Creative disorder or how to embrace your messy desk (or bench)


I am the proud owner of a messy desk - actually two of them. One at my day job and one in my studio at home. I have to say that the office one does not nearly look as exciting with all the paper work on it than my jewelry bench covered with tools and half finished rings.

So this is my desk at  my corporate architecture job. The idea of a paperless office seems to be far, far away.

"An anti-anticlutter movement is afoot, one that says yes to mess and urges you to embrace your disorder. Studies are piling up that show that messy desks are the vivid signatures of people with creative, limber minds (who reap higher salaries than those with neat “office landscapes”) and that messy closet owners are probably better parents and nicer and cooler than their tidier counterparts. It’s a movement that confirms what you have known, deep down, all along: really neat people are not avatars of the good life; they are humorless and inflexible prigs, and have way too much time on their hands."
With that I am proudly saying yes to my cluttered mess and even show you some pictures of it.

This is a panorama of my studio. The work bench for metal work is on the left next to the window and on the right is the wax working set up and computer station.

I heard that people with messy desks may actually be less prone to procrastination. That's because tools are all in front of you, not filed away in a filing cabinet where they'll be easy to forget. Your desk may be messy, but at least you can see at a glance what needs to get done.
It takes time to organize. Some experts have suggested that the time it takes you to organize your desk can be more productively spent doing your job-and that organization doesn't save you a large amount of time to begin with. Disorganized people like me often claim that they know where everything is.

I actually do have some organization behind this mess, believe it or not.

Next to the metal bench is the soldering station with pickle pot in back, various fluxes , coal soldering blocks and third hand.

And right underneath in the file cabinet all tools for soldering.

The bigger torch I keep outside in the laundry shack, since I am always worried that there is a gas leak  and I would kill my dogs in the house. When I solder I keep the sliding door open for good ventilation.

The next drawer has finishing supplies: sanding paper and polishing compounds. I have to keep those locked away from the dogs, they have a sweet tooth for this toxic compound.

That is the drawer with the hammers and dusk mask. My dog Pele always has to check if he can "borrow" my rawhide hammer for a little chewing session. So this drawer should better be locked too.

Say hello to my two shop apprentices: Pele (lying on floor) and Lena (looking for some trouble). They are good to keep around for the occasional sweeping of the floors. When I am not at home the studio space is off limit for them.

Drawer with finishing tools for the flex shaft.  Those nail files are really great for sanding new castings.

My most used finishing and polishing tools I keep right on the table. Trying to put them neatly back in the drum would just be a waste of time.

Drum with not so often used finishing tools. In front there is a box with half finished rings which still need to get the stones set. I am always working on multiple rings at the same time. This allows me to keep working when one of the steps in the process requires to either put the piece down for a while to cool from the polishing, or it needs to go in the tumbler for a while or needs to be soldered and stay in the pickle for some time. I also get bored with some rings really quickly so this keeps me engaged, because I can switch between different designs. It's a bit of a bad thing when I really need to finish one order but rather want to continue working on a new design. On the left I keep a couple designs where I hit a dead end. Either I screwed it up, lost interest or they are bad castings and need to go in the scrap bin for precious metal recycling.

Over the wax table is a black board with current orders written on it. I typically have about 5 orders at any given time. It takes me 2 to 3 weeks to finish a typical order. Once it comes in, I mark on the board the customer name, ring name, size, date of order and where it is in the process. Once I made a max model, I will bring it to my local casting place. I typically get it back in 7 to 10 days. After that I sand, tumble, polish and set the stone. If I get more orders that I can put on the board, I create a quick spread sheet with all the info on it.

My messy wax table with ton's of wax shavings. In spring I decided it was time for a cleaning and totally wiped off the entire table. All tools where in their drawers, no wax shavings on the table, gem stones neatly packed away... After that I could start with any new designs for a week or so. It felt like having a writers block. The table was so clean I did not know how where to start.  After I finally got some orders and was forced to start, the table was messy again in one minute and the creative juices were flowing. Since then I keep the table in a state of what I would call the "just got up-stage". Everything is right there, I just need to plop down in the chair and start right away. No putting out tools, or finding the right wax type. This is very efficient for me, since I sometimes only have 2 hours at night to work on my jewelry.

My favorite tool: the electric wax pen. And the newest addition to the tool family is the magnetic tumbler. It saves so much time in pre-finishing castings. In the bottle is a wax polisher.

Once rings are finished they go to my in-house photo studio which I put up on my dining table when needed. A light tent and tripod is a must. My camera is a Nikon D50, which I put on macro setting. All rings are photographed on black back painted glass with a black velvet background.

The photoshop work and listing to Etsy and my web site is all done on my laptop on my dining table. I hate to sit on the PC in the studio. Working on good photos sometimes takes as long as actually making a ring. Something that does not really reflect in my prices for some one-of-a-kind pieces.  I only make money with rings I can reproduce when I can just use the same photos again and re-list. Unfortunately I really love making one-of-a-kind rings.

On sunny California weekends I move the office to my garden to catch some sun rays.

BTW: the clutter looks so much cooler if you use a hip Iphone photo app (Hipstamatic). Pictures from my Nikon SLR with its sharpness and true colors would just be too scary. 

"The best part about the messy desk myth is that it allows many of us to proudly view ourselves as creative geniuses just waiting to be discovered." (
So if you embrace your messy desk, feel free to share your story and pictures.
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