"Hey buddy, how ya doing?" "Hey man, it's been too long." "Hey, sweet petunia, I was just thinking of you!" "Who's my little slice of angel-food cake?"

You get the idea. If there's ever a good time for a little of the old "face-to-face" with friends, it's before you go over the waterfall in a creaky barrel in the stunt we like to call "moving the studio."

Please use a hushed and ominous tone here. You're probably all thinking that I'm hoping to usurp some physical help from my long-neglected friends; but, sadly, I am referring to the emotional support you'll need during the move ... and for a very, very long time thereafter.

Anything is better than sharing a studio with another artist. Tell your kids that as you send them off to art camp. If art camp really does exist, maybe it teaches tolerance and How Not To Scream. It might even tame the control freak in you: "YOU SEE THIS? THIS IS MY TABLE!"

I just didn't see a problem with brushing my teeth in the same sink we do dishes in. You would've thought I was warming up this guy's bagel in my armpit if you saw his face. "WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?" he shouted, as if truly baffled. I said calmly, with a little touch of pleading, " ... but you wash dog bowls in this sink."

I used to be such the fighter, but I had no more "argue" left in me. I find decision-making to be a lot easier if you just endure discontentment until it makes up its own mind.

As you might have guessed, I walked calmly out to my car with my fresh breath still tingling. "Hey Jeff," I call to my production manager. "What do you say we go drive around and look for a new studio?".

Location, location, location, I think. I must've heard that from a "dealmaking" friend of mine. But, I think the more-important factors are rent, a place for dogs and space.

Keep in mind we were leaving a very sexy studio. I wont go into great detail, except to say that my former studio-mate's forte was image, and our place dripped with it.

Domed exposed ceiling, glass walls, steel furniture, beautiful windowed circular offices: The placed just gleamed. What in heaven's name would make Augie move his studio in with a clean freak? We could have remade The Odd Couple.

Did I mention that this guy was a fashion photographer? That's right; if I decided to move in, it was certain that beautiful women would ensue, not to mention huge groups of ad-agency people that, strangely enough, would have the title "Art Director".

Even so, the clean thing freaked me out so much that I still labored over that decision two years ago, but the answer boiled down to image. With a studio like that (coupled with our amazing talent I should add), we could easily gain the confidence of even the hardest-to-impress clients.

Big clients. Clients who think that while living and running your business in a run-down warehouse may be cute and a little bohemian, it doesn't inspire the trust needed to award huge, important, time-critical jobs.

So, with a "How hard can it be to be clean? I'm not that messy" attitude, I took the plunge. It was a tumultuous but growing experience, and I was amazed to see all this "image theory " in action.

People would walk in exasperated. They simply had to walk around and gawk at the cool place for ten minutes, and I had them instantly. That's all fine and good, but a cool studio is only cool if you actually have room to work, and at the end of two years our studio hit maximum density.

"Our" production room was at least a quarter the size of what would be tolerable under other circumstances. The beautiful studio had tons of room to impress, and an ever-shrinking amount of room for actually working. I decided we needed to trade in this Cadillac for a cool, full-sized minivan, despite the cost of the lost sexiness.

A mere three-quarters of a mile away. we found a gem. It was the first place we looked at; a glorious 4000 ft2 that was all ours, with clean, beautiful carpeted office space with art-deco finishings, French doors throughout the place, one huge room and a multitude of soon-to-be task-specific rooms.

The space included a big lamination room, complete with a industrial-sized, stainless-steel double sink that I just couldn't wait to brush my teeth in. This room also had three office cubes that I figured we would knock down for space, but later found all that wall space perfect for organizing 4' x 8' substrates. (No more leaning a 400-lbs. pile of 1/4'' PVC to get that one piece of plex in the back.)

The space also had 10 other cubicles that I considered renting to other designers, but that thought vanished as we uncompressed our studio. We now have a supply cube; a laminates cube; a vinyl cutting cube; three cutting-out-stuff cubes; an accounting cube; a kitchen; a salesperson cube; and, of course, the proverbial junk cube, which is for my piece of mind.

I've saved the best part for last: a wood shop, complete with his-and-hers bathrooms. We have an actual lobby, a trade-show showroom and a conference room. We also have a little homeless persons' problem at our front door, but that's the kind of problem that keeps life interesting.

My former studio mate was just as relieved as I was to get his environment back in order, and even offered his advice on how I should transport my shop. Listen to his little fantasy: "First, Augie, you need to go through every box even the ones you haven't touched since you hurled miscellaneous masses of stuff into them two years ago."

That task alone would take a normal man two weeks. but I'm not a normal man. (A little kid once looked inquisitively up at me and said, "Why aren't you normal?") I have this fear of throwing any thing away without actually studying it and projecting into the future possible uses or needs.

A friend offered some advice to curbing my pack-rattiness. Ask yourself, as you hold the disputed item in your hand, if anything really bad would happen if it were thrown away. Well, I think that needing a little plastic widget after consciously throwing it away is really bad, so the advice didn't help.

My employees took matters into their own hands, and I constantly see things in the trash that I'm sure we still need. I shudder at the thought of all the unknown discarded items, but - amazingly enough - the clutter is diminishing day-by-day.

In a little personal test the universe sent me, we received the largest, most-time-critical job we ever faced during the same time as our scheduled move. That gave us a total of two days to pack, move, and set up shop, so the plan of labeling and organizing just wasn't possible.

The other helpful advice my former studio mate gave me was to clean all of our equipment with a toothbrush and cotton swabs before we move. This included phones, faxes, shelves, computers, tables, printers, etc. (Insert insane laughter here.)

It wasn't pretty, but we got moved and set up. The only casualty was the moving truck's side mirror, which I took out in an exciting high-speed sideswipe of a sign.

One suggestion, when in battle conditions like these, is to delegate task-specific jobs to each person. For instance, Jeff the production manager's job was to focus entirely on packing, moving and re-setting up the computers. (The computers even got a little toothbrush attention.)

Make a master book for the move: one comprehensive three-ring binder with your master "to-do" list. Keep everything related to the move in there, such as agreements for the phone, trash service, burglar alarm, utility bills, the lease and receipts for miscellaneous move-related expenses.

Since everything is going to be packed, keep essential accounting stuff in the book as well. Also use it to store all receipts, packing slips, manually written checks ... and several blank checks and enough cash for moving enticements, like pizza and beer.

This book is your lifeline. Velcro® it to your chest and get busy.



Stephen Augustine owns and operates Eye Candy Graphics, a graphic design and digital printing shop in Denver. www.eyecandygraphics.com

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