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Clutter is my middle name

This week was back-to-school week after the Easter holiday. A holiday that came after a self-isolation for my youngest, that came after a three month lockdown, that came after the year that was 2020. This week has felt like freedom for this Artist-Teacher-Mentor-Mum.

My first reclaim of my own space was a studio spring clean. Of course it is the season but after a momentous period of juggling responsibilities, I needed to find the corners of my space and fall in love with it again. I am so blessed to have a beautiful studio that is all my own. Every day I am grateful with what it provides me with for my soul and for my business.

But Clutter is my middle name! Like most creatives, and especially as a mixed-media artist, it is easy to hoard materials and equipment for some future point in time when they will be useful. Then there are the art pieces and sketchbooks that accrue over time, as well as stuff extradited from the house but with no real purpose here.

When we feel stuck creatively it is often really a feeling of being swamped. We need to open up new spaces in which to create - both internal and external. Making a studio functional and purposeful, with designated space for making gives us permission to get started. Letting go of the obligation to do work that suited us in a time gone by but no longer validates us can be cleansing and cathartic. Letting go of art materials, half-finished projects, dated work and impetuously acquired materials and equipment can clear the way for the new.

When we have project guilt, when our creativity is based on 'shoulds' not 'coulds', we feel stifled. too many freedoms can also be stiffling. Taking time to work out what it is that we are passionate about and what motivates us NOW will carry us forwards. Creating space can create flow in our art - peeling away what we are not can reveal who we are. Channelling our creativity into a particular specialism, practice, theme or range of materials can be liberating.

Our guilt at not having used something is real and we have a responsibility to be eco and ethical. We can't just chuck stuff in the bin because it no longer 'sparks joy'.

Earlier in the year in my talk, 'The Nurtured Artist', I spoke about how to go deeper and not wider with your practice. Fight the urge to be a serial sampler with all the incumbent new materials and unused equipment. Strive for greater competency and depth in one thing. My 'one-thing' is mixed-media art which allows me to hoard a great number of materials and resources!! at various stages I cull and let stuff go. Do I regret it? Sometimes, I remember fondly fabrics I have passed on, but mostly I acknowledge that the purge preceeded an urge to create that pushed me forwards.

Many of the students on my online art and creativity courses, are looking for their 'true voice' and style. Being a serial dabbler we can keep trying new ideas, convinced that others have their confidence, have done it 'right' and we learn by imitation, riddled with self doubt to move forwards by ourselves. But there is no right or wrong with art making. It is all about intuition so trust yours and let go of processes and materials that aren't fuelling your fire.

When I have a big studio clear out I like to think I will end up with a whole new spaciousness, but in reality, I will always have a studio that is wall-to-wall stuff. I'm eclectic by nature! But now, I know where everything is, I can see the edges of the room and the space beneath my work table. I have become reacquainted with items that I had mislaid and there is order to the chaos.


How do we find homes for our cast-offs? As Anne Leonard said,

"There is no such thing as "away". When we throw anything away, it must go somewhere".

As we mark this year's Earth Day, our responsibility to Mother Earth has never been more important. We are a creative community, a tribe, all able to make a difference. Here is where I recycle and redistribute art materials and equipment:

  • unopened art materials and equipment can be sold on ebay

  • create some 'art-kits' of odds and ends and swap these with creative friends. Or fill small boxes or a jiffy bags and send to your tribe

  • offer art materials to schools who are woefully underfunded in this area. Scout/Guide groups may be grateful too

  • contact your local community arts centre. Mine has adopted much of my surplus to use with community groups. They also have sales to raise funds.

  • specialist equipment may be of use to artists/makers running courses

  • charity shops - some like Oxfam, seem to sell more craft items. package it attractively before donating so it has a better chance of selling.

On my online courses, I always try to offer options for what art materials are required so you can use what you have. All the processes shown have optional elements.


Once your art materials are sorted, what do you do with your archive? It is hard to let go of art, even if we hate it! I keep key pieces that chart my artistic development. Accept that even if you don't like a piece, someone else might love it, so gift it on. Or, cut up a piece of work and make handmade cards, or paint over it and start again! And if you really have no connection at all with it, burn it or bin it.

I have known for a couple of years that I wanted to move forwards with my work and when I hit a creative slump in 2019, I was all for burning everything! A friend said very kindly that she would take it away and be guardian of my archive, fearful that I might actually follow through with my threats. I wouldn't have been the first, Pablo Picasso and Georgia O'Keeffe both transitioned with their work by burning the old to make space for the new.

Where does that leave you once the space is cleared, the energy renewed? You can now open the door to what is new and what is next. Currently, for me that is a return to my textile roots, developing ideas from #the100dayproject. My latest passion is wool and the Universe is sending me a lot (okay, online shopping may have something to do with it!).

And so creative life flows on....


*the author takes no responsibility for post purge regrets ;)

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