In this episode of In the Studio with Cate, we address an email from Betty Anderson, who writes:
I have tons of clippings/old mags/postcards/etc/etc/etc
I'd love to see an article on organizing the small pieces of paper that are to integral to our art but a pain in the BUTT to store and retrieve!
Betty sent several more pictures of her drawers stuffed with ephemera, but you get the idea. In fact, you may have drawers--or bins, that look just like this. Fortunately, we know of ways to deal with this problem, based on the many creative solutions we've seen in Studios. There's the semi-organized way and the highly organized way.
Semi-organized: Sort your ephemera by how you use it, such as color, type of paper (like tissue, found papers, vintage, handmade, cardboard), etc. You might want to have subcategories, if you use a lot of images or types of papers (for example, birds, animals, Victorian ladies, labels, postage, and so on). Then, get clear plastic bins to contain each category or sub-category. Label them. This way, you can see what you have and where it is. Whenever you've finished working with the papers, put them back in the bins they came from. When you acquire a new piece of ephemera, immediately put it in the appropriate bin (after admiring it for several minutes.)
Highly organized: This is best if you use a lot of small pieces of ephemera like tickets, old postage stamps, images cut from magazines, etc., or bits of ephemera smaller than the size of an 8 1/2" x 11" page. Get yourself some clear plastic paper protector sheets--some that will hold full sheets of paper and some that are segmented with pockets, such as the ones used for slides, baseball cards, etc. Sort your ephemera by category as described above. Go as crazy with this as you would like, for example, we know some people who not only have a category for bird images, but sub-categories for red birds, yellow birds, etc., and backyard birds, waterfowl, etc. Use the larger protectors for the bigger sheets: say, a full magazine page of flowers or a piece of cardboard with an interesting texture. Then get yourself some loose-leaf binders and assign a binder to each of your categories. Label them. For larger sheets of paper, invest in a set of flat files to keep them orderly (don't forget to sort and label), and a tall plastic or metal rubbish barrel where you can keep rolls, such as wrapping paper. Don't forget to put everything back where it belongs and file it appropriately when it comes in. That's the key (and the hard part.)
Of course, Betty, you must adapt these methods to your own style, type of art, and space allotment. And I'm sure there are other suggestions that our readers would be happy to provide. If you have a suggestion for how to sort and organize ephemera, please leave a comment here.