Storing Artwork

My sister asked me this week, “What do you do with all the artwork? Because you do a lot more than we do, and I already don’t know what to do with it all.” Fair question, and one I don’t have a perfect answer to, but it’s worth discussing.

I have a big portfolio envelope for each of my children (two now for my oldest). You can find these at art supply stores but also at craft stores, including the ones that have weekly 40% off coupons–which is helpful if you’re going to be buying for more than one child.

I try to label the back of the piece with the child’s name and the date the artwork was done (usually just the month and year) before it goes into the envelope, but that hasn’t always happened. I noticed there’s a couple-year period there after my second was born during which very little got labeled, but I’m impressed, in retrospect, that anyone was doing any artwork at all and I managed to save any of it.

So, what goes into the envelope? I lean towards the sentimental when it comes to my children, so I put quite a bit in there. It’s easier to start with what doesn’t go in there. The seemingly millions of crayon creations on computer paper do not always find their way in there. Many of those go into the boys’ “special paper” boxes, which also helps with their own decision making. (Sort of. They’re both pack rats.) My six-year-old has his own pads of drawing paper, which helps keep the drawings in one spot for him. He can sit and draw in his room for hours, and these are his notebooks. The piles of paper that build up at the play table often get recycled once they’re filled front and back with crayon by my toddler.

When I Googled this topic to see what others had written (I include links at the end of this post), I was amused how so many mentioned the endless stream of artwork that comes home from school. We don’t have this issue. I don’t know what happens to the projects my kids do in art class–I don’t see much of it. (Yup, this bugs me.) My first-grader’s teacher makes a good effort to include art in the daily classroom, and those pieces come home, often folded, and often with his name written by somebody else on the front. This pains me. WE DO NOT FOLD A CHILD’S ARTWORK. WE DO NOT WRITE ON IT. (Don’t even get me started on CUTTING it.)

When a larger piece comes home from school, the first thing I’m usually doing is putting it under some heavy books to try and get out the fold line. Then I often pin it up on the big bulletin board in the kitchen for display, and after a while I rotate those, with the older pieces going into the envelope.

If my older son is any guide, the art work coming home from school is going to decrease sharply when my first grader goes to second grade.

We also have artwork from the art classes my six-year-old has taken. Many of these have been framed and are hanging in his room.

Those are not the only pieces of child art that are framed and hanging in my house. For years this frame (which is an inexpensive box frame) held a construction paper collage tree my oldest had made as a toddler/preschooler. When he brought home this painting in second grade, I replaced it.

(There’s more, but I’m guessing  you don’t need to see all their framed work…)

The three-dimensional pieces are a bit harder to store. My oldest took pottery classes through a local town’s recreation department for quite a while. He started at age five, so we have quite a variety in quality and usability. I have many pieces out, and I have many many more packed into several boxes in my closet.

I suggested he could give some to relatives as Christmas or Mother’s Day presents, but he didn’t really like that idea. My children are quite willing to give away the crafts they make (as long as we make one of whatever it is for ourselves, too), but they are extremely resistant to giving away their artwork.

As for the pieces we create at home, often I hang those up on the studio wall to serve as reminders of what we’ve done and what we can do, as well as inspiration. Actually, it’s about time I clear some into the portfolio envelopes to make some more room on the walls. I also hang some pieces up on the bulletin board in the kitchen (you might recognize some of our projects in that photo of the bulletin board up there!). I admit to keeping every single easel painting G has done so far. (I have her brothers’ too! Including a series N did when he was about four or five, exploring tints and shades of various colors.)

I’m not sure what I’ll eventually do with all the pieces in the envelopes. When I organized them recently (with an eye towards neatening so I could start filing new pieces away, not with an eye towards winnowing), my oldest was delighted to see the things he’d made when he was his sister’s age, as well as pieces he remembered creating.

“You’re not the type of mother,” he said, “who would just recycle stuff like this.”

Nope. I’m sure at one point we might need to talk about culling the collection, but we’re not there yet. I sort of see myself as the curator of my children’s childhoods. What they choose to do with it later on is up to them.


Here are some articles I found that talk about this topic (although they don’t necessarily all match my own philosophy):

Storing Children’s Artwork on The Savvy Source
Sorting and Storing Your Child’s Artwork on Real Simple
What to Do With All This Artwork? on Ask Kiddio

Have you found a solution that works for you? Please share in the comments!

5 thoughts on “Storing Artwork

  1. donna lee

    I kept the artwork the girls showed any real interest in in a box (one for each of them) and when they got older, they were fascinated at what they were able to do. The result was that it made them rethink what they are capable of NOW. It also reminded them that they are creative beings, something that so often gets lost in everyday life.

  2. yaga

    I don’t have kids, but I remember my parents kept most of our stuff with us having more and more say in the decision, the older and more aware of our skills we grew. Now there are still boxes with stuff up in the attic and since two of us three girls are now well moved out we are gonna have a big cleanout this spring and the ‘keeping’ of the saved treasures will be laid in our responsibility.
    hope you have a big attic! ;o)

    1. amy @ kids in the studio

      No attic–basement, though! 😉

      Thanks so much for visiting & for your comment! My parents mostly kept toys, and I have no use or desire for them. The artwork I have is, for the most part, the things I was old enough to keep myself–so, high school age and up.

  3. Michelle

    They made big envelopes for us in school by stapling together two big poster paper boards and letting us decorate them. I really need to do that for my girls.

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