Monday, July 23, 2012

The Creative Home: Mess

I sometimes feel bewildered when I go into other people's houses and everything is...tidy. Not just tidy, but empty of the stuff that seems to fill every corner of our house. I mean, where do they keep their jars of chalk, crayons, markers, pencils; containers of pompoms, feathers, stamps; baskets of yarn, beads, paper; bowls of stones, pinecones, and tree bark?...every surface in our home carries something that can be made into something.

I could blame the mess on my kids, but to be honest, my living spaces have always been like this. Half-finished paintings covering the kitchen table, musical instruments stretching across the couch like lazy cats, magazines in various stages of snipped-outedness covering the hands have always been in the midst of making something.
The top of the piano: knitting, sewing basket, air-dry clay creations, needle case, birds' nests, finished knitting for the baby...

My husband knew this about me before we married, I assure you. He even found my little piles of creative materials charming. His beloved grandmother is an artist, as is his mother, and I think he relished the idea of being married to one (he's an artist in his own right, of course).
Bookshelves overflowing, craft table covered so that we have to work on the floor...

Giving my children time, space, and material to create is as vital, in my mind, as giving them adequate sleep and healthy food. This means that to my own messes, we have added the bead-and-sparkle messes, the baking-soda-and-vinegar messes, the chalk-on-the-front-porch and paint-in-the-bathtub messes that three kids so joyously create.

When we throw our summer schedule into the mix (library program, soccer, swimming lessons), we eat meals on the fly, come home just to change into dry clothes then go out again, and tend to go from creative mess to creative mess without actually cleaning up any of the previous messes.
...and the craft shelf. Yikes.

After awhile, we reach the point where the creating stops because we just can't find any tape or scissors! And the red marker is missing! And, admittedly, it ends up looking less like creative mess and more that we're just lazy slobs.

It's taken me a week to pull all of the materials from our craft shelf in order to execute a major purge. Some tweaking of the system here, some judicious pruning of the colouring book supply there, and once again I can see the potential to create shining through.

Jude has plans for some kitchen chemistry this week, and we're preparing to make some plaster of Paris fossils. I think this new, clean space is exactly what we need to make these kinds of messes! 

P.S. A dear friend of mine, who has her degree in Art History and is now curator of a local Arts centre, told me that her own mother always prioritized creative mess over a tidy home. As a teenager, this annoyed my friend because she didn't want to bring her friends over, but as a woman, she appreciates how her mother followed her creative drives. I'm pleased to say that in this friend's home, creative mess abounds in the many beautiful items she creates with her hands. 

*Tomorrow, see the "after" shots of our favourite creative space!


  1. Yes- your own space has always been this way but it's one of the things we love about you- even if it sometimes drives you crazy! Can't wait to see the "after" shots. I wish I could blame my messes on our creativity but sadly...

  2. Have you ever thought about putting doors on one of your craft cupboards? I have an old tv cupboard that I bought at an auction, put some shelves in it and now the kids "creativeness" is all in a big cupboard that I can close the dooors on. It looks like a piece of furniture blended in with our livingroom. I just don't let any visitors open the cupboard!!

  3. My creativity tends to soar when I am surrounded by order and tidiness although I know this is not true for all artists. Chaos in my surroundings makes me "feel" chaotic inside but an orderly, sparse space is heaven to me :-) Looking forward to seeing the "after" shots.

  4. I often find myself contemplating the birch bark on our window ledge, halfheartedly wondering if I should put it away with other stashes of bark. But, it looks so at home on the window ledge. And it conceals the dust. A win win scenario as far as I'm concerned.


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