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  • Writer's pictureBel Mills

Can We Talk About Your Supply Stash?

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

Let’s chat art supplies for a moment.

Because my art studio is a supply graveyard.

It’s stuffed with papers I once loved, rubber stamps I got tired of, and vintage books filled with images that no longer thrill me.

I’m surrounded by a stash amassed by a different person-- an artist I’ve left behind.

Worst of all, that artist was super value-minded. If she thought she might want to make wire-bound notebooks, she bought wire combs in cases of 100.

(spoiler: this is one of the only wire-bound notebooks I ever made)

Am I alone in my plight?

Anyone else reluctant to calculate what they’ve invested in supplies that no longer fuel their creative fire?

(I still love these washi tapes, but really, NOBODY needs this many)

Now, here’s something I realized recently:

I’ve rarely felt this sense of waste about taking art classes.

I could even say that every giant leap forward I’ve made as an artist has come as a result of taking classes with other book artists.

I’ve gained invaluable insights and inspiration from book artists like: Ali Manning

(I made this set of books in a class with Ali)

And also Kit Davey

(Kit taught me the awesome structure for this 3D carousel book)

Not to mention Lucia Leyfield.

(Lucia's class on the Chinese Thread Box Book was one of my all-time favorites)

But still, I admit, I sometimes hesitate to take classes that catch my eye. Why?

It can be hard to invest in something you can't see.

Classes are not concrete or reassuring like supplies. They don’t satisfy that need to keep our shelves stocked with provisions, like a pantry full of kitchen staples.

But classes get you something else-- skills.

And skills are something you never outgrow or get tired of.

Best of all, when you evolve--when your artistic style shifts--your skills come along with you.

Here are a few other things that are true of skills, but not supplies:

They don't break They don’t run out or dry up They don’t get discontinued They never need to be cleaned, fixed or replaced They don’t bore you after a few uses They don't take up space in your home They don’t weigh down your bags at an art retreat You never waste an hour looking for them because they got lost

Can I hear an "Amen?" Skills never bog you down or lose their value.

Now, for a thought experiment:

Imagine where you could go as an artist if you took half of the money you would spend on supplies in the next year, and you instead invested it in upgrading your skills?

What if you actually budgeted a certain sum for classes each year, and made sure you spent it?

What would your work look like when that year came to a close?

Why not try it out? Sign up for that class you’ve been eyeing. (Even if it isn’t upcycled book arts!)

And then--and this is super important--be sure you complete the project.

Invest in your skills, not your stash. You won’t regret it.

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