Studio Notes 19/04/19

Spring seems to be here (properly) and that means spring cleaning is here. Properly.

There was an attempt to tidy up the studio after the winter, and it did work, but since then a lot’s been made and messed around, and we’ve been working out how to store all of my supplies after the latest furniture reshuffle.

The studio needs blinds, and I’m really struggling to find somewhere to hang my big sheets of paper, so it looks like housekeeping is going to feature fairly heavily in the next few updates.

The trouble with internet advice

One thing that made my blood boil slightly this week was coming across an absolutely dreadful bit of advice on an influencer management website.
(If you’re wondering what I was doing there, I got an invitation to sign up so I thought I’d mooch around a bit and see what their site was like.)

The offending article was about why bloggers don’t need to bother with SEO. The premise was that bloggers’ audiences follow them for their personalities, and that their traffic will come entirely from loyal subscribers and social media shares.

The argument presumes that all bloggers:

  • operate in a similar niche – probably fashion or general “lifestyliness”
  • are already popular enough to sustain a viable living from their core fans
  • have nothing to add that the general public actually needs to know
  • are too thick to understand SEO anyway and would breathe a sigh of relief at being told “don’t worry about that, honey.”

So let’s think about what happens if you’re a writer or an artist who has little to no presence online and wants to start building an audience of loyal subscribers. If you follow this advice, you’ll have to pound the social media pavement hard, and that’s actually more laborious than figuring out the basics of SEO.

Anyway, I have a lot more ranting to do about this, but that’ll come later.

That cardboard box project

I can cross one recycling project off my list now – I put together some storage boxes from cardboard that was going to be thrown out.

making a cardboard box storage system

You can see the whole thing here with the finished boxes.

Now I need to work out where they’re going to live and what’s going to live in them, which isn’t that simple when you ‘ve got as much stuff to stash as I do!

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Studio Notes 19/09/19

Colourful Cardboard Box Storage Ideas

Here’s a cardboard box storage system tutorial that’s so simple it doesn’t really need instructions: the pictures will show you everything you need to know.

I’ve whizzed up a cereal box paper tray and an asymmetrical shelf or box that looks great either sitting flat on your desk, mounted on a wall or hanging off the side of your desk.

The materials used were:

Why use cardboard boxes for storage?

Not only are cardboard box storage systems really effective recycling solutions, they’re practical for short-term uses, like kids’ furniture, or in situations where there isn’t enough money for store-bought furnishings.

If you make them well, keep them dry and treat them well, cardboard furnishings can last for a long time (and they only get stronger with every re-covering, so you can change the look pretty easily!).

1. Cardboard paper tray / file storage

cardboard box paper tray in progress.
Cardboard box paper tray in progress.

The paper tray used up three cereal boxes from Aldi. Cereal box cardboard is very lightweight, and so when it comes to any kind of furniture, you’ve got to be reasonable with what you expect it to stand up to and what it’ll be used for.

Hot glue is great for attaching the boxes without causing warping or buckling.

You can secure the boxes by folding one of the tabs over the other box (being sure to cut the matching tab off so it isn’t too bulky) and glue the outer tabs to the inside of the boxes with PVA glue.

cardboard box storage - 2 views of a cardboard paper tray

Cut two pieces of wallpaper to cover two opposite sides of your tray and paste them on with PVA. Make sure the pieces are long enough to fold over the open edge and into the box, and wrap an inch around the sides.

Place the glued boxes in the centre of your wallpaper sheet, making sure there’s enough paper to cover the two unpapered sides with some to spare for folding into the box opening.

cardboard box filing system

Glue a strip of paper over the internal dividers to neaten them up.

Asymmetrical cardboard shelf / desk tidy

I’ve been wondering what to call this pattern – it’s not quite Greek key, but I can’t think of the formal design name. Still, it’s an interesting arrangement for four rectangular boxes.

You can use any size of box for this design as long as they’re rectangular and the same size. I used boxes that originally held 6 cans of spray paint, and they were pretty beaten up before I started, so nothing was square.

I trimmed the flaps from the box tops with a sharp knife before starting, and glued the boxes together as shown above.

I started gluing the wallpaper to the box from the bottom and folded the paper up the sides, clamping it to the box with clothespegs as it dried.

With the base and most of the sides covered, I used scraps to fill in the unpapered gaps.

Because the paper was so busy, I was pretty haphazard about matching the pattern inside – personally I didn’t care about that because of not being able to see it once it’s filled. If you were going to make this as a gift, I’d suggest working out where your pattern overlaps and matching it up at least at the “front” of your shelf. It’ll never line up everywhere, so don’t worry about that.

cardboard box storage - 2 views of an asymmetrical cardboard shelf

I particularly like this weird shape for hanging off the side of desks, and it’s got potential to get very big if you can find enough boxes to keep adding to it.

Not a bad way to use materials that would normally end up in the bin, right?

Studio Notes 12/04/19

In the school holidays, office hours come second to parent hours, and they’re all parent hours.

And frankly, that’s great!

One of the great things about being a parent is that you get to experience all of the hobbies that your kids pick up and inevitably abandon, and learn a bit along the way.

Eventually you won’t have the chance to do that any more, so you might as well roll with it and enjoy… and get back into the studio when the term starts again.

Technical support yet again

In my universe, being a mum means being the tech support dude.

I never expected to spend my time labouring over ADB drivers or reboot key combinations, but my 14 year old has now decided to embark on a life of hacking, which means that I have to scrabble to keep up. So naturally that means spending hours on rooting a OnePlus X phone – the phone he had to have above all others.

I thought after that I could convince him to sit with me and watch a Skillshare course on developing plugins, but he was off. I didn’t have enough energy to carry on myself, but I’m adding that to my scroll of projects.

This week has been filled with lots of back-end maintenance projects for my own sites, so I kinda want to get it all out of the way and out of my system so that in a week or two I can get back to my real work.

Stuff I painted, made and wrote…

Over the weekend I started work on that portrait of my lad, but I’m still not sure where it’s going. Will I toss it or keep going? I’m not entirely sure right now.

Playing around with double-sided books.

I’m fooling around with double-sided books as well, because I just have to.

As for what I’ve been writing about – last week it was customer lock-in, and this week it was the sunk cost fallacy. It’s getting dangerously close to pop psychology around here, but I like it.

There’s probably a bit more of that to come, but first, I have some mumwork to do.

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studio notes 12/04/19

Studio Notes 05/04/19

What’s next?

I’ve really enjoyed a week with no plans and no pressure. I could do with another one… so I think I that’s what I’ll have. I need to decide on whether to work on the 250 coin next, or divert myself into finishing off a personal painting that had to get packed away before my house move.

T's portrait in progress on the studio wall.
T’s portrait in progress.

The pipdig problem and customer lock-in

Recently I’ve been listening to a few marketing podcasts (remember sunk costs?), and I came across the concept of lock-in.

As a consumer, it’s something I strive to avoid, but as a creator, it’s something I’d love to know how to capitalise on. Of course, I’m clueless as to how a visual artist would go about creating any kind of closed ecosystem cozy enough to make customers/collectors never want to leave, but the concept is still interesting.

This week it became apparent to me just how strong a force customer lock-in is, in the wake of the unfolding pipdig problem. I watched the drama unfold in amazement, as well-respected members of the WordPress community outed pipdig, a hosting provider and developer, over a myriad number of sins such as:

  • using bloggers’ servers to perform a DDoS on a competitor
  • changing links in bloggers’ content to link back to pipdig
  • hiding a “kill switch” that could effectively wipe out a site…
  • and much, much more!

As the experts waded in and rubberneckers like me looked on, pipdig’s loyal customers came to the rescue, refusing to believe the evidence or the word of the experts.

It came down to “I’ve known this company for x years, they’d never do anything wrong!”, and, “Do I really have to change all my themes now? I’ve got them on 19 blogs!”.

Basically, customer lock-in happens through getting so comfortable with any service that you embed them into your life, making it too much of a hassle to leave, and also embed them into your identity, making an attack on their brand into a personal attack on you. It’s fantastic for companies that can take advantage of it, but not so great for consumers at the bottom who can’t get themselves out of a bad deal.

After several years of staring hopefully at code, I’m not an an expert, but neither am I a complete fool, so thankfully there’s little chance of me getting suckered into this kind of loyalty… but it does make you think about all the other aspects of life wherein we willingly lock ourselves in.

So the moral of the story? If you’re an artist who doesn’t consider yourself “technical”, you don’t have to resign yourself to the whims of your web host overlords. This is why I cover websites and blogging here – to empower you to do as much as you can, or jump ship to someone who can do a better job for you.

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Studio Notes 05/04/19

Studio Notes 29/03/19

I finished my first screen printed notes!

Like I said last week, the colours changed on me mid-printing, which was unexpected, but I ran with it and ended up with something more ochre-tinged than froggy green.

Back of banknote saying "The borrower is a slave to the lender"

Because I took my photographs late in the day on Sunday, I lost the light I needed and basically ended up with a blueish cast after colour correction – or I should say, after attempting colour correction.

So yeah, I’ll have to take some new pics but I just had to get them uploaded there and then, because I knew the start of the week would be too busy and it would end up taking months.

Front of banknote, portrait detail.

Here’s a post about the ideas behind this part of the money project and the process.

Tidying up the studio and the loose ends

There has naturally been a lot of visual notetaking and recording over the course of the money project, and I found that starting a sketchbook helped me to get to grips with the processes and track the progress.

I don’t naturally gravitate towards working in sketchbooks, as I like to work on loose sheets, and do a lot of 3-d work as well… so sketchbooks always seemed to be just tarted up scrapbooks, which I couldn’t be bothered with. Still, I realised last year that I needed to start one just for the money in order to sort out the clutter in my head, and guess what? I really enjoyed putting it together, and it totally paid off.

Now, the challenge is to sort through the past few months’ tests and scribbles and decide what makes it in and what goes into the bin.

Dilution, and other roadblocks to getting art done

On Thursday I was listening to the Escape Hatches episode of The Accidental Creative podcast. One part of it made me stop – the second “escape hatch”, dilution. You can get there at about the ten minute mark.

Was what I always thought of as “shiny object syndrome” really just a way of diluting my commitment and rationalising underperformance? Maybe – I am very open to analysing myself in that way, as long as it’s helpful and not just something to make me feel generally annoyed with myself.

Recently I’ve made a lot of progress with saying no to things and turning down work that doesn’t pay off in terms of what I want to get done in the long-term; so I want to keep that going by taking a little bit of time to wrap up some of the small, niggling projects that don’t count towards either the figurative images or the money project.

Just a few things like making new cardboard box shelves and making some Japanese stab-stitch notebooks and notebook covers – not practice-related, but things that I’m curious about and want to hold in my hands!

Then I’ll have all the time to focus on the two (or, let’s face it, three) projects that I love.

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Studio Notes 29/03/19