Thursday, May 28, 2015


We mixed-media & collage people tend to accumulate a lot of paper.
It can be awfully hard to tame the ever-growing collection and organize in such as way that it's useful.

I found a system a few years ago that works for me.

I bought this mammoth file cabinet at a thrift store for $20.
It's ugly as sin, but it's well made, with deep drawers that roll smoothly.

It's squeezed into a corner of the art room, conveniently located next to my chaotic work table.

One whole drawer is devoted to images, sorted by categories that make sense to me.  (Animals, people, nature, architecture, body parts, etc.)
 That drawer also includes folders for security envelopes, old book pages, interesting packaging...

Another drawer is devoted to my hand painted papers, sorted by color:
 Within each color file there's even a separate folder to contain the smaller bits of colored paper that would get lost among the full sheets.

This drawer has folders of painted deli paper, painted tissue paper, altered magazine pages, multicolored marble paper....

In addition to those drawers, I have this little portfolio of magazine images sorted by color.  Sometimes when I'm working monochromatically I don't want to go looking through all my subject folders (Is there something red in the furniture file?  how about in the insect file?).  Nights when I'm sitting in front of the TV I'll grab a magazine and add colored images to this file.


 This bin holds specialty papers - little bits of colored rice paper and mulberry paper.  Pretty origami paper.  Cool vintage wallpaper your friend Mandy sent you...

 I have not one, but two, cigar boxes of text.  (one for small phrases cut from books, the other for larger bits.)

And then there's the junk basket.  This is where all new materials tend to land.  Anything that gets mailed to me, or that I pick up off the side of the road, or find in the recycling bin gets tossed in here.  Often this is the only source of collage materials I end up using!  Whatever is in front of my eyes is most attractive.
When the basket gets full to overflowing I take a half hour and sort it into categories and file it away.

That's what works for me.
Thanks to Marcie for your question, reminding me that I took all these pictures a year ago (in response to someone else's question) and never actually wrote the blog post.

What works for you?
Do you have a system?
Do tell!


  1. My studio looks like a tornado went through. There is a tiny bit of open space on my work table - about big enough to make a postcard. The only material I use is what's on top of the pile. I thought I'd have it cleaned up by now but now it's nice outside and who wants to clean when they could be outside...

  2. Organizational systems might be one of the most loved (and asked!) questions for mixed media (and assemblage) artists. Right after "What glue do you use?"

    I've tried just about every system known to 'artist'kind. Now the "process" of organizing is really the fun part for me. The end result? I still find that a fairly limited assortment all jumbled in one box gets my juices flowing more than anything else.

    1. It's so true, Jen. the happy surprise of what lands next to what can be very inspiring. the things that are under my nose and in arm's reach are definitely what get used most often.

  3. Thanks Karen!! You have given me some useful tips and ideas for organizing my bits and pieces. You're awesome!

  4. Yikes!!! That is some system. You are very organized, unlike me. Nice work.

  5. Just reorganizing my studio. Those big file cabinets do come in handy but I find that out of sight, out of mind. I'm making all my stuff visible. How's things? xox

  6. My hero! My method is to make a big pile. Think about organizing. Cut out images and put them in a tin. Think about organizing. Add stuff to the really big pile until it gets too big. Think about organizing. Put the really big pile in clear plastic boxes. Pile up the boxes and never look in them again until someone else comes over to play. Start the process again. Meanwhile, I just pull things from the top two inches of the bin. Someday I will surprise you and tame the hoard...:)

    1. I have benefited so much from the hoard, I might qualify as an enabler. I certainly made more in 24 hours at your house than in the 24 days leading up to it.

  7. That is awesome that you took the pictures a year ago and are now writing the blog post. Ironic. hahahahaa I love your system. I love your sense of style and above all your humor.

    1. I might be the best organized procrastinator in town!

  8. Wow, aren't you super-organized when it comes to paper!? Must make your projects a bit easier to tackle...knowing where to head for what you are looking for. I have some level of organization, but my downfall is adding the new bits to it. Then I am like you, and just pull from the new bits until that mountain goes down a bit!

  9. Well, the first time I read this, I went home and dug out a few folders and organized them. Then I read Lynn's hysterical post that she wrote after reading this post, and did what she did with a bunch of stuff that hadn't ever gotten filed so now I have a bunch of new postcard backgrounds to play with. Then I came back and read this again and so far have about half of all my papers organized like you do. So far so good. I'm keeping this post "unread" and may report back after I finish it all up! Ha!

  10. Taking notes here. I still have an unorganized mess. You make me believe that order is possible though. An obtainable goal. My studio has become an accident waiting to happen since I started "cleaning." LOL.

  11. I think I need a warehouse where I can just leave everything out on one long table.