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Smart affordable ways to have a well-stocked artist space

Take care of your tools if you want them to last. (Photo: Thom Masat / Unsplash)

Artists, this is the season to make more art.  Using this gift of time to create makes sense, and we are here to share ideas on creative projects – as well as how to stock up on art supplies, creatively and cheaply.

Let’s get started.

Know what you need. Create a list of all the supplies that you likely need for the next six to 12 months.  Add extra items to cover the bursts of creativity  and productivity from staying at home during coronavirus.  Then separate the list into must haves and wish you could buy.  Unless you have a rich uncle or patron, now is the time to focus on the must haves.

Buy together.  Identify a purchasing partner – an artist who works in your medium who you like and respect. Or join an artists group. If you join forces with three painters, buying canvases in bulk makes sense.  This works equally well for jewelry artists, photographers and others to share raw materials or finishing supplies.

Go to bargain hunter buying places. Go to garage sales or head to Arts & Scraps, once it reopens, on Detroit’s East Side. Or if you’re close to Ann Arbor, go to SCRAP Creative Reuse. Estate sales work, and sites such as Estatesales.net allows you to search to see if they offer the supplies you need most.  CraigsList Free and junk yards may yield great items for sculpture, frames and more.  Just practice safety online and when you meet in person to collect supplies. Also: Look for artist-to-artist sales. These take place sporadically for artists to sell off extra or unused supplies and creative work.

Care for your tools. Buy a better quality and then take a little time to maintain. “Well kept art supplies can last for years,” according to a post republished in FineArtTips. So carefully wash your paint brushes and pat them dry after each use. Do the same with other creative equipment. 

Track your spending.   This can be as simple as a shoe box for all receipts or more high tech: a digital  log of every nickel spent on supplies, frames, packing materials and more. These are business expenses and they may be tax deductible. Read more about artists’ tax deductions in this post.

Set aside funds.  Each time you sell a piece of your creative work, place 20 percent of the proceeds – more if your material costs are high – in a special bank or credit union account to pay for supplies and equipment.  This practice will provide funds to replace canvases or silver wire or whatever runs low.

If you still cannot buy all your supplies, you may need to borrow money – from a family member or close friend – to stock your creativity. Just be clear about when and how you will repay this.

Perhaps your favorite aunt or pal will be glad to receive a painting or pendant instead of cash for a loan.