newly organized studio reveal

by | Mar 15, 2021 | All Things Home, Decorating, Home Studio, Organizing | 38 comments

As I shared on my blog last week, I took several days to continue the organizing efforts and focused them on my studio.  I had honestly been avoiding my studio the entire month of February.  I knew it would be tedious work and I knew I would have to dramatically rethink the way I purchased art supplies.  This wasn’t going to be about organizing things in neat piles, bins, and drawers with labels.  I already had that.  This was going to be about touching everything and considering the necessity of keeping it vs. selling or donating it.  This was about taking a good hard look at how I create and deciding which supplies are an asset and which ones were just clutter in my studio.

I have to admit that I got off to a slow start, but once I started to feel the liberation that comes with letting go, it got easier and I even revisited drawers to get rid of more.  I started to see a studio that was much more efficient and conducive to creative endeavors.  It would feel more inviting and less overwhelming.  And it looks really good!  Initially, Jeff said he couldn’t see a difference after I’d been working in there for two days, but once I was done, he acknowledged that it looked neater, more organized, and squeaky clean.

So, here is what it looked like when I was in the middle of it…

organizing the art studio | miss mustard seed

I worked through the two large storage pieces drawer-by-drawer and worked through all three rolling carts, hoping to downsize to just using one.  Along the way, I vacuumed, dusted, and even used Hemp Oil to polish up wooden brush handles and boxes.

organizing the art studio | miss mustard seed

My main goals were to clean out the supplies, downsize to one cart, declutter the surfaces, consolidate like-supplies, and (with a few exceptions) only have the things I use regularly out on work surfaces.  And, I’m happy to say that I accomplished all of those goals.

Let’s start with the art desk/table.  I brought this table up from the basement in November when I realized I could use more flat worksurfaces.  I was doing more paintings on paper and it didn’t work to do that at my easel or drafting table.  This table is about the same size as my vintage teacher’s desk, so it worked well putting them together, making a sort-of partner’s desk.

But, this tabletop was a clutter magnet!  Not only did I set things on there regularly, but even when the table was cleaned off, it was still loaded with a buffet of supplies.  On top of that, I had a little white rolling cart parked next to it full of more brushes, paints, papers, and mediums.  I just didn’t need all of that sitting out all of the time!

organizing the art studio | miss mustard seed

So, I simplified greatly.  I sorted the supplies, put some in the sell/donate piles, and neatly stored the rest in labeled drawers.  I kept out the pens, pencils, (short watercolor & acrylic) brushes, and tools that I use most.

When this is pared down and simplified, you know there was a big problem!

organizing the art studio | miss mustard seed

I’ve set up my Victorian watercolor box with the watercolors I use most, a small palette, and a few other supplies…

organizing the art studio | miss mustard seed

organizing the art studio | miss mustard seed

The bottom drawer holds some watercolor crayons and pigment sticks.

An ironstone dish holds papers and tape…

organizing the art studio | miss mustard seed

organizing the art studio | miss mustard seed

And I have the ceramic palettes I use most along with a few other supplies sitting out, but it’s pretty condensed.  I feel like it’s a nice balance of having things at-the-ready, but not too much.

The thing that I’m most excited about is the vintage rolling cart.  I was able to get rid of the two smaller carts and make this one more functional.  It just took scooting the antique dress form to the right of the easel, filling the awkward space at the end of the hardware cabinet.  When the green rolling cart was parked in that corner, it was much harder to use.

I moved the green art cabinet to the left just enough to make room for the rolling cart.  I then took the hardware tote from the cabinet and used it to store all of my long-handled artist brushes in one place.  This freed up space in the cabinet for my expanding art library.  More importantly, the brushes are sorted by type and I can really see what I have.  You can read the post with more detail about sorting the brushes HERE.

organizing the art studio | miss mustard seed

My paper towels are closest to the easel for easy access.  A small plastic bin holds some measuring tools, baby wipes, and some small painting surfaces like vintage index cards and clear-primed linen.

I organized all of my reference photos in binders by subject.  This was a tedious project, but it’s so nice to have everything neatly organized.  All of the photos are in page protectors, so it’s easy to flip through each binder.  Before, my reference photos were stored in folders and I had duplicates and photos I probably would never use, etc.  It was a bit of a mess and I think this system will be much better.  I even created a binder for my color charts, so I can make paint them on paper, punch holes in the side, and store the charts, wheels, and color studies in this binder.

color chart binder | organizing the art studio | miss mustard seed

It’ll take up a lot less space than the charts I made on 9 x 12 canvas panels I made a couple of years ago.  And I’m looking forward to making them again now that I’ve refined my color palette and have learned more about the process of making color charts.

On the bottom shelf of the cart, I have ziplock bags (for used paper towels), solvents and oils, and my vintage paint boxes.  I’ll admit that those are more for display.  Since this cart can be seen from the kitchen, I want it to be functional, but look pretty, too.

organizing the art studio | miss mustard seed

The change is subtle, but I spent most of my time on the large hardware cabinet and getting it organized.  By removing crocks and totes of brushes, I made room for more books.  Eventually, all of these shelves will be filled with books. Until then, I have a few books stacked sideways that are topped with art or artist mannequins.  They’re accessories that are easy to shuffle when I need more space for books.

All of the brushes, pens, and pencils that used to flank the shelf found a home with their counterparts where they will be used.  One ironstone pitcher with a few antique brushes, a few artist mannequins, and a jar of glass glitter have taken their place.

organizing the art studio | miss mustard seed

Each drawer was purged, sorted, and labeled.

I learned that, no matter how much I am drawn to them, I don’t need to buy any more ceramic palettes!  (Well, I will give allowance to one that is antique or very, very special.)  It’s funny, but these were the hardest thing for me to pare down and I ended up only getting rid of two.  Most of the ones I’ve purchased are handmade, antique, or I bought as a special souvenir.  I bought one in an art supply shop in Beijing and another was purchased in Paris.

organizing the art studio | miss mustard seed

I was able to free up a drawer for papers to use in mixed media projects.  The funny thing is that I’m not sure if I can cut up and decoupage 100+-year-old letters!  Some of them are from the late 1800s and they are beautiful.  I wish I could borrow a fluent French-speaker for an afternoon to translate them for me.  (Maybe I could just type them into Google Translate…?)  The fact that I don’t know what the letters say does make it a little easier to use them in my own sketchbooks.  (As a side note, it seems that French letters are the “in thing” on Etsy.  I have had a tough time finding any antique letters written in English.)

organizing the art studio | miss mustard seed

I have also been able to organize the drawers so that I can store my oil palettes in them when not in use.  One drawer in the green cabinet houses my glass palettes and one in the hardware cabinet has my wood, ceramic, and paper palettes.  In both cases, the palette I’m currently using can sit on top with wet paint on it, so it can be protected from my cats.  They have a knack for stepping straight into a pile of paint.

organizing the art studio | miss mustard seed

All of the drawers have been dramatically decluttered, so it’s very easy to find everything.

organizing the art studio | miss mustard seed

While the transformation isn’t dramatic to the casual observer, it feels so different and so much better to me.  I’m always excited to be in here, creating, but decluttering and organizing has made it even more inviting to me.

organizing the art studio | miss mustard seed

organizing the art studio | miss mustard seed

organizing the art studio | miss mustard seed

organizing the art studio | miss mustard seed

organizing the art studio | miss mustard seed

organizing the art studio | miss mustard seed

organizing the art studio | miss mustard seed

organizing the art studio | miss mustard seed

organizing the art studio | miss mustard seed

organizing the art studio | miss mustard seed

I am loving my studio and want to make sure I keep it this way.  Not “keep it this way” in that it never changes, but retain this inviting, organized, and efficient feeling.

Here are some new self-imposed rules I’ve instituted based on the things I learned from the experience…

  • No more buying sets.  I usually end up only using a small handful of colors, so it’s much better for me to buy open stock and get just what I want.
  • No more buying all of the supplies for a class unless I honestly don’t have something that will work.  For me, shopping the supply list is a part of the fun of taking a class!  It’s like back-to-school as an adult and I always loved opening all my new supplies and outfitting my Trapper Keeper.  As an adult, I get to buy and test out a wide array of new supplies and colors, getting them all organized as I ready myself to watch through the course.  The problem is that I tend to go back to my old standbys when the class is over and the new supplies go into a drawer. I can buy specific colors or products that I need if I don’t already have a reasonable substitute.  And, I have to be honest about whether or not I think I’ll continue to use the product/color after the class.
  • No more buying without looking at what I have first.  I discovered multiples of my favorites that I bought over and over again during this process, simply because they were buried undersupplies I don’t use.  That’s not efficient or smart.  Now, I can take a quick visual inventory.  It’ll save me money and space.
  • Drastically limit the number of supplies and colors I purchase to test.  I have to admit that I really, really love art supplies and I love testing out new mediums, brushes, pencils, pens, paints, etc.  But, I don’t need to make it my mission to test out everything in the Blick catalog!  And I certainly don’t need to continue to test out products that I know aren’t really my thing.  For example, I don’t tend to like things I can’t mix…colored pencils, crayons, markers, etc.  I like liquid/semi-liquid or water-soluble paints and mediums that I can mix.  Customizing my colors and creating my own palette is one of the things I enjoy most about art and I get frustrated when I can’t do it.

I’m hoping these rules will help me think twice before I buy anything, which will help me keep the supplies in my studio under control.

I am happy to report that since my no-spend February, I’ve been very good about following these rules and always checking my inventory or thinking a day or two before I buy anything.  And, instead of feeling constrained by it, I feel liberated and inspired.  I can just focus on all of the wonderful things I have instead of always hunting for the next awesome thing…

38 Comments

  1. Kris

    What a lovely creative space. I see you have a furry helper who is enjoying the sunshine. 🙂

    Reply
  2. Donna Thibodeau

    I am a watercolorist and own a Wilcox color guide. When I take a class I find the color on my palette that is closest to the class list of paints. Usually it narrows down to transparency and temperature. I have many tubes of paint that were unnecessary and unused. Usually you can make do. It is only a class.

    Reply
  3. Karalee

    Good afternoon,
    Your studio is delightful. You did a marvelous job of organizing. I especially like the window treatment on your windows. I know for a time you were making the coverings for your windows and selling them. I am terribly interested to know if you plan on doing that again?
    Be well,
    Karalee

    Reply
    • Jen

      Your studio looks great. Tackling a big organization job is rewarding when it all comes together. I have a few areas that need organizing and after reading your post you have given me inspiration and ideas to get moving on them. I love your brass wall lamps. I have been on the lookout for ones like those for our guest bedroom. Enjoy your newly organized studio!

      Reply
  4. Margo

    Hi,
    I noticed your canister vac and wondered if you could share the brand and resource as well as your opinion. We need to replace ours and I’m looking for recommendations.
    Thank you.
    PS I love the cats but that yarn storage has me green with envy!

    Reply
  5. Betsy

    Your step by step explanation of organizing has given me enough calmness to forge ahead on my own clean out. I am a paper lover, decoupage, dioramas and card making. I started this journey 15 years ago and my tastes have changed so much. I have been holding onto so many things thinking I’ll use them again by in my heart I know I won’t. It’s time for a major purge and to love and treasure the items I actually use. Thank you for all your inspiration.

    Reply
  6. Lisa

    What a wonderful place to be creative😊

    Reply
  7. Lisa P

    Wow! It is all so pretty and organized and inviting! I know I am just not capable of doing all that but I will take it as an encouragement to pick a small area, do what I can, a little at a time.
    I’m looking forward to taking some of your painting classes in a month or so when I have finished up some other kinds of projects. Thanks for all you do!

    Reply
  8. Jo Ann

    Wow! Just wow! How inspiring. I really love the chair you brought in for the table. I love the softness of that chair with so many hard straight lines. It speaks a soft voice of beauty.
    I would pay to take a class on color charts: you mentioned downsizing paper. I’m guessing you went to 8 1/2 X 11? Did you go to oil paper?
    I’m thankful and excited that you will be teaching some classes. I hope to be in every one.
    Thank you for always inspiring us.

    Reply
  9. Antonella

    I think this detailed decluttering process is exactly what I needed to conceptualize and execute my own. Thank you.

    Reply
  10. Janet

    You did a great job and I am encouraged to start the cleaning/organizing/gleaning/donating in my creative studio space (mine mostly has fabrics , books, magazines , original hand drawn patterns, and bits and pieces for finishing). As I am also a knitter/crocheter/cross stitcher I really need to organize what I need out and close to .hand as you did with your supplies …what a great example you accomplished 👍😊

    Reply
  11. Carolee

    Hard work and dedication pays off. It looks great! I am interested in your cannister vac also. Please share some info about it. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      That is a 15+ year old Dyson! We recently bought one of their new uprights, but I still use this one, too. The rug beater wasn’t working as well after 15 years, but the attachments still work great.

      Reply
  12. Judyann

    I love this blog!!! You are so very blessed with talent! I’m working on your free art projects at the moment and enjoying them greatly…I’m not very good, but am hoping that with practice and hard work I’ll improve enough to not be completely embarrassed to show my work to my friends. I’m wondering about your sale of art supplies…will it be online?

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      Yes, it will be under the shop tab here on my website this Thursday at 7:00 pm CST.

      Reply
  13. Deborah Raney

    I’m not even an artist, but I adore this room and don’t see how anyone could step into it and not feel incredibly creative! In the second photo, I see a row of colorful somethings?? hanging over the window like a frieze. I LOVE the look, but need a closer shot! Did I miss a blog post on this? I don’t even know what to search for to find more info. Could you help?!

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      Thank you, Deborah! Those are samples of the colors from the milk paint line I created (I sold it and am no longer the owner), but I still love having the palette hanging over the windows. It’s just paint on cut pieces of molding, so you could easily create it with a color palette that inspires you. I stuck them up there with sticky-back velcro tape.

      Reply
      • Deborah Raney

        Awesome! Thanks so much for the quick reply. I just love the way it looks!

        Reply
  14. JODY K

    So pretty! Now I just have three little words for you: Come On Over.

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      Ha! I still have my work cut out for me with my basement. Oh, the Legos!

      Reply
  15. Beverlee Burks Lyons

    I can feel that sense of freedom with you. I love that feeling, and to open a drawer and have a sense of organization instead of dread. You do that so well…and I am excited with you.

    Reply
  16. Rita

    I’m working on my sewing/craft room. I have been really stuck with no motivation or inspiration because it is so cluttered. I have started on the closet building shelving that will work for me. I’ve already gone through fabric and supplies, but will probably get rid of more after the closet is done. Your space is so beautiful so I understand how a pretty space can be so inspiring. My son has a ton of Legos. I think those will be going soon. He does have someone interested if he decides to sell.

    Reply
  17. Julie | Home On The Hill

    Oh I so need to do this in my art room – my desk is so full of half done projects & supplies I can’t use it! Wish I had as much space as you do, just a few more feet would have given me even more room to hoard supplies!! 😉

    Funny thing though about those old letters in French – not knowing what they say would make them harder to use for me, not easier, as I have a thing about foreign languages (especially in things like decoupage papers & transfers etc) that the subject matter has to be in keeping with or at least not at odds with the piece it’s used on. I m always using Google translate to check if my schoolgirl French doesn’t suffice & I often find it funny or at times even off putting when the meaning of the words is way out of context with the end use. 😀 One of my many quirks!

    Reply
  18. Jo

    Re using vintage paper in collages. I have the same problem. I make copies and use them instead. Once your vintage letters, etc are glued down, that’s it. You can’t use them again, and they are precious. Just use copies. You can copy onto a variety of different papers so they can have a feel.

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      Yes, I have made some copies, but they just aren’t quite the same.

      Reply
  19. Suzi Matteson

    Could you hang some of the ceramic pallets on the wall? Would he a neat collection.

    Reply
  20. Jean

    Marian – I am so jealous at the size of your space! I have the smallest bedroom (although it does have an en suite bathroom which is nice) and the tinest closet! I feel as though I’m packed in here like a mad hen BUT am so thankful to have a dedicated space I don’t have to share. You inspired me to start sorting through drawers and baskets to get a handle on the STUFF I’ve accumulated over the 19 years we’ve been here. Having retired means time (and necessity)to manage space and stuff along with making better decisions about new supplies. I don’t have a lot of duplicates except for pens and paper tablets but storage is so limited I need to be careful. My biggest problem is books. I was a librarian in another life and have the worst time passing up a title that looks intriguing.

    I can’t wait to see what you do with the antique letters!

    Reply
  21. Barbara Ann King

    So refreshing to organize and weed out, isn’t it? I also do this in my kitchen, especially when I buy something on impulse at the grocery store, only to come home and find that I already had 2 of that item in my pantry!

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      Yep! I do that in my pantry, too. I need to make a better system!

      Reply
  22. Jeanine

    Can you share where you purchased the sconces in this room?

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      They are from Pottery Barn, but they are retired, sadly.

      Reply
  23. Wendy Y

    Your frugal February thing has been sticking with me too! Good to re-think how much I really need, think twice about buying something, and start by shopping around my own house first. 😁. But having things organized where I can find them and purging what I don’t need is where I’ve felt called to be since the beginning of the year too, and it’s doing good things for our home and lives all the way around. Thanks for sharing your journey. It makes me feel like I have a kindred spirit in all these endeavors! 😁

    Reply
  24. Cathy

    Now I didn’t read all of the comments but perhaps you could reach out to your local high school/college French teacher and see if they can assist with your translation needs. You could then gift them with a a little postcard painting or something you’ve knitted.
    Your studio is my version of heaven. I’m inspired to tackle mine

    Reply
  25. Linda

    Big project, well done! I admire organization that works. Yours is functional and inviting! What could be better?! So, can I come over, pile up on that inviting chair, and yak while you paint or something? I love cats, if that helps.

    Reply
  26. Melinda

    I’ve just discovered your painting lessons, and I am enjoying them very much! Would you please share details & purchase info on your easel? Thank you so much!

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      Sure thing! My easel is the Sienna Counterweight Studio Easel.

      Reply
  27. Leila

    Marian you have more experience shopping for antique furniture than I do so I wanted to pick your brain. I’m shopping for one of the storage cabinets like you have here in your art room – more the unpainted one than the painted one. What sort of price point should I feel is appropriate?

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      They can be all over the place depending on where you buy it, luck, etc. I paid $200 for the painted green piece with all of the drawers, $500 for the hardware counter (the base of the larger piece), and $150 for the bookcase on top. Large pieces can sell for a lot more, though, especially if you’re buying from a dealer. My pieces were purchased off craigslist from individuals. (The green cabinet was from a small, local antique shop.) From a dealer, I would expect to pay $750-1500 or so for a large, really cool antique storage piece. I hope that gives you a nice range!

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Hello!

Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…

facebookPinterestYouTubeinstagramfeedfacebookemail

Subscribe today

and receive a FREE e-version of my planning sheets!

Categories

Articles by Date

 

our sponsors


Bliss and Tell Branding Company