Common Compulsion: Craft Supply Hoarding

Crafting + Art Making, Lifestyle + Creativity at Home | 10 comments

craft supply hoarding |  | the merriweather council blog

A few nights ago, I wrote on my instagram account about a blog post I published a while back about the hesitation involved with using craft supplies – specifically fabric. This post, titled “cut the fabric” was about encouraging you to go ahead and USE the materials you’ve stockpiled – specifically, it used fabric as an example.

I was not surprised at all to hear that so many other people also stockpile supplies and then struggle to actually use them. It seems that craft supply hoarding is a common compulsion whether you are a maker in business or not.

I started the discussion there, I’d like to continue it here.

Here are some of the struggles I’ve had in the past when it comes to using supplies I’ve hoarded:

Afraid to “waste” the materials

“Waste” is an interesting word when it comes to creativity and inspiration. The only real waste when it comes to creativity is not using it – ignoring your inspiration, or snuffing it out by not exploring it when it comes to you. So by virtue of fearing being wasteful with materials, we are wasting our creativity by not using it.

Here’s the thing: most materials are easily replenish-able and creativity is perishable. Inspiration comes and goes, inspiration won’t last forever – and when it returns it may look or feel different. If you want to explore the idea you have today, today is the best day to do that. Go ahead and dig into that stock pile.

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Afraid the materials are better on their own without your input

This is definitely something I have experienced. There is a partially tattered vintage quilt top in my studio closet right now that could be something super awesome if I would just use it, but for the time being it’s just a tattered piece of patchwork. It’s been in there for four years. Seriously.

Yes, it’s tattered, but it’s gorgeous. It’s rare. It’s NOT replenishable.  But is it really better off just sitting in the closet forever? It’s not in a form that anyone can appreciate it – no one else even knows it exists… except my dog who made a bed out of it one day when I left it on the floor in the closet after moving it to access something else.

I work around it. I use other stuff first. Like, if I run out of stuff to use, then I’ll use it?  Recently, I’ve decided it might be nice to just use a small segment of it. It’s quite large, so I could theoretically have it as it is and have a project made from it if I plan it properly.

Why did I buy it in the first place? Another compulsion: buy now, decide on how to use it later.

I think another problem we run into is space.

We can more easily STORE things than we can use them. Don’t you think? It’s a bigger endeavor to take all the things out and clear a space to use them in effectively than it is to simply pile them up and gaze upon them for inspiration (whether it’s actual inspiration or pseudo inspiration we convince ourselves is real and so we need to keep the stockpile.) It’s just easier to collect than it is to use.

I can’t even tell you how many times I lost the urge to make something because I had to struggle to find or access the thing I wanted to use – or simply got distracted between deciding to pull it out, and actually getting to it.

My solution: easily accessible materials + dedicated workspace

For me, I KNOW I have to have a dedicated working space – so that some of the materials can be out, readily available, easy to access and ready to use. I make desk space a higher priority than shelving. I don’t want to constantly see every material I have on hand, I want to see space that calls me to get to work.

It hasn’t always been a reality for me to have a lot of blank desk space. I’ve moved around a bunch in the past few years and have worked in some pretty mashed up studio situations. Even now, I don’t have a lot of working space, but I have enough. (And actually, the prospect of having more working space is what lights the fire under my butt to clear materials out that I know I’m not going to use, but that’s another story, for another time.)

I spent years working on the floor in my living room. Over time, I learned I had to have things easily accessible if I ever hoped to use them, so desk space and smart storage became a priority for me. 

We are currently working on carving out some dedicated making-space for my husband, too. While he does have a very full time job in the Navy, he is an artist at heart and at this point in time, art making is a zen-out-and-relax practice for him. So I want him to have dedicated space for that, I think it will help him the same way it’s helped me.

All in all, our desire to collect supplies isn’t the problem. The problem is that we struggle to use the supplies once we acquire it. 

If being creative is a lifestyle – a way in which we approach things – and crafting and art making are ways we wish to explore creativity, then we need to make doing so accessible and to a certain extent, easy.

Reserving space for this kind of work has helped me, what has helped you? Any thoughts?

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Oh, hi! Welcome to The Merriweather Council. I’m Danielle and I am a maker in business and mentor to other makers in business. I teach you how to turn your crafty tendencies into profits!

Oh, I’m also really into crafts, boy bands + iced coffee. Email me anytime to say hello or send cute Backstreet Boy videos or dog pictures .. or whatever! danielle (at) merriweathercouncil.com Thanks for stopping by.

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10 Comments

  1. I was starting to develop my own space, and then baby number three came along. I’ve got to start all over in that category, but first, we have to figure out where to put me. It constantly amazes me that we have this whole house and every bit of it is too crammed to carve out a corner for my sewing machine and all the STUFF that goes with it. O.o

    • something to look forward to!

  2. I’ve stumbled back into weaving/fiber arts within the last year, and something I’ve tried to do from the beginning is save any scraps of yarn/fiber I can and in between big projects I’ll make it a point to warp up my loom and use the scraps I’ve accumulated. It’s a great excersice and I often like the artwork that comes from it more than the pieces I’ve spent hours on planning and executing.

    Also, as my style has evolved I’ve realized I don’t need all the colors/textures I thought I did in the beginning so I’ve recently made a vow to myself to use it all up or give it away before I buy/use any of the good stuff I’ve found i prefer and use more of.

    • Totally agree! I love projects like that too.

      Also, yes, definitely have held on to things that spanned different styles … by the time I dug them out they totally did go anymore.

  3. This is really a great post, Danielle. And coming along at just the right time for me, too. My overarching goal for the month of March is to get my studio organized and streamlined, to purge out all that excess stuff so that I can create more in line with what’s inspiring me now. For so long I struggled with focus and my studio (and hoarded stash) reflect that. With my focus refined I need to refine my work space as well.

    I really love what you say about inspiration being perishable. It’s so true. If we don’t jump on an idea when we’re inspired, it will often fizzle. And what you say about work space… so important. I find my empty work table to be one of the most inspiring sights there is!

    Finally, one thing that I’m realizing is that more supplies don’t necessarily mean more inspiration or productivity. At one point I thought that you needed more to be creative, but I’m finding that excess can get in the way of creativity.

    Thanks for your post and for getting me thinking.

    • thanks, anne. I think having too much stuff around definitely can be stifling and not inspiring at all!

  4. I definitely struggle with this. I bought huge amounts of fabric from a distributor a few years ago for my business, but I ended up totally switching gears and scaling down instead. It’s taken me over a year, but I finally got the guts to sell some of it and it still hurts a little every time it goes. Ugh. I also have a problem throwing out scrap fabric, because, like you said, it feels like a waste. Maybe I’ll make such-and-such one day? And so it sits, for years, untouched. Why do we get so attached to stuff?

    • it is a struggle…

  5. I have struggled with this since childhood. I hoarded stickers til the sticky wore out. I used my kids pottery wheel once and then saved it until the clay had all dried up. I find myself doing it as an adult too, but I’m trying to work on it. I bought a set of Windsor Newton watercolors when I lived in England planning to take them out painting in Kensington Gardens. Then my dissertation began and they were never opened. Three years later and I’ve finally opened them up and started playing. And that led to the watercolor rebrand on my site and the style for my adventure planner. Definitely definitely more valuable when they’re actually being USED than sitting on a shelf making me feel guilty.

    • oh i had a massive sticker collections as well….