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Christine Cox
Since 1999


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From the blog
Organizing for a busy studio
By Christine Cox

My hamster brain keeps me hopping with multiple tasks in the studio at any given time. I give gifts to my future-self by using sticky notes to keep track of where I am in a process or to write down the next step that needs to be done. I can just pick up where I left off the next time I have studio time. The steps seem so doable if they are written out. If I don稚 use the reminder I find that I spend a lot of time regrouping and figuring out what the next step on the project is.

I also use the sticky notes to note what time something went into a chemical bath or to note steps I知 worried I値l forget later. Because of my reliance on the notes I have pads of sticky notes all over the studio. My rule of thumb is to just assume that I will be interrupted or that I値l forget the next step. Think of it as a preemptive external memory tool.

Sticky notes keep me on track when I'm doing multiple projects or need to break up my projects over several hours, or days.

Along the same line, if working on a multi-day project I will set everything up for the first task to be done on the next day. When I come back to the project the next day I don稚 have to step back and figure out what needs doing next or to spend time cleaning up an area to work and get everything out of various cupboards. This is great for keeping your creative juices flowing when you're ready to work. One of my pet peeves is when I知 feeling all creative and ready to work but instead must spend 15 minutes cleaning and looking for tools. It sucks the creative juice right out of me.

In my younger life I briefly worked in an assembly-line job. I learned to do tasks the same way every time. If you use this principle in your artwork, you値l improve your speed, but you値l also develop your muscle memory, increase your accuracy and your strength. You値l get better at jobs that you have to do often and you'll be less likely to leave steps out of a process. Remember to rest every so often and to do some stretches to avoid repetitive stress injuries.

If you have room in your studio, set up separate work areas for each major category of work you do. For example I have separate areas for glass/enameling, for bookbinding and for metalsmithing. This means that I can sit down and start enameling without getting everything out of cupboards and drawers, but it also means that my enameling area stays relatively free of metal dust and other contaminants (except cat hair, of course that痴 ubiquitous).

I read an article recently where the author told us to remember that our benches are not storage areas. If you don't use it often, it should be somewhere else. I took that advice to heart and now find that I almost always have what I need, and don't need to constantly move things that I use only once a year.

I found a great bacon cooker for the microwave at Wal-Mart. While I didn稚 like how it cooked bacon, it痴 exactly the right size and shape to hold 10 plastic tubes with saw blades. Part of the fun of being a metalsmith is collecting and customizing tools and containers for your own use.

Check out the used blades on the right. They're stuck to a magnet so they don't end up all over the drawer. The magnet came from an old executive desk toy.

Fold formed metal opener: Opening up folded pieces of metal, especially when they致e been hammered closed or closed in a vise, can be really difficult, even with 2 pairs of flat nose pliers.  I致e come up with the perfect tool; a cheap oyster knife. It has a short, sturdy blade, a comfortable handle and, my favorite bonus, a hand guard. Just poke the tip between the two legs of the annealed metal and give the knife a little twist. Be sure to point the tip of the knife away from your hand.