Studio Tips & Ideas

The other day I was trying to figure out how to mend the hole in my finger, “mending” being a really good word for it since the hole was created by my stabbing myself over and over with a needle. Not on purpose–no. But I’m totally thimble-impaired: although I have probably a dozen thimbles, including a lovely antique silver one, I have never mastered the knack of using one of them while sewing. So I posted a question on Facebook to find out how other people patch the holes in their fingers (I usually use a drop of Super Glue, but I’m temporarily out, alas), and I got some excellent suggestions for getting rid of the cracks artists get from overexposure to glue and paint, solvents and sandpaper. People suggested everything from using Gloves in a Bottle before you start to using Liquid Bandage to repair the damage. Udder cream, Burt’s Bees hand cream, bag balm (like udder cream). And as I was reading the answers, I thought about how many other excellent studio tips were floating around out there. So I asked: “What is your odd-but-it-works tip for art-making? Either a tool that you repurposed or a trick that makes something easier or a way to get paint off something or a way to keep your fingers intact.”

And here’s what people said:

Andrea says, “Tried and true way to remove inks from fingers: wash your hair.” Now I’m wondering: is it the shampoo that does it, or is it the friction of your hair? Probably a combination of the two, but I realized that it really does work: after I wash my hair, hardly anything is left on my fingers–it even removes much of the stain when I forget to wear gloves when I’m dyeing fabric, and that stain is tough, indeed.

Vanessa says, “When I’m in a pinch to cover/paint something tiny I will go for a Sharpie or nail polish…lots of great colors!”

Carin says, “I have a plastic chopstick holder that I can keep two items in: craft knife, glass dip pen or wood free pencil, and I don’t have to worry about them getting broken. I tend to lose the caps on things very fast. I usually keep bits in a bag or envelop so I can cut things up during my down time (waiting for the bus, riding the bus, doctor’s office).”

Sharon’s tip: “My cupboards are a great source for tools, especially for making circles. I dig out whatever cup, saucer, plate, glass, etc, will work and use it as a template.”

Then we got some fabulous recycling tips–so much stuff gets thrown away that could be used and reused first: use it once, then use it for something else, then use it for still something else, and *then* throw it away.

Brandy says, “I am an avid recycler: use clear plastic egg cartons to separate colors of left over yarns, fibers, etc.. so when free motion sewing have lots of choices to grab fast, stack nicely also. Save all tubs that come with sandwich meats, etc., for water buckets to throw out after use, plastic bottle caps to use for dyeing, staining or painting an item so no cleaning… plastic tops of anything for palettes, then throw away.”

Alice adds, “Foam trays produce and meat come in from the store. I use them as palettes, cut them to use as smoothers or spreaders for glues or mediums, carve them with cuticle trimmers to make my own stamps, glue little shapes cut from them to forms to be covered with paper mâché, cut them in strips with slits in one edge to hold embroidery floss, use them as work trays to keep pieces of a project or tools for a project close at hand – you name it – I probably use the trays for it.”

LorriMarie says, “I use expired gift cards to drag paint down my substrates for some fun textures…and I use discarded pieces of unused sheetrock for my substrates…lightweight…sturdy…and I can pound nails into it…I cover all my substrates with old book pages first…so you cannot see any of the sheetrock…any construction site will gladly surrender the leftover rock! recycle-repurpose-reuse!!!”

And then Melanie leaves us with this: “There are many small moments throughout the day that should be used in making art. Acclimate yourself to these moments and you will become a more prolific artist. If you love visual journaling, make sure to have your journal in your bag and take it out to draw whenever possible. If you like sewing on the go, make sure you have everything you need available to you when you find yourself stopping for a cup of coffee.” (You can find more of Melanie’s wisdom in Dreaming from the Journal Page.)

Ricë is the author of Living the Creative Life, Creative Time and Space, and Destination Creativity. She also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.


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