On repeated treks to the barn to feed animals or weed the garden, the loft called to me. It almost glowed like a neon sign “you need to be working here. Something important is going to happen here. Make me your studio!!”
I both heard the call and felt it. I knew it to be true. I needed to make the barn loft into a barn studio. Unfortunately it was full of furniture, old doors and screen windows, and various forms of mouse nests. Furthermore, I was starting a very busy new job which was Keeping me even farther away from the future, dream studio. There wasn’t time for transformation let alone making art.
Eventually though, while I was away, Pat worked to clean out the loft, update the roof, and insulation sprayed in its rafters. And 2 years ago, at last, I was able to move in just in time to work on a painting commission. I had found my creative home! I made a place to make creative leaps, to dream, to be organized, to be messy, and to be “in process”.
And it’s been wonderful - I have since tweaked the space to meet my needs as my process and work goals evolve. This past summer, I created two distinct zones in my studio. I know, who knew I needed zones? But, in one area, I added more storage for quilt fabrics, liberated countertops, and organized all my sewing notions onto a rolling cart that could always be kept at hand. The space feels vast and free in a way that makes it easier to sew and make quilts. It feels like a place that I want to stretch out my wings and get to work.
In contrast, in a dark corner, I created a safe drawing nook that feels secret and tucked away. I even bedecked the slanted ceiling with twinkling lights. It’s here that I like to paint my illustrations and let my imagination open doors of curiosity. It feels like your grandma’s magic attic, like you want to curl into a pink chair with an afghan and read a good story. I never thought that being hidden - feeling safe - would allow me to take more creative leaps. I never would have known it except for listening to my intuition and allowing the place and space to tell me how it wants to be used.
I know that sounds crazy, but I let spaces tell me how they want to be used all the time. I think it helps me to feel safe and comfortable so that I can be productive. When I used to clean houses with my Mom, I would often pass the time daydreaming about the people’s houses that I was dusting. I would think about how the house was designed, how their rooms were arranged, and sort of dream about what I would do with the space if I lived there. There were houses and spaces that I still think about today -- that still inspire me. A space can become a place for something, and if you listen, it will definitely tell you how it wants to be used.
When I write, I need to feel safe and comfortable so that I can be vulnerable. I often found find myself in my bed with my notebook, laying on my stomach. What place embodies vulnerability and safety more than the bed? When I am feeling really stuck and depressed, I will go to the woods, and find a spot to sit and write. Sometimes, getting out of our creative spaces leads to out most productive work.
Now that the cold has set in, I have abandoned my lovely, unheated barn loft studio for the warmth of the house. I shuttle armloads of materials over from the studio and have to find nooks and crannies in the house to tuck them into. It’s ad hoc and messy, but my fingers are warm. I find myself drifting from from room to room, hauling my bits and bobbins with me. There is always a trail of thread or cloud of eraser dust in my wake. I’m an art nomad who will often find the sunny spots to work in, like a sleepy cat.
Working from home can be messy. The lines between work and life are even more smooshed together, which is hard because I have a hard time with this boundary as it is! When my creative life spills into the my mundane life, I’m reminded of a story I heard of a busy mother ceramicist who was often working a lump of clay on a kitchen counter next to her dinner prep. It wasn’t ideal, but it was Okay. Kids got fed, and art got made. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do.
I think the most important thing for nurturing your creativity, no matter how limited you are by your real estate, is to to create SOME place for your creativity. In doing so, you are legitimizing its value in your life. You are giving it a place to grow and thrive. You are allowing it to take up space! This is so significant for your creative practice, and these places could range from a tiny corner to a big barn loft.
You could convert a closet into a studio or a secretary desk. Your space might be a spare bedroom or a corner in a basement. It could even be as small as a journal, a sketchbook, a file folder on your desktop, or a list of ideas on your phone.
It could be a tackle box of supplies or a tote bag of yarn, but giving your creativity a physical presence in your physical life will make practicing it more significant and meaningful in your life. You will be immensely rewarded as will we, your fellow humans. And your creativity will only grow from there, it’s place!!!
Where do you like to be creative? Is there anything that you absolutely need in your space to be creative? Are there any places that really inspire you - that you’d like to incorporate their feel into your own creative places?
Anna Lentz, artist and writer, blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.