Friday, August 23, 2013

Why Handmade: Keeping your work safe

by Lynn Mohney at Prunella’s Workshop

As a professional artist, you try to be in your workspace every day, but you still have life obligations that you must fulfill. You leave for a couple of hours and when you return you hear the dreadful sound of Niagara Falls, and you find an inch of water on your floor. A brand new pipe has burst. You calmly turn off the water to the building, but then you face that dreadful question in the pit of your stomach. What has been ruined?

Prunella's Workshop during the clean up

This is exactly what happened at Prunella’s Workshop a few weeks ago. I am not the tidiest of people, and everything seemed to be everywhere. However, I lost nothing. Not one tool was destroyed as it was all safely off the floor. Wheels or legs raised the floor equipment. Even the portfolios of watercolor still life paintings and drawings were protected. Pure luck? Probably. However it was a solid reminder that no amount of insurance would cover the time lost had my work been destroyed. It is hard to recreate a still life from 20 years ago.

How do we keep our time and investment safe from disaster? Is it even possible to protect our work from every possible scenario? Probably not. However, we can make certain that our work is not damaged when avoidable.

1.  Research proper storage for your finished work. You know the materials you are using, and you should know what elements would cause the most damage. For example, using my own near disaster, silver could have sat in water for quite some time safely; however water is not particularly good for paper. Drawings and paintings that were on paper were not only stored in a nearly waterproof portfolio. They also were properly matted. This protected the paper from dog-ears and wrinkles over time, and water only got as far as the matte board, which is much more easily replaced.

Tool chest keeps tools off the ground and organized - Prunella's Workshop

2.  If a great quantity of your work is electronic, have back ups. Have back ups of your back ups. Have your work backed up in another location. A thumb drive is fantastic, but it will not help you if both your computer and the drive are damaged at the same time.

3.  When appropriate, store supplies in dry plastic tubs. This is especially useful for textiles such as fabric and yarn. Plastic tubs can be stored directly on the floor, which is an added advantage.

4.   Be aware of storage that can actually be damaging to your work. For example, over time certain acids, etc., can be damaging to paper goods. Certain types of containers can cause some types of metal to tarnish.

5.  If possible, keep items off the ground that can suffer water damage.

6.  Protect your tools by putting them away when they are not in use. Steel tools can rust over time if kept in a damp area.

Neat and tidy way to keep tools safe - Prunella's Workshop

7.  Get a dehumidifier, or keep your work in a temperature-controlled area. Temperature changes also can be damaging to certain types of work.

8.  If your work is fragile, such as ceramic, porcelain, glass, etc., properly keep it secured in paper, bubble wrap, or some other packing material.

9.  Make certain that you take all necessary safety precautions with tools. Anything that may cause a fire should be properly turned off when you are no longer working.

These are just some suggestions. There is probably truly no way to completely protect your work from every possible catastrophe out there, but every precaution taken reduces the risk of heartache later. Do not wait for something to happen; be prepared!

We'd love to hear any studio safety tips that you utilize - please add your recommendations to the comments!

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