Today we visit In the Studio with Tami Boyce, a local illustrator that I’ve had my eye on for awhile now. We corresponded over the summer as she got moved and settled into her new space and we were finally able to connect last month to finalize this interview. It was so worth the wait, thanks Tami!
HKPS::What age did you suspect or know you were an artist?
TB::I’ve always drawn for as long as I can remember. But I think I ignored this passion from the time I was 18 until I was about 28. My style is very cartoonish and light – I pretty much draw the same way now as I did when I was 7 – so I think I never really took my skills seriously. I just assumed I would never make a living out of creating art, and it wasn’t until about 2 years after design school that I started incorporating illustration into my work.
HKPS::What mediums do you work with?
TB::I’m a graphic designer and illustrator, so I’m either working with the computer or using pen and ink.
HKPS::Where do you make your art, how big is your studio and how long have you been in this space?
TB::I work from home and have an office space/studio in the house. The room is almost 170 square foot. I recently moved, so I’ve been in this space for almost 3 months.
HKPS::When you began working in this space did you plan any systems for the overall set up or did you let things evolve organically? How did past studio spaces or systems influence this space?
TB::I think if I let my space “evolve organically” I’d still be sitting in a room filled with unpacked boxes. I had to challenge myself with new space as an opportunity to really create an organized system. I love for things to be organized, yet when faced with a large project, I can tend to procrastinate. Luckily, I fought those tendencies. It helped that I learned a lot from my last space, which was much smaller and had very little storage. I felt like I was constantly starting new projects and they would pile up and it seemed there was no way to get rid of the clutter. My environmental clutter is very reflective of my headspace – so this is never good. My goal was to make sure the new studio had a flow of efficiency and order.
HKPS::Do you consider yourself to be an organized person?
TB::On a scale from 1 to 10, I’d say I’m about a 6 or 7. My sister is probably a 12 on that same scale – it’s like it’s her super power.
HKPS::Have you ever worked with another artist or gallery? If so did you learn any systems for organizing?
TB::I’ve never worked in a group studio or gallery environment, but my first creative job was designing for Charleston magazine. There I did learn the importance of file/computer organization – keeping track of edits and each particular round of edits. Comes in handy a lot with various client work, so I’m grateful for the exposure very early on.
HKPS::How or where else have you learn your organizing habits and systems?
TB::I often look at the app Houzz for organizing tips that are also aesthetically pleasing. I definitely referenced a lot of closet organization images to help visualize what I needed for my space.
HKPS::What types of schedules, systems, tools or processes do you use to help maintain organization in your studio? Would you like to share any tips?
TB::My work includes three main parts – design, illustration, and reproduction/framing/mounting of my illustrations to sell. I’ve separated the areas of my office to help with the flow and management of these tasks – kind of like activity centers in Kindergarten. The illustration process for me is very organic so I wanted that area to be separate from my design space, which is more controlled and systematic. Switching desks helps me compartmentalize the action in my head. I also have a prep table to get my printed items ready to sell, where everything I need is readily accessible for that task. When I first started freelancing, I did everything from one desk, so it was constantly a mess as I was switching from one mode to the other. I didn’t realize it then, but it severely cut down on my productivity.
Another thing that’s huge for me is creating ways make organization systems that are also aesthetically pleasing. Its it’s pretty to look at, then it really helps me maintain the order for the long term. Luckily places like HomeGoods, TJ Maxx, and Target offer a lot of helpful organizing products to do this on a budget. I’m a big fan of the colored square bins with labels and the square case closet organizers. They’ve not only allowed me to store everything I need in compact space, but also to separate it all out for easy access.
HKPS::What kinds of materials/tools do you find challenging to keep organized or locate when you need to use them?
TB::I’d say for the first time, everything in my office has a spot and once I use it, I make sure to return it to where it should be.
Previously a big challenge was letting my toys and various keepsakes/notes get out of hand. I was turning into a little old lady with my chotchkies. I finally cleaned it all up by designating a space for all of it. My bookshelf stores all my toys and it helps me keep my desk clear. I also took down a corkboard and hung a wire with clips – like a clothesline. This way, I can display doodles, photos, or cards in a neater looking way. Once I run out of clips or space on my bookshelf, I know it’s time to purge.
HKPS::How many projects are you usually working on at once? Is this due to space constraints, creative process, organizing systems or other influences?
TB::For my illustration I’m usually working on 1-5 projects at a time. Ideally, I like to start a piece and take it to completion, but sometimes when the creative process isn’t working on a specific idea, I find it’s better to leave it and revisit it later. When I try forcing something that isn’t working, I am rarely happy with the outcome.
HKPS::How often do you purge, clean or de-clutter your supply stash and space due to space or other constraints? (ex. yes monthly/few times a year or when I feel like it, because I have visitors etc)
TB::I’d say probably quarterly. It will hit me on a random day that things are a mess, and I have to do a huge clean out. Hopefully with the new office move, things will remain cleaner on a constant basis, so I won’t have to do my quarterly freak-out.
HKPS::Please describe how creative cycles of organization or dis-organization affect your creative process? Are there certain phases of projects that are more or less organized?
TB::Like I mentioned earlier, my surroundings are always a good indicator of my headspace. If my office is a mess, my head is unfocused and I’ll have trouble getting tasks done. If I find my space is messy before starting a big project, I have to clean up first. It helps give the project a fresh start and get my mind open to the creative process. Sometimes I probably even use cleaning as a procrastination technique – but either way you look at it, it has to be clean before I can start.
HKPS::How much thought do you give to your artistic body of work in terms of historic value and the overall legacy you will leave behind? How do you store/archive your work or records?
TB::I probably don’t give it enough thought. When I start a piece, I draw the illustration by hand, and then take it to the computer to add textures or colors. Because of this, the final product is a digital print, not the “original.” With most series and illustrations, I don’t even incorporate the originals, so I have a random stockpiling of illustrations shoved in my cabinet and my sketchpad. I suppose I’ll keep them for good measure to teach my grandkids about “the old days when had to touch lead sticks to paper in order to make pictures.”
My wish is that through seeing how other artist work we can learn from one another. There is no ONE correct system or way of organizing. There are as many creative systems as their creative makers! My aim is to highlight these unique makers in each interview. Thank you so much Tami! I loved visiting her studio and seeing all the fun and happy collection of things she keeps around to inspire her and for explaining how organizing affects her creative process. Please check out Tami’s work over HERE and learn more about her work can be found!
* 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!