Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Best Mess

We've all seen those photos on blogs or pinterest of perfectly organized craft rooms, with rows of color-coordinated ribbon, thread, and washi tape. And I've noticed a lot of my fellow artists and crafters lamenting the fact that their creative spaces don't look like that at all and seeming to somehow feel inadequate because of that. I, however, firmly believe that a messy studio is a working studio; I love to see other people's piles of crafty detritus and works-in-progress lying about!

I do understand that the matter becomes more complicated when you live in a small apartment and your workspace and living space are often the same room, maybe even the only room in your apartment. That was the case for me for a very long time. I got good at sweeping things into storage bins or stacking things in corners...wherever I could. In our last apartment, though, it became painfully obvious that that wasn't working anymore; I had taken over the dining room "nook" as my office/studio, and it never looked tidy. It looked like a disaster. All the time.

In our house, I'm using a second bedroom as the office/studio, and I'm thankful every day to have this space. It means I can be as messy as I want to be and then just close the door at the end of the day (or very late at night as usually happens). And I have projects and supplies all over the place. And I love it.

But sometimes, I still think I really should get organized, be tidy, make a pretty space. Would it make me a better artist? No. Would it make me happier? Maybe?

Recently, I came across these images of famous artists' workspaces that made me smile. I bookmarked the page and kept going back to look at them. I realized that these images are more inspiring to me than those perfectly pretty craft rooms. Think of the wondrous things created in these rooms!

Alexander Calder

Joan MirĂ³

Jackson Pollack

Edward Gorey

All that stuff everywhere makes me want to create!

So maybe I'll get around to installing shelves at some point. Maybe I'll get my drawers more organized. But I think I'm comfortable with the knowledge that I'd rather spend time making art than doing any of that. And that's ok too.



  1. I love Edward Gorey anyway, but I love extra now for a) wearing a cat, and b) leaving his office like that. My office/studio is never clean, either. I go through cycles where I clean it up "for real this time" and it lasts maybe a week. I just can't keep it nice. I do have my beads and findings organized, but that's it. All of the surfaces are piled with things. It's extra funny now that my ID drawings are in there, too.

  2. Ya who was it that said "a clean space is the sign of a dirty mind"?...not quite applicable here but I definitely err on the side of "stuff" in my space. I suppose a happy medium is really the ideal?!

    1. Ha! I hadn't heard that one. Einstein supposedly said, "If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?" ;)

  3. so, I got shelves in my office/studio. i'm still at a loss for how to organize everything. maybe someday i'l figure it all out, until then, i'm an organized mess.

  4. work area is so messy!! I have more space that I used to in our new apartment but now.. I have just filled up that space. I have been meaning to re-do my set up to make it more efficient but I don't want to waste time cleaning when I can be creating!

  5. I don't have a work space, given that I don't have a shop or anything. When I do make things, I either take over my desk or the kitchen table. (My desk is actually a computer cabinet, so there isn't much room.) I am INCREDIBLY messy while I'm making things. However, I am also a neat freak, so I'll typically clean things up and tidy up piles of items when I am finished. So I'm definitely a bit of both. The spaces above are wonderful. It's only chaos if it makes no sense to the artist. Otherwise, it's brainstorming, creating, and "organized chaos." :)

  6. Oh goodness I love these examples. It's so easy to get wrapped up in beautiful work areas and spending oodles of time trying to make yours all organized and pretty... but you know what, if you're busy organizing and making pretty when are you actually doing any real art. Life is messy, and that's OK! Thanks for the reminder.

  7. There is a reason for which I never post pictures of my office space. It's not cute. Even when I worked from a huge warehouse and studio, it was always messy. I think that's reality! Any space you're constantly using isn't going to look neat and pretty all the time. (The pictures are great!)

  8. I agree that a tidy desk/studio is a thing of beauty, but only if it's before or after creation... not during. I like those days when my studio looks like a place where things happen —that is, a beautiful mess where every scrap and scribble is a stepping stone to an even better idea.

    I do organize and clean the space completely after each project: going back to a clean slate is invigorating and very inspiring, but I love being swallowed by scraps and paper while I'm working on something.

    Thank you for sharing these images! How great is nonchalant Edward Gorey, with a cat draped around his neck...