What does it mean to have a "studio space?"
Good morning! Wow, this has been a busy week. As you probably know, my Etsy shop launch is today! I have been working hard for a long time to get ready to open up, but the past few days have really been crunch time. I will talk more about the process in a future blog post, because it truly is an incredible learning experience! So, stay tuned!
I won’t go on too long about that though because today’s post is about the studio. I mean this in a very literal sense: the actual space in which art is made. A “studio” can be anything. Here are a few things it DOES NOT have to be:
-a 1000 square foot, bare brick walled New York City walk up with 12 foot tall windows
-a beautifully designed, sky-lit detached structure behind your Victorian area fixer-upper
-$900 per month, perfectly white space with daylight bulbs and roommates, underground jazz playing at all times, with oddly perfect concrete floors with just the right amount of paint splatters.
Of course, if you have access to an amazing studio space, whether owned, rented, borrowed, shared, squatted in…that is AWESOME. I would love to hear about what it’s like, how you got there, what you like best about it!
But, if like many people, you don’t have the money or space or other resources (yet), or the desire for a space like that, I want to talk about all the things that CAN be a studio:
-A dining room table
-A corner of the living room
-A drafty, somewhat grimy garage
-Your bedroom floor
“Studio space” can be mobile or fixed. Depending upon what you’re working on, you may not even want or need a dedicated studio. As a painter among other things, I have found over the years that I need a concrete spot for my easel, paints, blank and in-progress canvases, and finished work. At our old rental, I set up shop in the area of the kitchen that was meant for a dining room table, because I didn’t have to worry about ruining the floor (thanks, crappy linoleum!)
I found, however, that over time, the regular household activities were distracting, and that I felt cramped and unable to really get comfortable there. When we started house-hunting, I decided that we needed a house with a spare bedroom that I could declare my studio space.
We ended up finding an incredible foreclosure, and I got my studio room. We left the old, gnarly carpet from the previous owners in there because spills and paint splatters are inevitable. We moved into the house in September of 2016, and I went to work making that room mine. It’s been a year and a half, and it has been really wonderful having this dedicated area for my creative energy. Being able to leave my projects out, make huge messes, and not feel obligated to clean up a community space has made a huge difference in my mindset when I work. I am really grateful that I have a room of my own, to (poorly) paraphrase Virginia Woolf.
But! We have probably all experienced this in one way or another-when we moved in, I was so ready to just be DONE unpacking, that when I set up the room, I sort of just put things where they fit. Yes, I put up shelves, but I had no idea what would actually work, what my flow would be, etc. So I found myself recently feeling cramped and like I couldn’t easily get to what I needed, and felt like there was a lot of wasted space and stagnant energy in there.
Part of it is because I did three semesters of grad school work in there, and having graduated in February, I was more than ready to get a fresh start. But also, things just weren’t organized where I needed them to be, so everything started getting really cluttery and suffocating because nothing seemed like it was in reach and accessible when it was “put away.” I knew what I needed to do but ugh, who wants to tear everything out and clean? Not me.
So I waited, and sure enough, the studio muse struck, and I woke up one morning a couple of weeks ago ready to take on the beastly project. And let me tell you, it was like moving. I had to take everything off all of the bookshelves. And to move one thing, I had to move ten more things first.
My hallway was completely blocked. The cats were disturbed. I was sweating, dirty, and more than once, almost overwhelmed with the herculean task. My husband’s parents had given me a desk that I intended to use for my sewing machine, so I ripped the bi-fold doors off of my closet and made a sewing nook. I wanted natural light for sketching, and fresh air, so I lugged my drawing table over to sit in front of the window. I love working on the floor, so I made sure to set things up to where the middle of the room was clear and open, and comfortable for sprawling out. It took all day, from morning until night, but when I finished, all of that stagnant stress energy leftover from grad school was gone.
My point here isn’t that you NEED a full bedroom for your artmaking. It is really nice, and I am full of gratitude that things worked out that way for me, but what matters is having a space dedicated to your creative energy. It is important to make your mark somewhere in your life, to make a nest for your creative spirit to grow. It can be as small as between the two covers of a sketchbook. Art making is a spiritual experience for me, and rituals are a major part of my practice. What kind of rituals can you do to make a space feel like home to you? I love burning candles and sage. The presence of the cleansing smoke and fresh scent of herbs makes me feel like I have a clean slate. A new sketchbook and zip pouch for your favorite pencils and pens can be enough to create that sense of comfort and ownership for you, maybe.
No matter what space or form your studio takes up, declaring your presence as an artist is empowering. Carving out the physical and temporal space in my life for my art practice has been challenging but I have come to realize that I need that in order to be happy and survive. I hope the photos of my big mess and how I changed the room around will inspire you to play around with your idea of a studio too. Let me know what you think!
P.S. My shop will be live today, so please go check it out! (In the menu above under “Shop.”) I will be adding three new items a day for the next week, so keep coming back, because there’s a lot more to come. Sign up for my newsletter and updates for a 10% off code good for this amazing launch week!