Today’s studio sneak peek is inside the Studio of Teresa Wong of the blog Third Floor Quilts while in Houston. We happened to sit next to each other on the bus ride from market to the Bad Ass Quilters Society Gala. Teresa is a sharp lady, dressed to the t, writing a book, well traveled, friendly, creative and I liked her right away. We had about a 40min ride so that gave us both a little time to learn a bit about one another. During our conversation she mentioned having moved into a small studio space fairly recently and we got to talking about my blog and I asked her if she would like to “play”…she agreed and I’m totally delighted she did! Teresa is very organized and uses her small space very efficiently. Sometimes I think it’s almost easier to have less space because it forces you to really consider how you will use it and create effective systems. She’s done just that and even had some custom features built in when she designed this space, how fun! Please enjoy this sneak peek and check the links below to get in touch with her or see more of her work…a little black raven told me she’s got a book in the works too!
HKPS::What age did you suspect or know you were an artist?
TW::I heard a podcast the other day with this guy who was talking about every person’s “inner-entrepreneur” and he said that the case with most humans is that whatever we were doing when we were about 11, 12, or 13 years old – that is what we are probably most happy doing. For me, that was the time in my life when I first learned to sew. I feel like I was happily making art long before that – when I was 5 I used to make water colors and go up and down the block and sell them for a nickel! I went on to paint pet rocks, later learned to embroidery, and by my late teens/early 20’s my art was photography. I feel like I’ve always been making art.
As for officially allowing myself to label myself an artist, well, that’s a fairly recent concession.
HKPS::What mediums do you work with?
TW::I’m a textile artist… aka a quilter. I work almost exclusively with fabric, needle and thread, my hands, and a fantastic sewing machine.
HKPS::Where do you make Art and how big is your studio?
TW::I used to have a fairly large studio in an extra bedroom, but we recently downsized to a 3-story townhouse in the inner city. So my new studio is tiny, only about 8 ft. x. 10 ft, and I have a medium sized closet next to it. Even though this room is tiny, I have 4 windows which helps a great deal and outside one window I can see the Houston skyline, so to me it is an awesome view. I actually make the vast majority of my art right in this small studio.
Occasionally I will hand sew/quilt/applique a few things, and if that’s the case, I will spread out in my living room.
HKPS::Do you consider yourself to be an organized person?
TW::I am a super-organized person. I think I was born organized… I can’t stand clutter or messes.
But in my studio, I kind of take organization to the extreme because I am working in such a small space. There is no spare counter space to set things. I have a tall peg board and lots of special built shelves and everything has a place… nothing can sit out on my cutting table or I won’t have room to work.
HKPS::How or where did you learn your organizing habits and systems?
TW::Before I started making art, writing and blogging full-time, I had a big-fat corporate job where I managed a large team of professionals and I had a lot of responsibilities. In the fast-paced corporate environment, you never have enough time, money or people to do the job you really need to do. So you learn to make do. Therefore, you can’t survive unless you are extremely organized. Twenty-two years in corporate world, I believe was ample time to hone my organizational skills.
HKPS::What types of schedules, systems, tools or tips do you use to help maintain organization in your studio? (calendars, planners, technology-phone apps etc)
TW::I am extremely fortunate that my studio was custom built from scratch to my specs.
Perhaps my greatest, and most obvious tool, is a giant peg board. Very industrial – straight from Home Depot. It holds an amazing amount of stuff. The second most useful innovation was to ask the carpenter to build a second shelf under my cutting table that is completely open (no studs or bars) so that I have a second surface the same size as the top. This doubles the amount of space and allows me to move semi-large projects off the top and store them underneath without folding them up … or losing small parts, etc.
I also have an iPad that I carry everywhere. I keep my schedule in it, I constantly write myself “to do” notes… and I it is also my go to tool for inspiration (photos, websites, galleries, museums, Google images… the ideas are endless), not to mention it holds all my music and podcasts!
HKPS::What kinds of materials/tools do you find challenging to keep organized or locate when you need to use them?
TW::Fabric is my biggest challenge. I keep all my fabric in a closet immediately outside my studio door. Fabric storage is a constant struggle.
It is the hardest to manage, partly because there is so much of it, but also because you need to see it all in order for it to be useful. Out of sight out of mind, as the saying goes. I purchased about 20 old-fashioned looking wire baskets and have my fabrics stored in there, separated by colors mostly. This is still difficult to maintain the inventory and keep it neat, and keep it where fabric doesn’t get buried at the bottom.
HKPS::How often do you purge or declutter your supply stash due to space or other constraints? (ex. yes monthly/few times a year or when I feel like it/no-having lots around inspires me)
TW::Hardly ever, but that is difficult to do. I recently moved and out of necessity, I got rid of a ton of stuff, including old fabric. I do throw away small scraps, but most fabric of any reasonable size I want to keep because you never know when you will need it. I actually wish I could de-clutter more often.
HKPS::Please describe how creative cycles of organization or disorganization affect your creative process? Are there certain phases of projects that are more or less organized? (ex. I can’t focus unless things are put away, creative chaos inspires me, things get messy as I work but I clean up at the end of projects)
TW::I am most organized at the beginning of a project, however, some of my art quilts can take months, or even a year to finish. So I try to make sure all the pieces are organized along with the quilt if I put it away for any period of time.
I do pile up fabric all around me while I am in the selection process… curating my fabric choices, you might say. But outside of that, I truly cannot focus if things are a mess. This is the same whether it is my office desk or my sewing machine or my cutting table.
HKPS::Do you give much thought to your artistic body of work in terms of historic value and the overall artistic legacy you will leave behind? How do you store/archive your work or records? If not why?
TW::I have labeled some of my quilts, particularly those that were made as gifts or for special people. I know that I need to go back and properly label my older, traditional quilts, but never seem to make time to do so. Now that I have transitioned to art quilter, the labeling process comes naturally because I want to capture what I’ve done, how I’ve made it, techniques, and most of all the time period. Doubtful anyone will care a generation from now, but I do it anyway.
Thank you so much for inviting us into your gorgeous studio space Teresa and for providing us with the photo’s and sharing some of your organizing methods and systems with us. If you would like to see more of Teresa’s work head over to her etsy shop, where some of her beautiful work is for sale. She also blogs regularly about quilting, inspiration and a bit about life over at Third Floor Quilts. I’ll be back with another artist feature in the next few weeks! If you missed any of my previous Inside the Studio posts please go back and take a look!
* Inside the Studio was my brainchild in 2011. There are a lot of popular studio features on the web and in magazines but I’m specifically interested in showing how organizational process influences the artists studio work. These photo’s are not styled and are typical of how the artists working studio looks. I request that each artist leave their space as it would be on a daily basis (just like I ask my clients). This series is meant to highlight how artist REALLY work rather than showing STYLED shots (popular in home and organizing magazines and blogs). I’m sure just like me, you are fascinated by the “behind the scenes” sneak peek into these artists working lives!