Studio Bootprint

Lately I’ve been thinking about ways to reduce my carbon footprint. I’d like to adopt recycling habits in the studio that have become second nature in the kitchen.

It all started in a recent class with book artist Suzanne Moore. She lives on an island in Washington state and is concerned about what is being dumped in the ocean. During the class, she peppered her teaching with environmental tips, encouraging us to:

  1. use every drop of media in our palettes before washing them
  2. use dirty rinse water for lettering—great for tonal value
  3. use good paper as a background sheet (surprising marks might emerge that could be useful in the final product)
  4. leave tools dirty until we’re completely finished using them
  5. keep a wet rag handy for fingertip clean-up to conserve paper towels—and accidental “fingerprinting” of masterpiece
  6. use small pieces of toilet paper instead of paper towel to dab, push paint around, etc.
  7. clean threaded paint tubes before capping for a snug fit
  8. be fastidious about recapping fluid media to keep it from spilling or drying out

Inspired by these tips, I’m looking for additional ways to minimize art waste released into the environment.

Back home, while clearing basement clutter, I uncovered some treasures, like the cotton dyed at an indigo workshop at the Colour Vie studio several years ago. I stashed it away, intending to sew table linens on a rainy day.

Indigo-dyed tableware: placemats and runner

It’s been years since I’ve sewn anything. The placemats and table runner were simple designs; however, I could count on them as conversation starters at my next party.

While tidying up afterwards, I stood over the trash bin holding the leftover pieces in my hand. I didn’t have the heart to toss the dyed scraps. Granted, they were small. However, I did spend two workshop days dipping, swishing, wringing and repeating to achieve the perfect shade of indigo. How could I let them go?

Google always has an answer! A search turned up patterns for quilted mug rugs. I had never heard of a mug rug, but surely my mug needed a rug. Especially a quilted one. In indigo.

As a paper artist, I always enjoy experimenting with pattern and colour. I discovered there’s an up side to working with fabric—no stained hands and no wet tools to scrub afterwards. I could see the advantages of quilting over wet media. This could be a new creative addiction…

My thanks to quilter Jeni Baker for sharing her free Scrappy Stack Mug Rug tutorial. Although her instructions were straightforward, it still took several tries for this novice quilter to square up the pieces. I sewed two mug rugs using every scrap of lovingly dyed cotton—without adding to my stash of clutter nor sending something beautiful to the scrap heap.

Indigo-inspired mug rug

I’m congratulating my environmentally-conscious self while enjoying a cuppa, coastered by an indigo-inspired mug rug.

I believe my environmental bootprint got a little smaller this past month.

Have you found creative ways to reduce your footprint in the studio?

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Studio Toss

Calligraphy lettering toolsOnce the dust had settled on the basement renovations, the boxes were crying to be unpacked. However, reno stress had taken its toll, and I turned a deaf ear to the clamour.

While working up my mojo, I listened to audio books with titles like Lighten Up, Essentialism, Let It Go, It’s All Too Much, and Designing Your Life.  Then I stumbled on two inspiring YouTube videos by Jenn from Origami Twist. She presents some novel perspectives.

Attach expiry date. While most art supplies are not perishable enough to have a shelf life, she suggests assigning items an expiry date. When an item no longer serves the purpose you intended; that is, when its functionality has reached its end date—for you—let it go.

Assess inventory. When sorting supplies, group like items together. Groupings help to assess inventory because it is visual. (What? I have four tubes of chromium oxide?) This seems so basic that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t done it in 30 years. I suspect it’s because I never had the inclination to sort my inventory. To my surprise—and delight—I corralled 100 sheets of Arches Text Wove!  Woohoo!

Curate collection. I’m a gatherer who is loathe to break up a collection. However, when an item is no longer useful, its history in the collection is not enough reason to keep it. Fine collections are curated regularly. If an item no longer serves the value of the collection, it needs to be moved out to make room for new items.

Fast forward two months. The boxes have been emptied and flattened, the charity truck has taken away treasures to new homes, and I’m comfortably settled in my workspace, surrounded only by the supplies I truly need and use. (OK, and a few trifles I simply want…)

Still, I feel lighter and freer; less encumbered. It’s a new era in the studio!

If you have a studio purge story, I would love to hear about your insights and experience.