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Is There A Place for Chaos In Your Creative Workspace?

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by Christine Herman

Energetically speaking spring is an optimal time for creative workspace tune ups. Usually at this time of year I like to take an open minded look at my studio/office. I’m about to embark on a clearing and tune up of my space which is my sanctuary and base camp to both my art and coaching practices. I see tune ups as a golden opportunity to clear my mind and unleash new energy and innovative thinking.

My studio/office is in our home and holds my large etching press, work stations for inking printmaking plates, flat file storage, bookshelves, various rolling carts, a supplies cupboard, and art inventory storage. It’s also my office where I brainstorm business ideas, plan my calendar of events, launches, do my books, coach my clients and much more. This all happens in 300 square feet (considered small by some artists’ standards and envied by others:).

I often work on at least three or more projects at any one time. At the moment I have several things ‘cooking’ including art experimentations, framing for an upcoming show, preparing for an art proposal, collaging for personal process, growing a pile of professional development materials, mapping out my business growth, designing new programs to name a few.

When it comes right down to it – no matter what your project, medium or creative business – there are invariably ‘messy’ unpredictable stages: dreaming, experimenting, planning, troubleshooting, revising, and production. During any or all of these stages it can feel like a wild circus ride and often chaotic.

Along the way I’ve figured out how to embrace my mess when it truly supports my creative thinking  ~ and how to know when it’s blocking it! Here’s what I’ve learned…

#1 Some of my best ideas come from creating purposeful chaos.

I literally create a place to bring seemingly disparate materials and ideas together into a soupy mess. Processes unfold unencumbered. I get excited by unedited acts of creativity. I let ideas pour out and make intuitive connections. Then later I give my inner editor the job of analyzing and evaluating the results.

#2 Notice the red flag:

When I increasingly feel ‘discombobulated’, misplace things or get creatively stumped I know it may be time to Assess, Simplify, Collect and Curate!

Assess

  • Ask:  “Is this space still exciting to me?” “Is it reflecting and supporting my area(s) of focus?”
  • Decide on how you want your space to feel and function. As an example the four main criteria I have for my studio/office are: welcoming, inspiring, fun and efficient. When one or more of those characteristics is lacking or when I’m preparing a new body of work or launch a new program, I check to see if that’s true.
  • Take a ‘before’ photo. Yup, kinda scary but you’ll see things in plain sight and notice more easily what needs a tune up!

Simplify

Collect

  • Write a list identifying the main sequential steps you take for each creative process or project.
  • Then jot down the particular tools, resources, equipment, and processes you use to complete each step. For instance, one of my steps in the printmaking process is ‘plate creation’. Carving my plates requires storing different sized woodblocks, carving tools, dremel, honing compound and block, wood jigs etc.
  • Consider how you can group and contain your tools, resources or supplies into attractive boxes, bins or baskets. You can even color code by medium or process, add identifying tags.
  • Stack and display your tools based on your frequency of use and the flow of your movements so you’re efficient.

Curate

  • Let your workspace reflect your personality and aesthetics by curating much like a mini gallery displaying your current projects, inspirational icons, books, photos etc.
  • Designate dedicated zones for each process or project especially if you’re a Jill of All Trades kind of gal! Create mini rooms by installing a divider or curtain.
  • If you have a small space take advantage of floor to ceiling height shelves or storage so you can have several projects on the go and access to them on different levels plus space to work on your project du jour.
  • Finally, take your satisfying ‘after’ photo!

How do you "tame the chaos" in your workspace? Click on the comment section below to share your tips for getting (and staying) organized.

Photo courtesy of: Abby Lanes, CC BY-SA 2.0

Christine is a creative catalyst coach and practicing artist who guides aspiring creative entrepreneurs and artists to realize their dreams at YourPathonPurpose.com.

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