As you can imagine, we have a fair amount of art materials in the Oh Waily household. Miss Oh has always been fond of creating her own art, and I have always enjoyed providing different materials for her to do this with. The only problem being a degree of paranoia on my own part that if I left some of the messier items down at kid-level then all heck would break loose on the spillage front. So for the most part the art supplies have lived up high or in large plastic tubs that were hard to get into by the small people. The exceptions to this being the crayons, pencils and felt-tip pens.
This naturally leads to two problems – the lack of encouraging independent use by the kids and the storage of all the bits and pieces. We did have an art caddy, once upon a time, but found that it simply didn’t work for us so it was barely used. Then when we created the cot desk, the home-made (i.e. improvised) hanging tubs became something of a nightmare in that they would slide from side to side and spill their contents far too easily. The obvious reason for this being that they were hanging from a single hook rather than firmly anchored along a railing.
It was all rather disjointed and was discouraging the kids from regular engagement in a variety of art without a lot of my time and effort to oversee, which I haven’t always had to give at short notice this past six months^. And art in this household tends to happen at short notice.
I had been wanting to fix the cot-desk storage for ages and ages, and came across the wonderful Bygel storage solutions from IKEA. I drooled over the idea of the rail and buckets doing their thing, but there being no IKEA in New Zealand posed a minor problem. I had intended to deal with this issue by attempting to buy through Fishpond or Amazon. In the end, they were bought in Singapore on the last leg of Mr Oh Waily’s long overseas trip and for the princely sum of NZ$15. A bargain in anyone’s language.
The improved crayon, pencil, pen & scissor storage then made me realise just how woeful the rest of the art supplies were and how fed up I was at seeing a huge, ugly pile of stuff languishing in boxes in the hallway and strewn across various high shelves in Master Oh’s bedroom. So the hunt began for a way to deal with it ALL.
At this point I was reading a decluttering book (as you do) and had an epiphany. One of the key tenets of this particular book was ‘the toothbrush principle’ – you don’t leave your toothbrush in random places before & after use… because it is stored right where it is used. Using this very obvious notion I realised that pretty much all the art in our household occurs at the dining room table or the cot-desk. Luckily for me, I had already relocated the cot-desk into the dining room, so that just left what to do about storage nearby. Well, he have one of those not-bay poking out windows in the dining room – just perfect for something like a buffet or sideboard.
The hunt was on.
A buffet unit that would not break the bank, considering what it was going to be used for and by whom, but one that would not look like an eyesore in what is a shared, public space of the house. I cannot tell you how many stores I trudged through and what horrible prices I was seeing flashing in front of my eyes (fine if it’s for decor, not so much if it’s for kids’ art supplies). We thought we’d found the right piece, and it was a great fit, but the price was too high. The shop wouldn’t budge below a certain discount and I couldn’t face paying the amount of money, so the the search resumed.
Revisiting one earlier piece and finding out it was ‘end-of-line’ and could be bought for pretty much half the price of the cheaper end of the buffet market was brilliant. I was even willing to disregard my dislike of the handles, knowing at the price we were given, I would have no qualms about taking to them with a hammer if they turned out to be a cause of accidents. (They’re thin and pointy-ended, as you will see shortly.)
A flat pack was purchased at a further, small discount, and Mr Oh Waily set about construction.
The following day I set to clearing out all the art supplies and rehoming them. I was hopeful, but not convinced that they would all fit. I was delighted when all but the larger pads of paper and one very long tin of pencils were the only things that couldn’t be accommodated. Here is the transformation. I am extremely pleased with it.
That’s the new unit in white behind the dining table (which has since been turned 90 degrees). The console table, which was my command centre, has been removed to create space and the monthly calendar replaced by a lovely piece of art that had been in storage too. As you can see, the desk had become a dumping ground and the art supplies were scattered on shelves and in a pile of boxes in the hallway. << shudder >>
I emptied everything out on to the table and floor of the hall to see what needed to be moved & where. My storage solutions were almost as big a problem as the art supplies. Those plastic tubs in the hallway photograph are full of boxes stacked inside each other, rather like matryoshka dolls !!
Finally though, we got to the good bit.
The desk was cleaned up, and all the art stuff was rehomed in the buffet. I don’t have any fancy dividers or drawer organisers, just my plastic buckets to contain the spread, so we will see how that goes for a while.
Am I happy? Yes I am.
Not only are the art supplies available, they are also hidden from view. And the top of the unit can be both a place to put provocations, and to display the kids’ artistic creations. (Thanks to a couple of little place mats from Japan City.)
On the far side, and barely visible in the morning sunlight, is a sketch by Master Oh. In the middle is my attempt to introduce different ideas to the kids without shoving it down their throats. And on the near side is Miss Oh’s giraffe family in building blocks.
I’m very hopeful that this will go a long way to encouraging Master Oh’s newfound interest in drawing and art, and continue to provide lots of opportunity for Miss Oh to do her thing.
^ I was studying for a university paper for most of the last 6 months and the best part of two of those Mr Oh Waily was overseas for work.