My studio could qualify for a Guinness World Record for “world’s densest collection of matter.”

I have a lot of stuff. When I get more stuff, I just squeeze it into tinier and tinier spaces around my other stuff. I swear, a little more stuff and I might be able to create an actual black hole—which, as you science-fiction fans know, is so dense, light cannot escape it. (Maybe that’s why I can never find my scissors: “Oh, there they are, in that black hole over there.”)

Don’t get me wrong, I love my studio. It has almost everything I need to make art. (Fiber, jewelry and mixed-media artists never have everything we need. That’s why we’re always shopping for more!)

craft-matters-january-2009But things had gotten so out of hand, I couldn’t work efficiently in my space anymore. I had to spend too much time clearing a tiny space to work, and then I had to search for all my missing tools. (“I have dozens of scissors in here, I know I do! Why can’t I find one pair?!!”)

Right after my last summer show, I decided enough was enough.

I embarked on a major cleanout of the Aegean Stables—er, my studio. Fortunately for you, I wrote an entire series of online articles about the process, so you can learn from my experience.

There are many rewards for cleaning out a studio, but the best one was all the stuff I found:

• Small piles of birdseed. Mice. They were raiding my birds’ food dishes. Yes, I’ve called an exterminator. The reward? We hopefully caught them before wires were chewed. (That’s my rabbit Bunster’s job, after all.)
• $150 in large bills, in a small box on the very top of a very tall shelf, and, no, I have no idea why I put it there. (I’m blaming this one on mice, too.)
• The dresses a dear family friend made for my daughter when she was two. (When my daughter was two, not the friend.)
• Photo portfolio of my early work. Hey, I forgot I’d made such cute things! That was a nice little trip down memory lane…
• Packet of fair information for my last show—sent to me ten months ago. The show was two months ago. Fortunately, I was complete­ly honest with show management about losing this packet, and they were very good at sending me new information without making a single snide comment. I’ve pled menopause the last three years, but I don’t know if that excuse will fly much longer. I think they’re on to me.
• About three dozen magazines I’ve been meaning to read. And I did read them, when I took coffee breaks, and then I gave them away (applause, please).
• The original book I had lost for so long I went out and bought a new copy. I’ve now lost the new copy. (I’m blaming mice again.)
• A $750 necklace, which had been AWOL for so long, I was sure somebody had stolen it. (Maybe big mice…? With fashion sense?)
• Birth announcements for my daughter. She’s 20.
• A forgotten chocolate stash. I think I was hiding this from my teenage son who uses my computer. He’s already found all my stashes in the kitchen.
• Instructions for my new merchant services terminal. Yay!
• Not one, not two, but three boxes of Uniball “Vision” pens. I love ‘em and I’m always losing them and buying more. Then forgetting what I did with the new boxes. I’m set for the next three years. If I don’t lose the boxes again.
• Ten measuring tapes (same scenario as the pens).
• ALL my scissors, ditto. I’m too embarrassed to admit how many there are when they’re all together.
• Brand-new jeweler’s variable speed drill. I knew I had one in here somewhere. This one had been stuffed under a table behind several storage containers while cleaning for last year’s open studio event.

So, how did the cleaning go?

Well, things are a little less dense in here. It’s a working space once again. The so-big-they’re-scary dust bunnies behind my computer are gone. I’m $150 richer. And a little heavier after eating all that rediscovered chocolate. But I’m also smarter, because I read all those magazines. I gave one birth announcement to my daughter and tossed the rest. She and I carefully repacked the tiny dresses and put them in a safe (and more appropriate) place. I’m happily back at work in a well-organized, fully stocked, nicely equip­ped studio with several clear work surfaces. And armed, hopefully, with more discipline to put stuff away when I’m done and throw stuff away I don’t need, and not to buy anymore beads or fabric for at least a few months.

craft-matters-luann-udellLuann Udell is a fiber, polymer and mixed-media artist. For more information on Luann and her work, visit her website and her blog.