Cleaning up in the studio

Cleaning up in my studio: way too many dirty palettes!
Cleaning up in my studio: way too many dirty palettes!

I've been hard at work cleaning out the studio. There is still a lot to do. But meanwhile, here's a quick peek at a little of that. After all my palettes were all washed, I counted them. No, I'm not going to share that number. It's simply too embarrassing.

I use a toothbrush and Lava soap for most of the work, and a scrubbing sponge for most of the rest, but sometimes my rubber-gloved index finger was more effective.

I did learn something new about cleaning palettes: a little alcohol on a paper towel will get rid of those hard-set glumps of probably-acrylic-gouache paint that won't come off with soap and water no matter how you scrub.

It's so satisfying to see my spotless palettes stacked neatly and waiting for the next project!

Homemade awls – student grade

Awls for class
Awls for class

I had a good time this weekend making awls for my students from a bag of sponge brushes and a paper of doll needles. The red duck tape should find it easy to find them in the studio 🙂

Here's what I did, step by step:

  1. Drill a hole in the end of each brush handle.
  2. With cutting pliers (snips?), cut off the eye end of the doll needle to a good length.
  3. Insert the needle in the drilled hole together with Loctite glue.
  4. Cut and apply a circle of duck tape to the needle end of the awl, piercing the tape with the needle. Clip curves and smooth allowance around the handle -- I pulled and attached every other clipped bit and then went back and attached the remaining ones to minimize bulk.
  5. Wrapped the handle with duck tape to secure the circle of duck tape at the end of the handle and make a nice surface to hold onto to.

Steps 4 and 5 aren't necessary, but the duck tape adds a nice finishing touch, I think.

I was going to remove the foam brush heads from each one, but then I decided hey! it can be a double-duty tool. When the foam brush is spent, you can either unscrew it and have a straight-up awl, or you can replace the brush head. Rather ingenious, if I say it myself.

Fall cleaning in the studio

This past week I've been obsessed with cleaning my studio. It all started because we were planning to house a guest there for a week, and I realized that the place was in pretty bad shape. So I started straightening. Then I started cleaning, and of course as I cleaned I had to organize.

It took a week, but in the process I tested all my pigmented markers and gel pens, inventoried frames and framing equipment, cleaned tools, organized papers ... I was pretty thorough. I can't say that I'm finished, but I am done. For now.

Here are shots of the drawers in the desk where I do most of my writing. This desk was built for my grandfather by his father to take to college. I love the desk.

I have way too many tools, but maybe now that they're organized I will use them up in an efficient manner. As if.

Oh, and it looks as though we won't be having a guest there after all. Still, mission accomplished.

My standard inks, plus pigmented markers, metallic markers, calligraphy markers
My standard inks, plus pigmented markers, metallic markers, calligraphy markers
Inks, ink sticks, ink stones, cutting tools, bookbinding weights, and one cut quill (which really shouldn't have the feathers still attached).
Brushes, more brushes, vintage pointed nibs, alcohol wipes.
Paint/ink pots, tapes, compasses, jewelry tools (not that I make jewelry).
Gouache, watercolors, more pointed markers, brush markers.

Studio activities for blurry eyes

This morning at my annual eye exam, I bit the bullet and got my pupils dilated. I was assured that I would feel the effects for only 2 to 3 hours. Twelve hours later, I can barely stand to look at this monitor.

Turns out there is still plenty that can be done in the studio even when I can't see clearly:

Repairing a leather-covered box
Repairing a leather-covered box
Penciling in guidelines
Penciling in guidelines


Cleaning tools
Cleaning tools

Just tidying up the studio in general could have filled the entire day, but I couldn't bear to do that today. Those pupil dilation drops make me feel like my eyes have a cold -- itchy, runny and dry, all at the same time.

Bozeman, Montana

Well, I'm here. My studio is not quite the pile of boxes it was earlier in the week, but it's still a wreck. I can't find my "real" camera, but here are a couple of shots of the chaos that is my new studio. It's a huge studio -- these pics only show 2 opposing corners of it.

It's been quite a trip. We drove from Tallahassee to Bozeman in a little less than a week. From Sioux Falls, Iowa, all across South Dakota, and into Wyoming we were driving through the Sturgis rally -- Harleys stretched that far along US-90. I got some pictures -- if only I can find my camera, which I'm sure I put somewhere for "safekeeping" (my standard method for driving myself crazy).


The spring 2009 semester at Florida State University is officially over. What a sprint. It's all over but the cleaning up (except for there is this one lingering project ...). I believe that this week I used nearly everything in my studio at least once.

  • I had the acrylic inks, sumi ink, colored pencils and gel pens out for the pieces I made for the Senior Design Seminar show, Made (link requires Facebook login). I also used cheesecloth, Saran wrap, tapes, bubble wrap, squirt bottles, spray bottles, drop cloths, hake brushes, sponges, and so on.
  • I had the framing supplies and tools out, for the next step in the same project. That included the mat cutter, the foam-core cutter, the frames themselves, glazing, framing and hanging hardware, rulers, and so on.
  • I had the collage supplies and tools out for the final Color Theory assignment. And the roll of kozo paper, and the wax paper for flattening/drying, and the glue and glue brush and the glue palette.
  • And before I settled on collage for the final assignment, I had the gouache and brushes out for a my first attempts. And the palettes and masking tape and so on.
  • I had my paste-painted and otherwise-decorated papers out for both Color Theory, Print Design, and Animation. Those papers were in and out of storage all week long.
  • I had my balsa-wood lettering out to scan for Print Design. And I went through a whole bunch of portfolios of my work for scanning as well.
  • I kept cutting long pieces of paper from the roll of paper that makes me think of the paper tableclothes from potluck suppers of my childhood. That was for lettering trials in preparation for lettering Hebrew on long strips of muslin to be sewn into a quilt. And then there were the various pens I tried on the muslin, the water-eraseable pen for guidelines, the measuring tools, and so on. I ended up using a Zig calligraphy marker because it bleeds very little, and is lightfast, waterproof, and fun to write with.

Whew! It's good to be finished with the semester ... almost. It will be nice to see the surface of my drafting table again.

It’s a whirlwind life

Where does the time fly? What with semester final projects and work and eight days in Mexico, I've hardly had time to take a breath.

But I just caught sight of my large drafting table, and it looks so ... satisfying. There's my final project in 3D Design -- an assemblage of found objects -- propped against the back wall. That's partially covered by two envelopes in the midst of construction for the Black Tie Exchange over at the Yahoo list, Calligraphy Exchange.

In front of that is some trial lettering and rubrication for a Kipling poem. And then there are stacks of wedding envelopes done in black copperplate, and the brown envelopes with gold italic in front are Christmas card envelopes. The Crane stationery has a luscious gold and green palm tree on the front. It's simply luscious, writing on that dark brown paper and watching that gold ink flow through the pen and sink into the paper.

That beautiful jumble of work on my drafting table is so happy-making. And I think of what Brenda Ueland wrote:

Why should we all use our creative power … ? Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, lively, bold and compassionate, so indifferent to fighting and the accumulation of objects and money.

I am so lucky.