29 August 2013

Guest Post Thursday - Art Filofax Organisers Part 1 - Helen

Thank you to Helen Conway for sending in this excellent two part Guest Post to lead off our new 'Guest Post Thursday' feature. 

Art Filofax Organisers

By day I am a full-time lawyer. By early morning,evening and weekend I am learning to be a textile artist. As you can imagine, this takes some planning and time-management which is where my multi-Filofax system comes in.

In essence I make art quilts which you can see here and here. I have only been doing this a few years, initially as a hobby but now very seriously. The day job is good enough to have paid for two studios in my home, one, in the loft for dry work, the other in a converted garage for dyeing and printing fabric ('mess making'). My work travels to shows all over the world. I am also a member of SAQA an international art quilt organisation and maintain an internet based Visioning Project for them on closed blogs, and have three blogs including one with fellow quilter and Filofax user Diane Perin Hock at Tea and Talk for Two and I do freelance writing for textile based magazines as well as designing quilt kits for The African Fabric Shop.

I use a number of different filofaxes to
(A) manage all the exciting ideas I have and want to try and which pull me in all directions if I am not disciplined
(B) To set goals and plans as to how to achieve them
(C) To record information
(D) To record time and money spent and earned so that I can cost quilts and do tax returns
(E) To reflect and hopefully improve.
There are overlaps between the filos and the system may seem complex to outsiders but it works a treat for me!

In fact there are so many Filofaxes involved this blog post has been divided into two!

My Brown A5 Osterley is my 'dry studio planner'. It lives on the glass desk in my loft studio and has african themed dividers which inspire my designs. Its sections are:
1. Diary. I found early on that to establish a 'studio habit' ( as opposed to a slumping on the sofa habit) it worked for me to have a target for the number of hours per month I would dedicate to the making and business of art. So here I record my time spent and what I did, coded, black for production, red for business and green for design/ learning.
2. Quilts. Here I use my own inserts, one for each piece of progress to record intentions, plan of stages, ideas that spring up from this piece to put in another one, time taken, evaluation of the result and a record of where and when it is shown. Photos: quilt insert 1 and quilt insert 2
3. Strategic planning. Notes on future plans, series I am working on etc. sometimes I get bogged down in detail and need to mindmap an overview of where I am going.
4. Series. List of the series I am currently working to ( maps, shacks, african women, transition/ immigration) and which pieces fall under which heading.
5. Articles. List of commissioned articles still to write, notes for them and payment records
6. Completed. When quilts are finished the sheets move from section 2 to here.
7. Calls. Details of opportunities to send quilts to shows or competitions
8. Reference. Odd bits of info like the file names of the photos I used to make thermofax screens for my Brick Lane Quilt
9. Finances. Logs of art related money in and out.
10. Shopping. I tend to buy equipment in bulk at shows or mail order so this is a running needs list.
11. Inserts. Holds what it says on the tin.
12. Archive. Anything past I want to keep for inspiration -like the SAQA Auction flyer that featured my quilt
13. A couple of plastic envelopes. Receipts and bits and bobs like baggage tags from flights which came in useful here.

My Aqua A5 Malden is my 'wet studio planner' and lives on the workbench. I particularly like its dividers, made from Basic Grey scrapbook paper on sale, the designs of which reflect the multi layered effect I am currently striving for in my own work.

The sections in this divider are:
1. Diary. As in the Osterley except just for sketchbook and surface design work. As I only tot up hours monthly I decided two diaries was far less inconvenient than one filo moving between studios.
2. Current project. I decided this year ('year' running from Festival of Quilts at the NEC in August one year to the next, like a school year) that I needed to focus on improving my surface design skills now I have the studio space to do it. I am breaking those skills down into distinct practices - at the moment its monoprinting- and doing a 'Project' over four to eight weeks. ( Time varies on how complicated the skill and what else is going on life. 'Project' means identifying a skill, what I need to learn, doing lots of play and samples and then doing a small tester quilt focusing on that skill. The idea is that by next August I will be producing bigger work in my series using the skills I learn.) This section has a statement of the goal and steps, information notes from books and websites and a journal recording what I did, what ideas it gives me and what I still need to work on.   

3. Design. This relates to the keeping of what I call a design sketchbook. I.e a boundbook in which I do rough multi media work purely to inspire more polished finished work. I find this necessary but hard. The section is for a statement of my SMART goals for my books and notes on how I see others doing it and art techniques I can try out.    

4. Overview. Like Strategic planning in the Osterley. Includes 2013 and 2014 year planners from Philofaxy to mark out the Project durations. (Saved me £7 those - thanks Steve and Ray!!)   

5. EDM. Relates to The Everyday Matters type of sketchbook keeping see here. I would love to do more of this but time limits to require me to prioritise design books. Still, I dabble for pleasure. Here I have inspiration notes and the EDM challenge list 
6. Resources. Addresses for websites, shops and book lists. Colour charts. Product technical information sheets.
7. Future Projects. Prep notes for surface design techniques which will come indue course. Knowing there is a place to park them helps me reserve my excitement and focus both. 
8. Archives. Completed projects will go here
9. Shopping. As above but wet studio equipment. Inventories of what dye and paint I have in stock. Price lists.
10. Jottings. A space for storing those random thoughts and ideas that spring u once you start to play
11. Inserts. As above
12. Recipes. Some of the work I do involves mixing chemicals inset proportions. The instructions are here in plastic wallets so I can take them out and use them without fear of splashing with water.

Part two of this article will show you how I use my Filofaxes to manage my learning and design processes.


  1. I love your system. I can see how this would keep your studio(s) running smoothly, leaving time to create. Well done, Helen! Looking forward to part 2 :)

  2. Great post Helen! Looking forward to part deux ... love your textile work too

  3. Thanks for your kind comments.

  4. What a fantastic post, Helen! Love your systems and your art! I went in kind of the other direction -- art historian and indy film maker to lawyer!! Love your studio too. Can't wait to read part 2.

    1. Laurie, do you keep up anything arty now you are a lawyer?

  5. This post has been inspiring to me on many levels. I absolutely love your studios and am in awe that you work a stressful career and make time to pursue your passions. And even though I love all things aqua, I haven't been warmed up to the aqua Malden for some reason (maybe its the shade). But it sure looks lovely in your studio and I'm giving it a second thought. Thanks for such a lovely post and your work is beautiful!

  6. Helen, thank you for sharing your filofax set-up. I look forward to part two. I admire your beautiful art work and it is amazing at how much planning is behind it. S

  7. Excuse me for shouting but, I LOVE THIS POST! Thank you for taking the time to go into so much detail. As Cheryl said above, it is very inspiring. I hope to steal some of your ideas AND some of your passion. Really looking forward to part 2.

    1. @AImless Allee ... Shout all you like :)
      But... You cannot steal my ideas ... Because they are free for the taking...

  8. Such great studios, and fabulous planning :-)

  9. As a former quilter some years back, I very much enjoyed your post Helen! Nowadays, I collect rather than create-and I admire you for using all your resources to make your magic happen!
    It's exiting to see what is possible when you focus on making the very best use of your time. You have made the seemingly impossible, actually appear possible! I look forward to reading your next post!