The Art Gallery

hanging liam's artwork thekarpiuksI knew the day would come that I’d look at the pile of kid artwork that I’d been stacking up in the guest room and make a decision. Do I keep them? Do I throw them away? They’re only going to multiply, like tribbles. How do I decide what to keep and what to throw away?

As I added another drawing to the pile this week, I swear that stack of artwork gave me the evil eye. It was reminding me that art in a stack is no fun. Art needs to be SEEN. On display and appreciated. And it was right.

I wanted to display all of Liam’s art that we’ve collected from school so far in a fun way. We’ve fairly recently converted the guest room into a playroom as a way to better organize Liam’s toys. (Let’s be honest. It was a guest room, and now it’s a guest room with toys in it. That’s the extent of the “conversion.”) We like to keep some toys accessible and put others away so that when Liam gets bored, we can switch things up. Current favorite toys are in a beautiful toy box in our living room, (Thanks, mom & dad!) where we spend the most time together. They’re easily accessible there. “Other” toys find themselves shuffled into in the playroom for temporary storage. Liam will sometimes go a week or more and completely forget about the playroom’s existence. And then one day he rediscovers it, and like magic, all of the toys he was bored of before become new again. Rinse, repeat.

Since it has become another kid-friendly play place for Liam, we decided it was the perfect place to hang up all of his artwork, too. But how?

hanging liam's artwork thekarpiuksA quick search on Pinterest yielded lots of ideas, but the one I loved the most was stringing up a cable and hanging the artwork from the cable using clothespins. These “clotheslines” of art looked really cute and I figured I could re-create that pretty easily. I grabbed Command Strips mini hooks and decided to just use white cotton yarn that I already had for the clothesline. We still have yet to get around to painting the rooms of our house since moving in over a year ago, so the walls are all still bright white. The mini white hooks and white yarn blended right into the walls and were barely visible.

I used plain ol’ wooden clothespins. Boring, I know. Someday I may spray paint the clothespins a fun color or let Liam decorate them himself, but for now they’re nothing fancy. I wanted the focus to be more on the art and less on the hanging method.

hanging liam's artwork thekarpiuksAs I started sorting through the pile of artwork and hanging pieces on the eight different lines I’d strung up, I tried to vary each clothesline a bit by switching between landscape and portrait orientation, or by alternating between small pieces and larger pieces whenever possible, to make the finished display feel a little balanced. Liam of course helped, and loved climbing on the step stool and selecting the next piece to hang. Occasionally he’d look up from the cars or LEGO he was playing with and stop to admire his own artwork, pointing and letting out a long, drawn out “Awwwwwww” the same way I do every time he presents me with his latest masterpiece. (I melted, of course.)

hanging liam's artwork thekarpiuksThe room now has a third name… “The Art Gallery.” By the end of the afternoon, every single piece of art that Liam has brought home so far this year made it up onto the walls somewhere. It looks amazing! We loved it so much that we strung up two short clotheslines on a small, empty wall of the kitchen, too. The newest art will be displayed on the fridge and in the kitchen for awhile and then make its way back into the art gallery. Where, I’m not sure… and it’s only January, so I’m not sure what we’re going to do with the other half of the school year’s artwork as it comes home… guess we’ll figure that out when the time comes. (Spoiler alert: there’s room to string up another row of clotheslines all the way around the room.)

hanging liam's artwork thekarpiuksAfter I saw the way the room was transformed by all of the colorful artwork, it also seemed like the perfect opportunity to take the transformation a step further. First up was getting proper sliding closet door locks. (Previously the queen-sized bed was pushed against the closet doors to keep a certain toddler out, so the arrangement of the furniture in the room wasn’t ideal for maximizing play space… not to mention it was a huge pain when you wanted to get something out of the closet.) Next on the list was freshening up the toys and organizing. I’d really needed to sort through what we had and round up all of the too-babyish stuff for donation and/or trade in, and we had a lot that we didn’t need anymore.

hanging liam's artwork thekarpiuksI am in love with the way the room looks now! I’ve decided that for the moment, I just can’t force myself to part with a single one of Liam’s creations yet. I know that realistically I’ll have to make those hard decisions of what to keep and what to toss someday, (sooner rather than later at this rate) because there’s just no possible way to keep EVERY SINGLE piece he ever makes. I know this. When that time comes, I think I’ll be picky about what we keep, (I’m a sucker for hand print stuff so you know I’ll be keeping those) but I plan to photograph everything before it gets stored or tossed so that we have at least a digital copy. I’d love to have not only a digital gallery, but then arrange all of those photographs to be printed in a more condensed form in a hardcover coffee table book. I’m guessing that not only will we love to have volumes of Liam’s art in book form, but other family members will, too. Hello, future gift ideas! I’m already plotting a dozen other ways I can share and display Liam’s creations once I digitize them. *rubs hands together maniacally*

hanging liam's artwork thekarpiuksI also think it’s funny that the decor in the playroom and Liam’s bedroom are similar in that they both celebrate the love and value of handmade. Liam’s bedroom is covered in over 75 pieces of dinosaur artwork donated by as many different people from all over the world, (Operation Geekling Dinosaur Project) and his playroom is covered in his own artwork. Both rooms profess their love of art loud and proud, and just being in those rooms surrounded by all of that creativity makes me very, very happy.

Check out the entire process from start to finish (from hanging art to re-arranging the room) in our gallery here.

Update 2/3/2013: Thanks to a recommendation from a friend, we’ve discovered the Artkive app, a way to digitally archive and share all of Liam’s artwork. We’re working to get everything archived digitally through the app – I love its share features, where I can have it email people in our “family circle” when I add new pieces to Liam’s artkive. I plan to use the app at the end of each school year to turn all of Liam’s art from the year into a beautiful hardcover coffee table book. It’s a fabulous app! Thanks for recommending it, Kara!