A studio is born

Oct 032009

When the publisher of Cloth Paper Scissors Studios put out a call for photos of artist studios to be shared as part of its Open Studios Event,  I knew it was time for my paper crafting studio to be born. Of course, the word studio, for the room in which I work, sounds a little high-brow, but according to the definition of the online Free Dictionary, a studio is an artist’s workroom, so what else would you call it?

My paper crafting studio, therefore, was born not even 12 hours ago. It blossomed from my son’s now vacant bedroom, thanks to the empty desk, bookshelves and chest of drawers he left behind when he graduated from college this past June, and relocated to Chicago. Unlike my sewing room (see First stitches, first steps), which is dedicated just to sewing, the challenge in using my son’s bedroom was to retain his bedroom as sleeping space for guests, yet still be able to use the room as paper crafting space. This is a challenge, I think, that many artists face when they work out of their home: carving work space from a room already being used for a different purpose. If you peek at the left corner of the photo below, for example, you’ll see part of the bed next to my desk.

On a positive note, that same bed can double as a photography staging area. The light from the window is a plus, especially since I can diffuse it with blinds (now pulled up out of sight). A view of the woods behind our house provides wonderful inspiration for future projects, since you will frequently see a family of deer feeding on our day lilies, a woodchuck that hugs the edge of our yard, bright red cardinals who swoop from branch to tree branch, and playful squirrels who scamper up the tree trunks and race across the neighbors’ lawns.

To the right of my desk is a single bookcase, crammed with paper and tools, including my Zutter Bind-it-All and Dreamkuts tools, Xyron 500 Create-a-Sticker machine and Crop-A-Dile gadget. There is nothing beautiful about the stacks of paper and boxes, except perhaps to me. They suggest possibilities which are far less probable when those same items are scattered across various rooms in the house, and in the basement. Even better is my husband’s satisfaction, now that the paper crafting madness is contained to one room, for the most part.

My husband was so thrilled with the prospect of reclaiming some of the basement shelves, in fact, that he mounted a few shelves in my new paper crafting studio.

The chest of drawers below the new shelves is perfect for some of my larger tools, which include a color laser printer, a Cricut Expression® cutting machine, and my Fiskars paper cutting board. Inside the drawers are more supplies, as well as some projects that are in progress. If there is one fact you can state with absolute certainty, it is that paper crafting takes up lots of space!

At the moment, my new studio is a work in progress, awaiting those touches that will reflect more of my personality. But I have begun by displaying a small collection of blown glass ornaments.

Last night’s relocation efforts have now become a reality, birthing a new work space. My next challenge? Find a way to store yarn efficiently! My husband says the master bedroom is off-limits.

© 2009 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. 

Sep 292009

Cloth Paper Scissors Studios is announcing its fall 2009 event, an Open Studios Event in which all artists are invited to participate. Just visit the contest Web page here, and follow the rules. (You can also click on the image below, which will take you to the same page.)

The contest involves sharing photos or video of your studio, and describing what makes it special to you. Although you are not required to do so, you’ll definitely wish to purchase a copy of the fall issue in which the studios of more than 20 artists will be showcased, you’ll learn some wonderful storage and display tips, discover how to host an Open Studio Event, and gain valuable information about setting up a teaching studio. This is certain to be an interesting issue!

If you stop back here on October 3rd, you’ll see photos of my paper crafting space.

© 2009 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Sep 252009
My first Simplicity half-apron and gray kettle cloth jumper are decades behind me, but I still recall many of the items on Miss Banovich’s 7th grade sewing supplies list: seam ripper, seam gauge, measuring tape, pins, fabric scissors, sewing machine needles, thread, and a couple of clear plastic bobbins. Interestingly, it was my father—not my mother—who helped me collect these items. In fact, I still have my first sewing basket, a rather humble-looking box in gold-flecked white vinyl that dates back to the 1970s.

My mother, whose brief foray into sewing included a set of unevenly cut yellow curtains that she hoped no one would remember, did not enjoy sewing. She was horrified, in fact, when she returned to Germany to visit her mother, and those curtains were hung in a window in her honor. With relief, she passed on to me the darning egg in her sewing basket to mend my father’s socks, along with a stack of trousers that needed to be shortened for the summer. She was my sewing cheerleader, but it was my father with whom I held discussions about how to thread our Sears Kenmore sewing machine.  These days my father wishes he knew what happened to that old Kenmore, but I think it’s likely my mother gave it away when I went to college and bought my own Brother machine. She is no longer with us, so I guess that will remain her little secret.

The garments I sewed and the events of those early years are connected like buttons sewn on a sweater. My boyfriend (who became my husband) was a midshipman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, so every winter and spring during college, I sewed a floor-length gown for the Navy R.O.T.C. balls we attended together. Likewise, I made some of the dresses I wore as a sales clerk while working at Gimbels Department Store during college. And when John and I married, I made my own bridal gown and veil.

 In the early years of our marriage, we lived in southern California, where John was stationed as a Naval Weapons Officer. When we moved to the West coast, the sewing machine and cabinet—and all of my fabrics and notions—occupied a significant portion of the space in the U-Haul we rented, along with my numerous books. Eight years later, when our son was born, a Pfaff sewing machine had replaced the Brother, and I sewed many of David’s play clothes.

Today my sewing machine no longer occupies a corner of a bedroom or living room, but sits in its own dedicated space: a sewing room. Of course, that’s not the only place in our home where I create—John says that wherever you find horizontal surfaces is where you’ll find my work—but it is nice to have a home base, of sorts! My sewing room is where my Pfaff Creative 7530 sewing machine resides, inside a solid oak Parsons cabinet.

This is also where I write. I love my Mission-style writing desk.

The closet holds quilting rulers and templates, specialty sewing tools, interfacing and stabilizers, and boxes of sewing supplies.Fabric is another story . . . no space in this room!

Along one wall is Dolly (my dress form), who wears a half-finished apron. I like to “dial her down” so that I can imagine what I might look like if I lost some weight!

In a corner of the room stands a chest of drawers for needlework supplies. Next to it is a small couch where I like to do hand sewing, or browse through how-to publications.


Projects are always spilling out of my sewing room into other rooms because my working space is no bigger than a child’s small nursery. Still, this is where many of my Etsy products are created. In short, it’s a cozy place to ponder, poke at fabrics, and produce!

© 2009 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.