and then, incorporate into mixed-media paintings. These papers never get thrown out, I just keep using them until they get recycled into a painting.
Sections of paper on my work table get photographed when it is full of paint and notes. These make quick visual references to what I was working on. The photos and sections of the pages themselves end up in my project journals.
These rolls were stacked horizontally through the top cubby my shelving unit, but they kept hitting me in the head when I walked by, so now that is solved.
Decorative papers are similarly rolled up and displayed in tall vases and buckets. Pretty to look at, yet contained. And not in danger of poking anyone’s eye out.
Now that the memoir project has shipped, I’m recalibrating my energies to face other projects (and…the laundry).
But first, here’s what I’m looking forward to now:
A strong cup of tea to steady me as I tidy up the work tables.
After which: I’ll make some visual art today and feel better. There are some new mixed media books here that have me itching to rip up paper and glue shit down.
Nothing like tea and art-making to set the world aright. And inspire a bit of table clutter clearing to make it happen.
Always a work in progress here, just like the work itself.
If you’re inspired by this virtual visit to my studio today, then you might enjoy peeking in on my minimalist art studio space in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Which is also not-so-much glossy magazine-ready.
It might fit into a magazine called: Where Women Run Away With A Backpack To Get In The Mood To Create.
And while you’re virtually visiting me in Mexico, I’ll take you over to one of my favorite places in one of my favorite cities in the world: Frida Kahlo’s studio in Mexico City with lots of photos of things that other visitors say they didn’t notice.
The tea kettle is on.
Oh, and if you have figured out how to manage the surfaces of your work table while actually getting work done, please share your secrets here.