Studio Organizing Resources

As a young housewife and mother I learned about efficient storage and work flow from a true expert, Lillian Gilbreth. Her classic book, Management in the Home, applies professional efficiency engineering to household management. You know Lillian Gilbreth, I hope, as the heroine of the true story, Cheaper by the Dozen and other memoirs written by her children. She's one of the first female engineers to earn a PhD, and with her husband, established the field of industrial engineering, especially time and motion study. (Yes, in 1950 Cheaper by the Dozen also became a classic film.)

Lillian Moller Gilbreth in 1921

Lillian Moller Gilbreth in 1921

A lot of the principles I learned young, from Gilbreth's book, are second nature to me now. They were important in setting up my blacksmithing studio, and certainly reinforced by my blacksmithing teachers. Certainly my mentor and adoptive father Francis Whitaker stressed that to all of us who studied with him. A smith has just a few seconds to reshape iron once it's pulled from the fire, so time and motion study are crucial to this craft.

Francis Whitaker, my mentor and adoptive father

Francis Whitaker, my mentor and adoptive father

There's no point in wasting time as a painter, either! Acrylic paint doesn't dry as fast as iron loses heat, but creative time and energy deserve to be honored

 So if a tool will be used first with water, I want it stored within reach of the distilled water jug. For a while, therefore, I stored all the brushes in bins and jars on the kitchen counter. I moved them in this last reorganization to keep them cooler (out of direct sunlight and kitchen heat) and because a sense of spaciousness trumped saving a few steps.

Organizing a new space for work flow

The cabin does have some constraints to its arrangement for painting. After all,  --  the cabin includes cooking, eating, sleeping, bathing and dressing. In contrast, when I set up Studio2 I'll be working with an empty 20 by 20-foot room. This still won't be large for a painting and collage studio, but I'll be able to set it up for good work flow. The top floor of the same building is now used as an office and for framing paintings, so the work flow will really cover both floors.

Jim Tolbin's excellent book, Working at Woodworking, showed how he laid out his cabinet shop for the easiest and most efficient workflow. Raw materials came in at one place, circled the shop as they were processed, and finished work emerged at the end of the circle.  I studied this in setting up my blacksmithing studio (even tho Tolbin's examples were all for woodworking). Setting up a studio for total work flow is still my ideal. 

Labeling containers

When I want a quick label for a box, I usually just grab a file folder label and write the label with a Sharpie marker. For a bigger label, I'll sometimes use plain white artist tape. For labeling drawers or making more detailed labels, though, I like to use a label maker. These vinyl labels can be pulled off cleanly to reposition, yet seem to stick better to plastic boxes than file folder labels. I like labels that are legible from across the room.

Sometimes, though, I prefer a smaller label with more detail. For this is use the DYMO Label Manager 210D. It's mid-priced among label makers, and makes labels of different colors and widths. I chose a DYMO label maker because the backing that must be peeled off each label is split all down the length of the label. This means it's never hard to peel off: just fold the label a bit and the edge of the backing is easy to grasp. (Note that if you want labels to iron on fabric, or want to print labels from your computer, then this isn't the model for you.)