A few days ago, I made a new board on Pinterest. It’s called Studio Spaces and it’s filling up quickly with images of spacious lofts with skylights, white walls lined with cupboards for organizing materials, empty work tables waiting for ideas to be spread across their surfaces, and lots and lots of beautiful fiber art equipment. Here’s what my studio space currently looks like…
Believe it or not, I actually like nestling myself in among the moving boxes. It’s cozy and for some odd reason allows me to focus on what is directly in front of me. While I love seeing where the magic happens for many artists, some famous and others unknown, I’ve also realized that there are loads of other artists out there who, like me, have to make do with what they have, and are doing a fine job at it, too. Since establishing myself as a tapestry artist just over five years ago, I’ve moved several times and I’m about to move again. When I began tapestry weaving my loom was stuffed in the corner of my little bedroom, so fingers crossed the next place has at least a few more feet of corner!
My mom, before I came along, set up her easel in what she calls a nook, and when she wanted to work on a drawing she spread out into the equally tiny upstairs bathroom. When we moved to a bigger house, she started sewing and set up her sewing machine and fabric stash under the slanted ceiling of her bedroom. I have a friend who sews in her cozy living room, and another who paints in her bedroom, and still another who shares a small, ground level book arts and printmaking studio with a fellow artist friend. To allow enough space to use her massive floor loom in a tiny studio apartment, my friend from college slept in the little closet under the stairs. And of course there’s Van Gogh, who worked out of very small and simple spaces when he wasn’t doing plein air painting. In the same vein, I once worked for a brilliant artist who had one of the most glorious studios I’ve ever seen, and hardly ever used it.
I love these stories about the creative ways we artists figure out how to set up shop. However small or spacious an art-making space happens to be, what matters most is what the artist is creating within that space. That they are present to the work that their hearts and hands are creating. That they are showing up for, and claiming, their own individual artistic journey, and seeing where it takes them. I know this can be a challenge for some people, especially those with children, or a tight budget, or a small living space where dedicating an area to something besides the necessities seems impossible, or even all of these things. I have seen it done however, by people from all walks of life. And just because one doesn’t have their dream studio now, doesn’t mean they wont be able to create that in the future.
It’s also imperative that we don’t wait for conditions to be just right before we can start on that masterpiece we feel called to create. You could spend so much time amassing materials and waiting for things to change for the better or the right studio situation to come along, and all the while the inspiration and passion could be slipping right between your fingers.
It’s not about where you create, but what you create.
To begin setting up your space, look around for items that aren’t being used that could get you organized. Thrift stores, yard sales, and consignment shops can also supply you with vases for storing paint brushes, baskets for yarn, and a simple table and chair for working. Also, those Michael’s coupons come in really handy! Do you have a corner that’s not being utilized? Claim it. Put up a cork board for pinning inspiring pictures, or just use washi tape in fun colors. Or regular tape, it really doesn’t matter. See if any of your furniture can do double duty. Even if your work is confined to a basket or a tote bag that you can carry with you, you still win because now you have a portable studio. Tah-dah! Also, keep your eyes open; as time goes by, you’ll find lovely items through people and places to add to your studio space that make it feel even more inspiring.
Bring in any little objects that help inspire your creativity, like souvenirs or mementos, photographs, rocks, feathers, and tokens of good luck. My personal favorite is a strand of paper stars that I hang across the heddle bar of my loom. It always reminds me to stay true to myself and my own artistic voice.
By claiming your space you’re also claiming your right to be an artist, even if you only have a little time here and there to work on your craft.
My mom always says it’s a sign of a true artist when they can work with what they’ve got. I often sit on an over turned milk crate when I weave, and all of my yarn is sorted by color into unattractive, yet practical and affordable plastic bins. I store my knitting needles, pens, and brushes in glass jars that once held pasta sauce. I would LOVE to have more beautiful storage items for my supplies and materials, but by working with what I have right now, I’m saving money AND I can dedicate more time and attention to doing what I love: my art!
So let’s start now. What can you do today to make and claim a space for yourself? What resources do you have that can help you to work on your artistic goals? Remember, it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, and often the simplest shifts produce the biggest results!
In the spirit of creativity,