If only I were organized, maybe, just maybe . . . anonymous artist

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Welcome to my world.  Heather Powers visits the Maniscalco studio.

Are you confused, perhaps a little overwhelmed in your studio? Heather Power is here to help. We talked the other day about all kinds of things related to getting organized, something many artists stringently resist. It was a wide ranging conversation. We touched on the current state of marketing, how the personal approach almost always still trumps any amount of Socials savvy. She suggested finding your own voice in marketing as being almost as creative and individual as the artwork itself. Then we turned to the business at hand. Heather is an organization specialist and an artist. So she is uniquely qualified to help us flaky (and not so flaky) artists get it together. So, let’s get this party started:

Robert: When you say “organizing for an artist” what sorts of things do you feel an artist needs to organize?

Heather: I think it depends on the artist. The types of things I think require organization are materials, and supplies, storage of finished work and work in process. materials, storage of work you’ve actually created and anything you have in process. Any archives, physical or digital, as they relate to your legacy as an artist, needs to be organized, not just for you but for whoever wants to come back and get access to your work later. I ultimately think you should trreat your art like it will be donated to a museum, take your legacy and your art seriously (but not too seriously ;).

Robert: I’m pretty sure that if anyone wanted to find a file on my computer or a particular piece of art from my past they would have a very difficult time doing so. What should I do right now to fix that?

Heather: I think the best place to start is finding and collecting what you can into one place, finding the things you can find and getting them collected into one place, physically and/or digitally. After you’ve organized things in a manner that makes sense to you then you can look at backing that information up with a clear system somebody else would most likely be able to navigate. There are some great websites out there and I’d be happy to share a couple of those for artist inventory storage, with some specific database systems. collectrium.com, artworkarchive.com, artcld.com

Robert: Why is keeping an inventory important?

Heather: I think archiving your work and having inventory systems in place will help you be better represented by a gallery ultimately. The goal is for you to sell your work. If you don’t know what you have, where it is and the basic information such as how much it costs, size and media, you may have a difficult time approaching a gallery, who will ultimately need this information.

Robert: Getting organized includes boring stuff like banking, and insurance, licensing, etc., right? Like, I have to get separate business and renters insurance if I want to be a professional?

Heather: Yes. I’ve worked with a lot of clients, both residential and artist, small business owners, who have had to make insurance claims for damages due to different natural disasters, criminal events or the artist’s death. When we are proactive, rather than reactive, getting an inventory in place, having insurance, keeping track of clients, it will save you a huge amount of heartache and time trying to go back and figure out what you lost.

Robert: Gee, I thought it was all about putting my paint in order in my drawer and separating my brushes by filberts and flats, etc. Do you have advice for how to organize myself creatively?

Heather: That is a really broad question and again it’s going to be different for everybody. Part of what I do as an organizer is get to know you so I can understand what systems will work best for you. That’s how we are able to create customized creative solutions that are going to work for you. It’s not about running out and buying expensive storage pieces or investing a lot in the external organization supplies. It’s more about finding the categories that you work in and starting to putting things together and eliminate the things that may no longer be relevant to you and your artwork. I find a lot of artists are hanging onto mediums or materials that they no longer work with, that take up valuable space. Not just physical space, but mental and spiritual space. So I don’t tell you what to get rid of, but I do suggest there is a freedom in creating space in your studio and in your head, so that you have the freedom to create more and better work.

Robert: Artists tend to be hoarders, myself included. I have media and materials that my father didn’t even used while he was alive. Are you saying I should throw them out?

Heather: Rob, where do you have those materials of your fathers? Are they out somewhere that you see every day? Do they inspire you to create? Are you sentimentally attached to them? If so, great. But if they are not serving any real purpose, emotionally or physically, I may encourage you to think about getting rid of some of these items. I always suggest you begin the process of purging with what you’re not emotionally attached to you and work your way towards harder things.

Robert: The organizing industry is huge. While I know you also do a good bit of personal organizing, you have moved toward organizing for starving artists.

Heather: I think the word “starving artist” should be banned from our vocabulary.

Robert: Me too. Want to buy a tee shirt? They’re taking up a lot of space in my studio.

Heather: Nice shirt.

Robert: Thanks. But seriously, why artists?

Heather: I am an organizer and an artist. I spent 15 years as a designer, working in an industry where I created artwork and my clients, but I had to do so within a certain parameter. I learned a lot of skills at that time about project management. So when I work with artists I look at the broad picture and then I break it down into more specific aspects of organizing. There are sometimes issues where another professional organizer  may not understand an artist’s needs. Because I’m an artist I understand the mindset behind needing to surround ourselves with things that inspire us and/or items we may want or need to use down the road. So as an artist/organizer I’m able to step back and look at the broad picture  and then help each artist/client break systems down in a way that helps them see things that maybe they weren’t able to see before.

Robert: What’s your working process with artists?

Heather: I currently offer one-on-one and virtual packages with artists.  Every one-on-one session is three hours long. All this information is on my website HKPowerstudio.com. Basically, I start with an assessment and then we work together through the process of getting you organized. Three hours is that perfect time slot where I can keep your attention and not have you burnout. I find that tends to happen, so I usually book about four sessions so you can expect an overall package of 12 hours in which time we can really make great progress. I’m also working with clients virtually so we can have a Skype session and I can give you DIY tips on how to organize if you are not living in the Charleston area.

Robert: Many artists, myself included, have issues with authority and resist anyone telling us how to run our lives. How do you work with such “crazy” folks like us?

Heather: I think there is a misconception that if you hire an organizer they’re going to come in and tell you what to do. Some organizers might do that, but not me. As an artist I’m also a bit of a rebel. My dad was probably not too thrilled that I decided to go to college and get a degree in fine arts. But I do understand the value of taking your art seriously and creating the space in your life so that you can be more prolific as an artist. It’s not about what someone’s telling you to do. It’s about finding a system that works for you. Your studio doesn’t have to look like a magazine or a styled photo shoot. I found many artists appear to be disorganized but they know where to find stuff.

Robert: My work space is very intimate. It’s scary to let someone in.

Heather: At the end of the day what it comes down to is creating a relationship where you trust me to understand your needs and I can help guide you. I’ll never tell you what to do. It’s really all about trust.

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