If you are an artist, you more than likely have an inventory of items that you regularly use to create your art, right? Your supplies are always at the ready when you embark on a new project. You carve out time and make space, ready to dive in, then… Oh darn! Something is missing and your project has come to a screeching halt. You’ve rummaged around your stash looking for that very special piece or an acceptable substitute. No point buying it again, if you know you have it somewhere. You had your heart set on it for this project. Not being able to put your hands on it nags at you until you unearth it from somewhere in your vast inventory or drop everything and get another one. Rather than do a work around, you decide a quick run to Michael’s or alternative crafting resource to pick up that special “thing” is needed and you’ll be back in business in no time, right?
This begs the question of just how much fabric, trimmings, beads, books, tools (including sewing machines), etc. have been purchased and hauled home or delivered in pursuit of our craft? Ask any person if they really need all that stuff in their inventory to make their art and more than likely their answer will be, “Yes, of course. Don’t you?”
And what about those quilt shows and craft fairs we’ve attended? You got caught up in the energy and excitement of the event and bought random stuff you convinced yourself would not be available for sale after the event was over. And besides, that thing or fabric or trim would be perfect for __________. It’s like bringing home a souvenir. A year later, when you see it in its bag in the back of the sewing room closet, you smile at the memories and remind yourself of that project this stuff was going to be used for. And for those times you resisted buying everything in sight, you probably said to yourself, “I should have bought _________. Who knows when I’ll ever see ________ for sale again.”
Years later, I still have stuff I have yet to actually use for anything. Still trying to convince myself that it’s important enough for me to keep just in case I remember why I thought it would be perfect for a doll I was going to make. The found object of delight goes back into the depths of wherever I hauled it out from until the next time I decide to take a field trip into the closet or garage looking for that thing I know I have, but just can’t quite remember what box or bag it’s languishing in.
Then there are the workshops. These are wonderful places to commune with fellow crafters and dollmakers interested in the same things as yourself. You learn new techniques and processes from the workshop and the other attendees. You are encouraged to purchase the “necessary” items recommended by the instructor to make your workshop experience a success. You don’t mind. It’s all part of why you took the workshop anyway, wasn't it? And, if you are a real enthusiast, you’ll buy enough of the recommended supplies to make at least a half dozen more for all your friends and family for Christmas. Of course, the reality is that you probably won’t get the original project completed by the end of the workshop let alone making more as gifts.
Some, not clued into the world of crafters and dollmakers, may see this as a type of hoarding, while others, of like mind, see your stash of fabrics, paints, beads, trinkets, found objects, yarn, books, patterns and all those bags of stuffing as necessary and very cool. The only problem is that as time passes you notice that your work space is getting smaller, due in no small part, to all those great things you’ve been hanging onto over the years. You are being crowded out by your stuff and you are trying to convince yourself and your family that you are scaling back rather than admitting you are being consumed by your stuff.
Another thing you notice is the shelf-life of some of your treasure has expired. It doesn’t matter that the package has never been opened. That clay is absolutely unusable. Those paints have all dried out and the dyes are all crusted around the inside of the container. Those custom hand-made sheets of paper are ruined with mold and not one bottle of glue is usable.
You realize, again, that you have duplicate copies of your favorite craft book(s), crafting videos and/or pattern(s). You cringe when you realize you purchased something you already own after going on one of your search-and-find expeditions. However unintentional, you now have two or three of that item, AND you are reluctant to return the newest acquisition(s). I know this to be true because what I laughingly call my sewing room is in reality an oversized warehouse for my stash and maybe there's enough room left for dollmaking.
Like a nesting bird, you’ve tucked away some real finds that are cherished and just waiting to be incorporated into that special project. For many of us, revisiting our stash of fabrics, trims, articles and books can spark new ideas which are food for an artist. Rediscovering a piece of vintage fabric, or hand-made paper can trigger the creation of some of the best pieces you’ve ever made. But somewhere between hoarding and having a well-organized supply/inventory near your work area is the key.
Oh, dear! What to do????
Like other areas in our lives, organization is actually freeing rather than restricting. You know where your stuff is and you don’t have to waste hours hunting for something you think you may have but aren’t really sure if you do or not. For us artist types, sorting and organizing our stuff by color and storing in transparent/translucent storage boxes is ideal. All your yellow fabrics go in one container, accompanying trims go in similar containers associated with that color.
Set aside a weekend once a year for going through your stash of fabrics, trims etc. If there really isn’t enough there to do anything with, throw it out. But if it’s something that has fallen out of favor set it aside to donate to a special nonprofit organization or program that might use your discards. I’ve donated to women’s prison projects and puppeteers. What programs are in your area that might be just perfect for some of your stash to find a new purpose? Libraries are my favorite place to donate craft books and videos. Most public libraries will probably not put your books out on the shelves for others to check out, but they will have them is a special place for sale to help them raise much needed revenue to keep their collection current for all their patrons.
Here’s a news flash--you actually save yourself money. Holy cow! Just the cost in time alone repurchasing something you later discover you already have should be enough to help you get your crafting/dollmaking house in order.
And what about buying just enough of what you need to complete a project. If a project calls for one fat quarter of fabric, restrict yourself to that one fat quarter. If you really believe you will make more of that project buy what you need when you get to that point and not before. Don’t buy the largest bottle or tube of something. Get the smallest size, especially in paints and glue. These items have a very short shelf life and like buying food you never eat; you’re just throwing away your money.
When you’re in a workshop, share as much as you can rather than buy your own supplies. When you are going to use a specific product or color of something only used in that workshop, buddy up with other participants and share or check if you can get a “sample” size rather than purchasing the standard size off the shelf. I love the cosmetic counters in the department stores. The sales clerk will often give you a small sample of product to use before you commit to a purchase. This is just the right amount to get a feel for the product and help you decide whether it’s right for you. This should be something you’d want to do for any workshop project. If you’re going to save anything, it might be those little containers you get from the cosmetic counter. They are the perfect size for what you’ll need for most workshop projects and especially if sharing supplies.
Just another thought about supplies for workshops. Go through your stash and pick from what you already have rather than buying everything new just for the workshop. There are few items outside what most of us have in our stash that we would have to purchase to be fully prepared to enjoy a dollmaking workshop.
If the facilitator includes using her products as part of the workshop fee, then by all means take advantage of it, you’ve paid for it.
All this to say, we dollmaking crafters love our stash. Just roaming through a collection of beads and buttons can trigger ideas. But maybe…just maybe…when we feel that urge to buy an extra half yard of fabric, or the deluxe set of stamping inks rather than the smallest sampler size, we might consider taking a breath and asking ourselves if this is something we really need right now.