July 08, 2024

Spark Joy: Storage in a Home Sculptor’s Studio

Spark Joy: Storage in a Home Sculptor’s Studio

For painters, storing brushes, paints, and canvases might suffice, but us sculptors have a slightly more complicated inventory. Clay, wire, wooden bases, glue, paint, pigments, shipping boxes, packing foam, an arsenal of tools and hardware, and the various trinkets I've accumulated over the years have turned storage into one of my primary pain points. There never seems to be enough. Though I purge my supplies regularly (or just use them up), storing materials and the sculptures themselves is an ongoing dance between me and the nooks and crannies of my apartment.

Granted, options like storing things in a garage or a storage locker exist, but this only works if you're not accessing the items regularly. When it comes to tools and materials, convenience is king. It's challenging enough to initiate the process of sculpting; the additional hassle of locating your tools every time you need them may increase the perceived difficulty, even if it's just psychological. For instance, my shipping supplies are stashed in less convenient locations (like a storage locker), but many essentials (like air dry clay or acrylic paint) need to be kept dry and/or relatively warm. Therefore, storing them at home is the best option. Plus, the ability to utilize these supplies whenever creativity strikes is undeniably valuable.

In my home, a pair of low bookcases (Yes, they are Billy from IKEA) serve as my current storage system for materials—one with open shelving and another with doors. Within these shelves, I use boxes to categorize smaller items. For example, all my wire and armature related items reside in one box, and all my painting supplies are neatly tucked away in another. This way, I only need to retrieve the specific box for whatever task I'm undertaking. And let's not forget, in small spaces, clutter only accentuates the limited space, making it seem even more cramped. Doors on your shelves do the dual task of hiding any mess and keeping dust out.

And dust is a nuisance that you'll want to keep off not just certain materials, but also your finished sculptures. While paintings, being flat, can be easily tucked away, sculptures demand more consideration. Unless you're fortunate enough to have your sculptures fly off the shelves as soon as they're completed (kudos!) or you're crafting individual pieces for commissions, you'll need to figure out where to store your finished pieces.

Storage and display of your creations will depend on the types of materials you're using, but here are some things to consider:

Sunlight - Mixed media works using papier mache or any clay that's painted or pigmented (like polymer) should not be exposed to direct sunlight. Over time, sunlight will fade the colors, and they'll lose their vibrancy.

Damp/humidity – While epoxy clays can resist weather fairly well, most sculpting materials, including wire and fabrics, are less forgiving. Water can also affect paints. It's best to avoid damp places like the bathroom or laundry rooms when storing your artworks.

Freezing – Some materials, like wire, are unaffected by cold temperatures, but painted surfaces can crack and flake in low temperatures. Large changes in temperature, such as those in a garage in cold climates, should be avoided.

Dust & dirt – Often overlooked, but dust can negatively affect your sculptures, particularly if they have a porous surface (like felted sculpture) or are difficult to clean. Over time, dust that settles on painted surfaces can be increasingly hard to clean. To prevent this, I regularly dust any mixed media sculptures I have on open shelves.

Storing sculptures in a home studio can pose significant challenges, which is why I place such emphasis on this aspect. Small spaces dictate that you must flex your creative muscles. While it might be tempting to store painted sculptures as if ready for shipping, doing so for prolonged periods may lead to paint or varnish adhering to the packing material. This could result in strange imprints of bubble wrap on your sculpture's finish, or worse, pieces of it getting fused to your work.

Moreover, it's also delightful to have your creations in sight – after all, that's why you made them, isn't it? The most obvious storage solution for sculpture in a small home is on the walls. Open shelving is easy to install, and if you require something enclosed, a bookcase might be a good option. At one point, I installed a large shelf high on the wall above my work area. It was conveniently out of the way, yet accessible and visible. It also kept the sculptures safe from the sun and sources of potential damage, like a curious cat. However, it did require regular dusting and cleaning.

Currently, I store most of my works in a display cabinet with glass doors, which not only looks good but also preserves the sculptures' pristine condition. I've also utilized the lower shelves of this cabinet to store some art supplies. When it comes to small spaces, optimizing your usage is key. Treat your artwork with the respect it deserves; after all, it's the product of your valuable time and effort.

My pieces in a display at a local show. My cabinet at home is smaller.

Whether you're weaving sculptures at your dining room table or creating fantastical wooden contraptions in your basement, this section hopefully gave you insight into the many considerations of sculpting life. We explored the essentials of sculpting from home, including suitable mediums, useful tools, setting up a studio, and managing the essential yet challenging task of storage. A recurring theme throughout was to work within your means, stay motivated, and always think creatively. In the next posts from this series, we'll delve into ways of showcasing your art to an audience and discuss some practical skills like photography, writing, and social media, which can help you connect more effectively with your audience.

What's Next?

Explore the best air dry clays for artists

Discover how you can make ceramic sculptures at home without a kiln

Check out the other blog posts in this Sculpting From Home series