05 September 2013

Guest Post Thursday - Art Filofax Organisers Part 2 - Helen

Part One of this post dealt with how I use multiple Filofaxes to manage my artistic life and focussed on my two studio planners. Now we turn to my learning and design binders:

My Wine A5 Holborn is my Textile Course Planner. This one tends to live either on or in the 'Filofax station' sideboard in our front lounge or on the coffee table in the other lounge as I like to curl up comfortably and think with this one. 

Left untamed I am a bit of an education junkie and every now and them I get tempted by diploma and degree courses. However, I know deep down that (a) these are unnecessary as I am very autodidactic anyway (b) don't exactly meet my needs and (c) costs a huge sum of money better spent elsewhere. 

So I sat down and designed a perfect textile course setting out what modules I would choose if anything was possible. And some that would not be my first choice but I knew I needed to grasp to be good. My plan is to allow this to run for three or four years then replan as if I was moving on to a graduate course. The sections are:

At the front I have some Success To do lists. On A studio Day/ weekend my goals often span learning, wet and dry studios so I put a checklist here with time estimates and work through it. The dividers then are:
1. Overview: Mindmaps, ten year plans etc also, the modules I created for my self teaching course. Photo: Textile course mindmap
2. Journal. A general creativity journal where I reflect on art I have seen, unformed half baked ideas and inspirations, my feelings and fears about making art etc
3. Themes. A bit if an. overlap with Series in the Osterley (see part One)  but here I tuck research notes etc about the themes, like the historical research I did about Brick Lane
4. Artists. This module is inspired by what is done on the City and Guilds Diploma and the Masters Degree I have in Novel Writing ( I have one in criminology too - told you, education junkie!!). I choose an artist and research his or her work and here I make notes about what I learned and crucially how I can apply that to my own work.
5. Surface design. I admit - this section is otiose since the aqua malden was set up!
6. Creativity. A module in which I read various texts about the psychology of creativity and the advice of creativity coaches
7. Design theory. Reading lists and notes about formal theory of design (like line, colour, proportion etc) 
8. Studio practice. Reading notes etc about the business side of art. Not necessarily money making but being a professional artist showing work in galleries as well.
9. Drawing. Again there is now some overlap with the EDM section in the Aqua Malden (see Part One)  now but here I keep goals and plans and the Malden has the actual doing notes
10. Technology. A module about  websites and photoshop skills
11. Jottings. As above
12. Inserts. Spare paper.
You should know I am not working on all those sections at once. But having a place for them means (a) I am more at ease not trying to do everything all at once  because I am assured that I will get to the due course so I am not missing out by declining to focus on them right now and (b) as I read and web browse these topics all crop up. Making notes and parking them means the resources are all there organised when I decide to give that topic focus. It also means I don't waste time reading the same material over and over again.

Those are the main three filofaxes but others play a supporting role:

My personal planner for life in general lives in a rotating set of personal binders, currently a Gold medium Mia Cara Gillio. Every Sunday I plan the week and make appointments on a day per two pages for myself in the studio fitting it in around work, exercise and family. I also mark on my month per two page tabbed and weekly pages a longer range plan for 'studio weekends' shows and group meetings.

My A5 Grey Malden has all things Internet and is where all the passwords,account details, lists etc are to maintain websites and blogs. This has a monthly diray for noting blog post schedule (sadly neglected recently) but is mainly reference, ideas lists and to dos. 

My caramel Finchley currently holds some design work, including these type of print outs. One of the themes I work to is about shacks in South African Townships. These pages stem from a Google Earth photo of a township which I manipulated in Photoshop and may in the future use to make a thermofax screen to allow me to print the pattern onto fabric. 

My Ochre Malden needs a set up makeover and dividers but at the moment has some colour mixing charts, small samples from my fabric dying and also my experiments in making wood look surfaces from brown paper bags for use in quilts featuring South African township shacks.

I am aware that people tend to be flabbergasted by the number of binders I have on the go. However, I have learned that spending time on planning and organisation makes me mentally much calmer which aids my ability to create in short blocks of time. I also find that if I allocate a topic to one (or several) beautiful binders it is a way of stating, 'this aspect of my life is important and should be honoured and respected'. Creating that mindset is also a good step to success. Which surely means that if only I had every Gillo they made I would be David Hockney personified....?!! 

Thank you Helen for your great contribution to 'Guest Post Thursday' If you would like to provide a Guest Post for Philofaxy then please contact Steve: philofaxy at gmail dot com


  1. Really enjoyed seeing how you organise your artistic life and loved seeing your artwork - it's excellent!

  2. What an astonishingly organised lady! I must admit that you seem to have an amazingly huge amount of things going on in your life, and it's fascinating that you are managing to keep on top of it all. Having recently been diagnosed with Reactive Depression - due to far too many strands and too much pressure going on for too long, which eventually overwhelmed me - it's great to see that there are people busier than me who are thriving, and who knows, the uber-organised approach may yet provide pointers to help me to cope as I recover.

  3. Gosh!! I loved reading this... but felt slightly overwhelmed by how much you manage to fit into your hobby and hobby as a small business time.I tend not to plan my hobbies in great detail... a note or two here or there maybe is all.. I plan the when into my diary, but very very briefly the what. Hobbies for me are a relaxation period, and with this level of planning I would feel stressed rather than a letting go and down time. But that is me... and thank goodness we are all different in our approaches.Like Paul, I have suffered from depression, brought on by school merger, redundancy and bereavement, but it has taught me how important replenishing of the body, soul and spirit are for me personally. Even just time to be peaceful, still and think is a nourishing time for me. Thank you for your post and for sharing your artistic and multi- faceted talents with us.xxxx

  4. @Paul And @Butanben. As sorry to hear of your depressions. That is such a horrid unseen and so often un-understood ( is that a word?) illness. I do 100% agree that too much pressure to do and not be and play is not a good thing. And I can see how it looks like my systems are ahuge bundle of stress! However, for me ( and everyone is different) I find planning and just writing is in itself relaxing. In our house ( which is adults only) we talk about 'playing filofaxes'. For me I need to tame all the possibilties in my head so I can be calm and relaxed in my art play. Clearing the decks and , as Dave Allen would say, achiveing a mind like water means I feel free to lose myself in hours playing with fabric or paint because thats what the diary says I should be doing! And then doing that art, that play is what keeps me mentally well. So the art planning s nit about what I must do, but about what I give myself permisson and enable myself to do that is good for me. Does that make sense?

  5. @Helen - your answer makes perfect sense. In a lot of ways it is no different from me blocking out time in my calendar for my Bikram Yoga practice, or for walking the dogs. The difference is in the level of organisation you are applying to what is clearly a very serious hobby and a passion! My to do list for yoga looks like "wash yoga mat and shorts; pack yoga kit; yoga@bristol@19:15" and would be unlikely to need even one filofax to itself... I do agree wholeheartedly that one should book out time and plans to ensure that one actually makes time for play and renewal - I think there is even a word for it: unschedule. I am just in awe of how organised your unschedule is!

  6. Hey! Thanks for sharing the post!! I am happy that I found it!
    gtm plan


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