There's nothing more frustrating that not finding what you are looking for when you need it. I am notorious for not finding things and "knowing" it was "right there!" yesterday or even a few seconds ago. Today I am redoing my studio area. After years of doing illustration work I've decided to move my focus into other art avenues. In doing so I need to reorganize my work area to be more suitable for my projects. Now I've generally kept my work area as organized as possible, but with deadline crunches and sometime utter laziness things get a bit, shall we say, untidy. I have however found a few ways that honestly work real well to keep things organized, always let you know what supplies you have on hand, and make it easier to find what you need when you need it.
Clear or Open Storage
Nothing says "Never See It Again" more than a box, closet or solid drawer. Storage like this is where things go to die. Keeping things in view is essential to knowing what you have and where it is. Before I started storing things this way I can't tell you how many times I've bought something I already owned or completely forgot I had something only to stumble across it a year later on accident.
This kind of storage also keeps things in sight, readily available for use and if it is something you don't use often it might just help spark an idea or make you use something you might have forgotten about if it was under your desk in a box.
Open and clear storage also helps save time. When you can see it and get to it easily it gives you more time to work on you project instead of searching for the box with your paints or glues. I used to keep a large majority of my supplies in cardboard photo boxes you get from stores like Michael's. Each box was black (because I like black) and nothing was labeled. I would spend more time digging through boxes than working on what I wanted to.
This is something new I started about a year ago. I have an old label maker and started printing out sticker labels for some of my storage containers. I had picked up a bunch of 5x7 and 4x6 clear plastic photo boxes from my local craft store and started filling them up. Although it worked great for storage, knowing what was in each box was tough when they were stacked up on my shelf. That's where the label maker came into play. With each boxed labeled it makes it as easy as pulling a movie or book off a shelf and getting exactly what you want when you want it.
Although this isn't a storage solution this is something to keep in mind when organizing your studio/work space. Keep the things you use the most or on a daily basis the closest to your reach and things you don't in view. For example - If you sculpt, things like sculpting tools, clay and brushes might be things you used daily. These would be kept in reach of your work area. If you sculpt and on the occasion have need for oil paints, this should be something that is kept in sight, but not necessarily in reach of your work area.
Functionality over Appearance
I've seen shots of peoples work areas that are utterly amazing. Beautiful laser cut storage, high end shelving from IKEA and full out of the catalog studio setups. Although this might be the best looking solution it for some might not be the most affordable or even necessary. Although it is great to have a cool looking work space, functionality should when possible come before appearance.
Although this setup might be visually fantastic ask yourself these questions:
Does the setup do what I need it to do?
Can I find everything easily and quickly?
Do I have enough room to do my work?
Can it handle larger projects as well?
Was it worth the money?
If you answer "No" to any of these questions you might have to look into other work space options.
I've found tons of great storage and furniture from local businesses that were closing and selling off their fixtures and displays as well as flea markets and yard sales. I've found paint racks, marker racks, tables, and various tool storage super cheap and sometimes even free. Just because it's used doesn't mean it's useless. One man's trash is another man's treasure.
I found personally that pegboard is a great way to setup various storage options fairly cheap. Pegboard shelves, hooks and storage are available at most large hardware stores like Home Depot or Lowe's. I find myself redoing my studio area every so often easily because of having pegboard walls around my work area.
Another option is from the chain craft stores like Michael's and Hobby Lobby. These places carry a pretty standard white press board/modular storage system that my wife and I both have and still use tons of today. The pieces can be a bit pricey on their own but, these stores are infamous for their weekly coupons and sales. 40-50% coupons each week as well as the occasional big yearly sales are great to take advantage of. This is also a great place to get clear/frosted divider boxes, clear photo boxes and other unique storage options. Defiantly keep these stores in mind when you are looking for new storage solutions.
If you can build it...why not?
Simply put, if you are skilled and have access to the tools or know someone who can build what you need, do it. I've got access to a few tools that have come in handy to make various storage and organizers for my work area. With a few pieces of scrap wood, some screws and some paint or wood stain you would be surprised what you can make for your work area for next to no cost at all except some time and creativity.
Keep an open mind
When looking for items to use in your work space/studio keep an open mind. An old spice rack might just make a great paint rack. Empty peanut butter jars might just be the thing to hold all your paint tubes or sand for building gaming terrain. Empty mint tins could be perfect to hold all those loose or use hobby knife blades. Old coffee cups could be just the thing to hold all your paint brushes.
Yes that dreaded cleaning. This is the hard part but needs to be done. Once you have your designated place for something it needs to go back there when you finished using it. This doesn't mean doing it daily. I "try" to do this every few days or at a minimum, once a week. Putting things away on a regular basis not only keeps things where you want them but helps put you in that routine if keeping things where they belong. It also keeps your work area ready for a project at any given time without having to spend a day cleaning just to work on something.
I hope this gives you some ideas or inspiration when setting up your work space. Works spaces and studios are a never ending and always changing setup. It takes time and creativity to get your area just the way you want it and with the functionality you might need.
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to post them below.
Thanks for reading!