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Open Studio Tours: Fruccidesign Snoops on mcaplan

Mar 19, 2008

by FrucciDesign handmade and vintage goods

In this Open Studio Tour series, we’ll be snooping around artists’ creative spaces, how they set them up, when, why…even how often they clean them! We really want to know all about our artists, and maybe get a bit of inspiration!

Today I knocked at Michelle Caplan aka mcaplan‘s door. She is a Los Angeles based mixed media artist, who just recently gave herself a daily collage challenge: CollageLab.
What’s your name and what kind of craft do you do?
My name is Michelle Caplan, and I am a Mixed Media Collage Portrait Artist. I create one of a kind original art pieces from found photographs. I also do a lot of commissioned work using clients’ own photos. I work primarily in collage, but lately have been branching out to sewing, painting and drawing.
When did you decide that you needed a studio?
I have always been an artist in some way. As a little girl I remember having high nook/shelf in my closet that I used as a "craft area." I would have to stand on a side table to reach, but it was totally worth it! From that time, I always dreamed of having a space where I could make a mess, and not have sacrifice living in a tidy environment. When my husband and I went looking for a house, we knew that the right home would have to be one with a room for my art. We learned very quickly while living in a one bedroom apartment that the paper can quickly take over, and that was before this really became my business. It is now 3 years later and I have outgrown my studio and have work surfaces in the dining room for larger canvases. I am slowly taking over the entire house. I have learned that regardless of space, the paper will always find a way to take over! It has a mind of its own.

When and how have you set up your studio?
My studio was first set up in 2005, but has evolved since. I try to be pretty well organized. One wall is storage and work surface, but not very deep. That is where I do a lot of research, cutting, painting and planning. I also tend to pile up things on this desk when I don’t have immediate time to get to them, and usually a mess builds from there.  Left of that wall I have a desk with my computer, scanner, and printer, etc. Left again is a wall covered in bookcases. I have tons of books and magazines I use in my backgrounds and this is where they live. In front of the cases I have an ironing board set up as another work surface, and of course for ironing when I am working on a sewing project, but mostly it has become a holding place for ideas in the making and canvases waiting to be tackled. Lastly, what used to be the closet has become a giant file drawer nook. Behind the door I installed long towel bars to hang large pieces of paper on.

In another area of the house, I also have a huge 4ft x 8 ft table that I use for gluing and working. Because the table is so big, it is great for big canvases and multiple projects. Sure it is in the middle of the house, but at least I can still interact and work at the same time!

Did the studio set up impact your crafter budget?
So far I have been super lucky and have found great tables at local garage sales. (I got the 4ft x 8ft one for 20 bucks from a neighbor!) Plus Ikea has made organizing a breeze! For me, it is really all about surfaces to work on. My husband was patient enough to help me figure out the best use of my space, and then made it come to life! One of the surfaces in my studio is a hollow core door, cut to fit on top of a bunch of file drawers. It was really affordable, is totally sturdy, and I don’t have to worry about getting glue or paint all over it!

How big is your studio?
My actual studio is 10’x10′, but the middle of the house also serves as my work space, and that is a pretty good space. I do wish everything was in one place (like the dream garage set up!)

Which is your favorite tool in your studio?
It is a toss up between my brush, glue and bone folder. Each item gets used in conjunction with the other, and really one couldn’t work without the other, so I say all 3.

Do you want to share with us one secret of your studio?
What you see in these pictures is totally doctored to look neat. I would have to say that 75% of the time, it looks like a paper explosion in this room.

There is paper everywhere, including the floor. Also, I sit on a balance ball most days, instead of a chair. 

How many hours do you normally spend in your studio?
Easily 10-12 hours a day. Give or take. This is my full time job!

Do you share your studio with someone or would you like to do so?
It would never work because I would feel bad about my mess, and become obsessed with tidying. I would never get anywhere! 

Is there anything you would add to your working space?
About 400 square feet. I dream of one day converting our garage into a real studio, with room for big canvases on the center table and a sewing station, with my fabric organized above it, and, well, I could go on and on. The whole room is laid out in my head. For that to happen it will definitively take a lot of saving! A girl can dream, can’t she?

If you had to choose one synonym for your studio which one would you pick: atelier, family room, lair, lodge, nest, playroom, retreat, sanctuary, shelter, darkroom, or, showroom and why?
Well, I guess I would have to say playroom. I do have a great time in here, and all of my toys are here, and if it weren’t a room based in fun and exploration, then it wouldn’t be a place I would want to work in! The rest of the areas in the house that I work in are definitively showrooms! There is art hanging everywhere, so that it is safe and out of the way. We have a constantly revolving "gallery wall" that serves as a storage space and place to photograph work.

And last but not least how often do you clean it?
Not as often as I should. As I said, there is often paper all over the place, and I get so easily distracted. It is a room of piles on most days.

Anything else you’d like to add?
It took me a while to figure out what set up would work best for me in the space that I have. A lot of my ideas came from seeing glimpses of other peoples work spaces online.

Thank you Fru, for creating this feature to help inspire and share with everyone here on Etsy! I can’t wait to see whose space is next! Thank you for stopping by!
Thank you Michelle, until next studio snooping, ciao!

If you have an interesting studio or workspace and some tips to share, comment below and you may be next in our  Open Studio Tour series!


  • phrogphluff

    phrogphluff said 8 years ago

    I like to think of my studio space as interesting. My space is a walk-in closet with a window. This is the closet in our daughters' toy room, so I work away while they play. It's also next to their bedroom, so when the kids nap, I am right there! I use this space not just for business, but for all of my crafting. I love it! Besides, what else can one possibly do with a closet with a window?! Thanks!

  • blackbird72

    blackbird72 said 8 years ago

    her artwork ROCKS! i was recently in a flea market/art fair and my booth was right across from hers and i must say this..AMAZING!

  • AmandaKLockrowJewels

    AmandaKLockrowJewels said 8 years ago

    Love seeing how other people work. Also knowing that others take over their houses like I do is nice!

  • palomasnest

    palomasnest said 8 years ago

    i love this idea of studio-snooping! come to my house! xoxo

  • hadleyhutton

    hadleyhutton said 8 years ago

    You can snoop my studio, but I'm afraid I'd have to clean it first.

  • FrucciDesign

    FrucciDesign said 8 years ago

    ahahah...hadleyhutton, so you've already reveled your last question answer LOL

  • quirkybags

    quirkybags said 8 years ago

    Studios are so interesting! Thank you for sharing these photos.

  • sagittariusgallery

    sagittariusgallery said 8 years ago

    Wow. Her space looks amazing! Look at those floors! Mine are hard wood as well...but have become dotted with oil paint due to the "rubber ball in the hands of a 4 year old" incident.... :P

  • SeaFindDesigns

    SeaFindDesigns said 8 years ago

    My Space = Kitchen = Chaos!! Frucci Design = One of my Favorites!!

  • stilettoheights

    stilettoheights said 8 years ago

    Yay...I am a huge fan of Michelle's this is so exciting!

  • cricketpress

    cricketpress said 8 years ago

    It's cool to see how and where other artists work...especially when it's also your living space. We'd love to share ours!

  • patsytiffany

    patsytiffany said 8 years ago

    Just beautiful!

  • confections

    confections said 8 years ago

    I have vowed to get rid of the wall-to-wall carpeting in my house/studio to reveal the nearly 100-year old hardwood floors--and I think this spring is the time to tackle that project. I seem to shuffle items all around my house depending on the craft of the moment--it's a bit of a chicklet puzzle. Thanks for the inspiration, mcaplan!

  • JMCdesigns

    JMCdesigns said 8 years ago

    Michelle always creates high quality work!!!

  • mcaplan

    mcaplan said 8 years ago

    Thank you guys for such awesome comments! Luckily the floors in the house area are Pergo, so I dont have to worry too much about spilling the glue. They clean up pretty easily. The carpet in my actual studio room is trashed though. If I spill now, it just adds to the character! ;) I hope to be seeing into your studios sometime soon!

  • afterwinter

    afterwinter said 8 years ago

    This is definitely going to become my favorite series! I love to see how other people work. You really learn so much about an artist by getting to see their studio. Plus it gives me organizing ideas ^_^

  • Peldyn

    Peldyn said 8 years ago

    Love this series! I had planned on doing a video of my studio to put up on my website. I keep putting it off because my studio is in a constant state of flux! LOL!

  • enhabiten

    enhabiten said 8 years ago

    I really love this series as well. Also always look at new success stories. Keep offering this type of thing. It's wonderful to see how other artists work/live and read the interview. Love it.

  • JustAnotherDay

    JustAnotherDay said 8 years ago

    I love this idea! And what a great space! I just painted my studio and redecorated so if you need any other folks I would love to join in the fun!

  • SecretLentil

    SecretLentil said 8 years ago

    hurray! more tours! more tours!

  • tqbdesigns

    tqbdesigns said 8 years ago

    What a great space - so open and large - seems like you get tons of light too! I love to see others studios - where they live/work - very personal... Thanks:)

  • iheartnorwegianwood

    iheartnorwegianwood said 8 years ago

    My BF and I are moving into a new apartment at the end of the month and we will each have our own studio rooms for the first time! It's a blank slate right now, but I'm looking forward to putting in the perfect shelving/storage solutions. It will also act as a dressing room for me, so lots of racking for my own clothing as well as the clothing I've sewn. I CANNOT WAIT! Here's a pic of the empty room, I'm thinking of painting it a pale aqua and getting a gorgeous vintage light fixture...

  • utiledulci

    utiledulci said 8 years ago

    My studio is new (to me)- we just moved into a new place a few months ago and I love it! Come and snoop anytime:)

  • FrucciDesign

    FrucciDesign said 8 years ago

    I'm glad to see so many people liking the series!

  • restlessthings

    restlessthings said 8 years ago

    michelle - the wall of canvases looks amazing! You are not alone with the paper mess though! :))

  • mcaplan

    mcaplan said 8 years ago

    Thanks Restless! That wall is ever-changing. Everything is hung on regular push pins, so I can "store" whatever size piece up there and not make too big a hole. Of course one day, that wall will look like swiss cheese, but I love the versatility of it!

  • franticmeerkat

    franticmeerkat said 8 years ago

    I love this series and Michelle's art. I own one that hangs right by my front door so I see it every time I leave the house. Our 2-bedroom apartment houses 2 artists - so the mess is doubled! It's become more of a studio with a couch, a bed and a kitchen.

  • mosey

    mosey said 8 years ago

    very nice!

  • mosey

    mosey said 8 years ago

    here's a link for a peek into my space: i love seeing other people's spaces. i'm not too tricky of a person, usually, but often find myself stepping in garden beds to peek into empty houses for sale! and have always loved house/apt. hunting- i just cannot get enough of seeing empty spaces and dreaming of how they might look all filled up.

  • Art2ArtColorado

    Art2ArtColorado said 8 years ago

    *this was great! i love to see other studios... and this article inspired me to get a tad bit more organized & pull out the vacumn today for some dust-bunny removal! Thanks for sharing.

  • amandamoon

    amandamoon said 8 years ago

    I just discovered this series and like it a lot. My studio is in an historic building with 12 foot ceilings and I am open to the public during regular business hours. I walk there from home and my 110lb dog goes to work with me. That's her in my avatar shot. I also have an incredible veiw of the Mississippi Rive from my potters wheel. Today I watched pelicans migrating north in long Vs. It's my dream studio. You are welcome to feature me if you wish. Amanda

  • heavensearth

    heavensearth said 8 years ago

    looks like such a wonderful space!!! I love seeing where other artist work! This series has been so helpful to me, were in the process of having our basement finished with a brand new studio for me! The one I have now is ok, but its too central in the house and way too hard to keep neat and tidy.

  • mosey

    mosey said 8 years ago

    i blogged about my studio space here- made of recycled and salvages glass windows,cobblestone floors, and tin roof: thanks.

  • ruralabandon

    ruralabandon said 8 years ago

    I love this series! Thanks so much for bring it to us. I recently moved my shop to a new space in my house. It started out in the basement but I just hate it down there and found myself avoiding the shop so I moved it to my spare bedroom which proved to be too small so in January I moved to the sun room. It is about 230 square feet, sunny, and perfect!

  • ValerieTyler

    ValerieTyler said 8 years ago

    I love this too! I'm a wee bit jealous, as I understand that one bedroom studio thing right now. My poor art is taking over our small space. Makes me dream of what kind of work space I'll create when we move into an even slightly bigger home.

  • dolangeiman

    dolangeiman said 8 years ago

    The Canadian design blog Poppytalk has a new series that pertains to this thread- PHM Studio Spaces, featuring the work spaces of Poppytalk Handmade participants. For those interested in seeing the work spaces of other artists/designers, it's definitely worth a look. My partner, Ali, and I have a studio + office in a green building in Chicago (one of the first sustainable renovation projects in this area). We just moved in, but we're in heaven. More photos of our space are available on Flickr

  • decafjnr

    decafjnr said 8 years ago

    You've alway's been one of my favorite mixed media artists, I really enjoyed seeing where you create your art. As an artist myself, I know the challenge of trying to find a place for everything, and my studio is rarely neat! Jan

  • zJayne

    zJayne said 8 years ago

    I really enjoyed seeing your space! ..and I admit to being so glad to read there's usually an "explosion" around...this article was a pleasure and I'm glad you posted in recently in a thread about something else, as I had not seen it. Best, zJayne

  • theurbanmuse

    theurbanmuse said 8 years ago

    Thanks to my new work area I finally set up an Etsy page for The Urban Muse jewelry!I was originally living in a tiny studio in Downtown Oakland,CA. It was such a hassle being that my boyfriend lived in San Francisco at that time!I used to drag around bags of jewelry components, tools, and a makeshift table. We finally decided to move in together (it was hard to convince my boyfriend to leave beautiful San Francisco). We rented a cute 2bd apartment that has a really sunny front room. We turned it into a dual work area. We both share it and it is big enough for him to work on his start-up website and there is room enough for me to paint and make jewelry. There is tons of natural light for picture taking and the acoustics are great! We call it the Music Room!My work area is located in a small nook the size of a closet.I have a makeshift computer area, a work table, and really high ceilings were I hang shelves so that I can store all my books,paint brushes, jewelry components and such. NOW that I have a work space I am fully committed to my craft. I truly recommend an area where one can be inspired, an area designated for creativity and work. Even if it is in a little corner of a room all you need is a small table, shelves,drawers, and music! I love studies/studios! I am so glad that Etsy has this "open Studio" section I am super inspired by it! Thanks Yolanda De Leon @ Theurbanmuse

  • TagsOnBags

    TagsOnBags said 8 years ago

    I'm one of those people who likes to go for a walk at just around dusk - because the lights inside people's homes are still on but the shades are still open and I can see in! This is sort of like that - only not as peeping-tom'ish. I just did a mini-over on my studio space - I'd be happy to let you take a look.

  • KhaosCat

    KhaosCat said 8 years ago

    I love looking at where people create. I dont know why but I do!!!

  • Scheri

    Scheri said 8 years ago

    That looks way to nice to be a studio..From the pages of better homes and gardens, Mine is covered with paint canvas, paint, paint, paint and more paint

  • scarletfields

    scarletfields said 8 years ago

    Perhaps there should be a "Paper Explosion" Club? I cant belive how much my flat work suface resembles yours-how much fun it that!!

  • miccicohan

    miccicohan said 8 years ago

    Best use of space! great work! Thanx for the inspiration!

  • fadedpaisley

    fadedpaisley said 8 years ago

    Love your artwork. And the studio tour. You made me laugh about the paper all over the place. I could really relate. Piles everywhere and I feel I'm always trying to straighten up. One of my favorite sayings is from a.a. milne: one of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries. So true!

  • LittleArtStudio

    LittleArtStudio said 7 years ago

    I love when Michelle writes about her studio being doctored for the photos and is a mess 75% of the time! Makes me fell much better. Mine is a "paper explosion" as well PLUS with baby toys all over the floor! I usually place my 8 month old to play while I answer emails and work on my designs in whatever spurts of "free" time I get! Thanks for the peek into your studio world, Michelle!

  • dovegrey

    dovegrey said 7 years ago

    Great studio pictures! I have a small studio at the back of my house, it was a summer kitchen/sunporch but now it is all my own! I seem to be in need of more space, may have to take over one of the spare bedrooms!

  • JammyART

    JammyART said 7 years ago

    Great space! I read about mcaplan in the somerset studio artist portfolio...beautiful work!!!

  • HiddenTreasures101

    HiddenTreasures101 said 5 years ago

    I just love Michelle's work and I have to agree with her that my work too is all over the house. Hopefully one day I can have my own studio with everything in one location so that I don't have to scramble looking for one material or a medium. Thank you for being able to peek at your studio. Barbara

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