Sunday, March 7, 2010

Closet Envy

Closet in the new studio space

Closets are a selling point. Realtors list "spacious walk-in closet" and prospective buyers drool. Homeowners grumble about current homes not having "enough storage space," and artists flip through Dick Blick and other materials catalogs to price out the cost of individual flat files because they are fed-up with the crinkling of their expensive BFK Reeves or handmade rice papers due to improper storage.

Oh the dream: To have enough space for all our stuff.

When I first started drawing plans for the new studio addition, they included a "spacious walk-in closet, with flat files and plenty of storage." In fact, the "plans" actually included four closets.

Sound decadent? Perhaps. But bear in mind, Chris and I have lived in this 160 year old house for over eight years with only two closets, both of which are built-in to the eaves, small, oddly shaped, and difficult to maneuver in, much less store anything that we hope to find later on down the road. With a damp (often wet) dirt basement, storage was a no-go down below, and the barn is inhabited by critters that want nothing more than for us to store stuff that makes for cozy nesting material (i.e. expensive linen canvas. Live and learn.)

As it goes with construction, plans change constantly. Our contractor often said the words "You can't do that", or "It won't fit with the pitch of the roof." But I was determined to eek out as much closet space as possible. Though Chris' writing study ended up "sans closet", somewhat of a tragedy, and another closet was reduced to "cubby status", I did demand that a large art supply closet be built. Every inch of space was valuable as I hashed and re-hashed numbers in my mind of how large my papers were and just what items I had that I could never seem to find a good place to store: those bulky lamps for the photography lightbox, 24"x36" flip-floppy newsprint pads, over-sized mat board and foam core, bark paper, multitudes of drawing tablets for watercolor and charcoal, a big wooden box of chalk pastels, paints, paint mediums, loom components, baskets of yarn, yada yada, yada.

Artists know what I am talking about. We have this "collection" that seems to grow and grow over the years. Things that we "know" we will need and use....someday. And in the meantime, they need a place to sit collecting dust until that day arrives.

I collect. One year I made a huge score at Goodwill and got all kinds of art supply goodies. Thirteen or fourteen years later, I still have much of those items, yet to be put to good use. No, I am not a hoarder. Stop thinking that. I know that flashed through your mind, even if for only a millisecond. I like my materials easily accessible, and my home environment organized, in more of a feng-shui kind of way. I just seem to accumulate lots of stuff is all, I like to think, primarily, in the name of art.

I do cull through things. Chris knows when it is coming too. He'll wake some morning and find me pawing through a pile of stuff that has been dragged out of a closet or the barn, and he knows that I am in one of those moods where I need to get rid of things. Now, I make a good-hearted attempt to question purchases beforehand to be sure they are either 1)necessary and have a utilitarian purpose, 2) support the arts, or 3) somehow tie in to deepening my spiritual and/or artistic path (this one can be broad, from books, to workshops, to charity). Still, "stuff" makes its ways into our lives.

So, left behind is the "stuff' I can't or won't part with, stuff that most often has deep meaning for me or stuff that I am "absolutely positive that I will, no doubt.....(maybe?)....need at some point for an art project."

Which brings me to closet envy.

I have suffered from that ailment from time to time, but no longer. I now have the art supply closet to beat all bands. One side of the closet consists of 41"x38" shelves for flat-filing papers, the other side 11"x36" shelves for all those miscellaneous art materials. Open the door (which swings completely wide and out of the way) and I am able to slip in awkward stuff like small card tables, baskets of yarn, easels, foot stool, and bulky photography lamps.

It is impressive. One day during drawing group I opened the closet door to get a drawing board for someone and it was like a movie scene where you see the beautiful woman walking in slow motion, hair flowing in the breeze, all jaws dropping. The other artists at drawing group saw the glow of the fluorescent light and the stacked shelves, the space, and yes, jaws did drop. It is a beautiful (and envy-invoking) piece of carpentry.

If this closet were food, I would say it is like going to a fancy five star gourmet French restaurant after eating at McDonalds all your life.

It is creme brulee versus a hostess twinkie.


Michael Chesley Johnson, Artist / Writer said...

I've observed that stuff expands to fit the closet space available. Enjoy the culling!

Owl Who Laughs said...

For too long, the mice had a chance to romp and play with the supplies we had to stash in the loft of our ancient barn. Yikes!

I'm glad you can write with humor (and skill) about the recent and stressful process of having an addition built.



Michael - acute observation (thinking as I search for shelf space to put the latest handful of "stuff" from the hardware store....that I just HAD to have).

you know better than anyone how "un-humorous" the actual experience was....and how un-lovely it was each spring to find newly "moused-up" belongings in the barn. So much better now.

Anonymous said...

Hey Shanna, very nice to read your blog too. You have a very lovely voice. I haven't really explored many blogs but I love all of your photos etc. Your drawings are really beautiful. I hope when you head to Hallowell, that you will stop by. Malley


thanks for checking out my blog, Malley. I love your clay work - and feel like i left hallowell right when all the cool clay artists were moving in!

are you still in the building at the bottom of winthrop st? i'll make it a point to visit next time we come through hallowell, check out your latest creations.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I'm envious! Our flat is lovely but lacks a good sizeable closet like this. I collect a lot of stuff for crafts too. I'm glad you've found your solution!


thanks for checking in, crafty green poet!