Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Katie M. Berggren's Studio

Katie M. Berggren

What kind of Art/Crafts do you do?
I use acrylic paint on canvas to paint intimate moments of motherhood – using brushes, my hands, palette knives and sometimes cloth as instruments

Where do you create?

When we purchased a new house a year ago, we made sure it had a 3rd bedroom with a big window that I could use for my studio. It is better than I imagined with double doors and a lovely neighborhood view.

Before this house, I painted in my laundry room, squeezed between the sink and the dryer, before that – the kitchen table. I believe that we can make amazing work anywhere we choose. It seems logical sometimes to wait for our ‘ideal’ location before we begin, but why not get going wherever you can make room?! I come from humble beginnings, and am forever grateful for the space I have now. It is simple, but it is my space to create.

Over the last 5 months, I have moved my kids’ art table into the space as well – I have less room now, but we can all create together, which is nice.

How do you keep all your supplies organised?
I have a counter top that I set my canvases on while painting (vs an easel). The counter has 6 drawers and 2 cupboards where I store my extra paint and brushes, packaging supplies, cards, prints, glues and tapes. The paints and brushes that get used every day live right on the counter – the brushes in glass jars, the paint bottles just hang out.

I used to put everything away each night, but now I find that it is inspiring to have things ‘at the ready’. Sometimes my only opportunity to paint arises when my kids are putting on their shoes or finding their helmets for a bike ride – having the water and paint out allows me to jump in for just a quick moment!

How do you keep yourself motivated to keep your space tidy?
When I come into the studio to work each day (while the kids are off playing, or sleeping at night) I frequently do some organizing before beginning. This helps to get me in the mood to paint, and I find I can’t do my work quite as well in a mess. I am a bit of a clean freak/clutter phobe, so the studio (except for the kids’ area) stays relatively clean and clutter free. I have no problem tossing things from the studio that don’t belong. Anything that might inhibit creativity!

When the space is messy, paintings can become in danger of ruin, and the whole business feels and runs more professionally when I stay on top of little messes that grow.

Any tips for how to keep art spaces tidy or organised?
Keeping brushes corralled in glass jars, bristles facing up – drawers for paint bottles to rest in, with their colors labeled on the top of the cap. I stack my unused canvases in the coat closet and the in-process canvases neatly against the wall.

I devised a board (which I painted to match the accent walls in the studio) that I drove nails into about 10 inches apart throughout the board. This board rests on my counter, leaning against the wall and allows me to hang my paintings of various sizes while working. I can have three smaller paintings hanging at once – keeping the counter clean and the canvases safe.

I use shallow boxes to keep tapes, glues, pens and such organized in the drawers and there is a special drawer designated for ‘inspiration’ where I keep my sketchbook and journal and any notes I write – this way, I always know where to find them. It is a messy drawer, but that is okay.

In the office area of the studio, on the desk, I have a nice basket that serves as an in-box – I throw anything in there that has not been put away yet or needs to be attended to – then clean it out once a week. This way, items, notes and such do not get lost on the desk.

I have a potted plant on my desk where I clip checks that need to go to the bank (so they don’t get lost) and that is also where I stack orders that need to go to the Post Office.

I feel it is very important to keep systems and keep it simple, but I battle daily with figuring out which systems work.

One habit that does work for me: every couple months, I put on a movie and do a load of production. I prep boards and bags for prints, I place envelopes with cards, I print labels and adhere them to shipping envelopes, I prepare promotional materials and print notepads. This way, when orders come in, it is a streamline process of getting them ready to ship.

Do you get stressed out when your space gets in a mess?
Yes, but less now than before – it used to drive me crazy when any portion of my house was less than tidy. Over the last year I have relaxed a bit as I have realized (as I think all mothers must realize at some point) that even if I vacuum now, the floor will just need to be vacuumed again in the morning.

I am also working on using my time more effectively as I realize time is money and is absolutely unretrievable. I am finding that I am surviving letting the kids’ studio table remain messy – I then spend my time painting vs angrily stuffing away their art supplies – also, when some items are left out, they come into the studio and get right to work – what is more beautiful than little kids happily and creatively crafting?!

I do get uneasy and overwhelmed when too much begins happening at once. When this feeling emerges, I have a serious purge session where I frantically clean everything, sort, toss, recycle and donate to my heart’s content. I ALWAYS feel much better afterwards.

If you could have your dream space tomorrow what would it look like?
I am so happy with the space I have now, but if I could I would take the current space and add some shelving, a pretty floor rug (over the hardwood floor), better lighting and a larger space for my boys’ art table and supplies.

Do space limitations get in the way of projects you have in mind?
Nope, and I have turned some pretty big paintings out of my little studio!

Where can people view your work or purchase it?

The Online Shop is located at http://www.kmberggren.etsy.com/  where 8x10 prints, 12x15 giclees, art cards and glass charms can be found.

My website for a bunch more information is http://www.kmberggren.com/.

Example of Katie M. Berggren’s Work

Thanks to Katie for allowing me to publish her studio photos and for taking time to answer my questions! Thank you!


  1. I'm a spread it all out and take up as much space as possible person so I continue to be amazed at how much work others do in limited spaces. I didn't think I had space to paint so I don't but after reading about Katie I realize I don't need a huge space, but a frame of mind adjustment and a little re-working of my studio.
    Great interview!

  2. I just LOVE the above painting for sale on Etsy! Your work is very beautiful Katie!

  3. Thank you Ann! and for this lovely post - I am honored. And GREAT for you Sassypackrat!
    Have a great Thursday!
    Love & Sincerely, Katie

  4. Lovely studio, and beautiful paintings!