“A room of her own,” author Virginia Woolf said in 1929, is a must if a woman wants to be a writer. Almost 100 years later, I can’t disagree. If I want to write something longer than a shopping list, I have to be alone.
However, Woolf’s wisdom goes far beyond writing. Whether they’re trying to create a poem, a painting, a pottery or a beaded peacock, artists need a private workspace.
Art can’t flourish in a room where your spouse is on the phone with a hearing-impaired parent, while your ninth-grader learns to play the clarinet, and Juno, the life-saver, squeaks her chew toy.
While we’ve heard a lot about how to create a home office and a one-room school during the pandemic, both certainly important, we’ve heard less about the need to cut corners to create crafts . Yet, based on reports of rising sales from hobby and craft stores, a sign that more and more people are unleashing their inner artists, it’s clear that the need for craft spaces is also on the rise.
To help those who still craft on top of their washing machines, I spoke to two successful artists and got their suggestions for setting you and your home up for crafting success.
Quilter Shannon Brinkley, of Leesburg, Va., leads quilting workshops and teaches a course on creating a craft and quilting workshop. “The key,” she said, “is to break down barriers, so when you have time, you can sit down and get to work.”
Stacy Barter, a painter living in Winter Garden, Florida, dedicates not just one room, but much of the five-bedroom home she shares with her husband, to her artistic endeavor.
She uses the master bedroom as a painting studio; another room for framing, varnishing and shipping; and a third to store frames, shipping containers and paints in inventory.
“Artists have to give themselves permission,” she said. “If you don’t take your art seriously and give it the time and space it needs, who will?”
Whether you’re a full-time artist or a weekend hobbyist, a creative workspace with everything you need at your fingertips, beautifully laid out, can only make your work and your pleasure in making it better.
Here are seven features that Brinkley and Barter recommend considering when setting up your successful arts, crafts, or home sewing studio:
1. A DEDICATED SPACE: A room with a door is ideal so you can work uninterrupted and pick up where you left off. A basement, attic, or guest house works well.
However, adds Brinkley, “not everyone has the luxury of an extra bedroom. You have to work with the space you have. If it’s the dining room table, make sure you can pull out all your tools and materials quickly and put them away easily.
2. A LARGE FLAT WORKSPACE: Most artists and craftspeople need a large worktable. If you stand to work, choose one that is 36 inches high or counter height. If you work seated, such as at a sewing machine, choose a desk-height table 28 to 30 inches. Depending on your job, you may need both.
3. LARGE STORAGE: A combination of visible and hidden storage works for most studios. Open shelves with cabinets below allow you to display the materials you want to see and hide the ones you don’t.
Brinkley stores her quilt fabrics in an old dresser with the glass removed. This allows him to reach and grab the fabrics, which are stacked and organized by color.
Artisans working with small materials, such as stones, buttons, or beads, can store them in clear jars. A pegboard is another great way to recruit wall space to hold tools, like rulers, embroidery hoops, and scissors in plain view. Small items like paint tubes, yarn, sequins and pins can be stored in labeled bins or drawers equipped with organizers.
4. THE RIGHT LIGHT: Good lighting, preferably natural, is important, especially if your craft involves color or intricate handwork. “We all want that beautiful natural upper northern light,” Barter said, “but you can also have too much light, so you want to be able to control it with shades and enhance it with task lighting.”
Operable windows can also help with ventilation if your craft involves glues and varnishes. If your study room is in the basement, where natural light is scarce, halogen bulbs provide the second best light.
5. A COMFORTABLE CHAIR: Whether you’re sewing, weaving, throwing pottery, or knitting, you’ll never put in the necessary hours if your chair hurts your behind.
6. HARD FLOORING: Most manual work is messy. Hard floors are easier to clean and make it easier to spot pins and loose parts that can get lost in the carpet.
Barter put vinyl wood floors in his studio because they’re compatible with turpentine and make oil paint easier to clean. She also appreciates the lightly cushioning vinyl flooring, which helps keep her on her feet all day.
7. A DESIGN WALL: A place to pin inspirational images or your work as it unfolds is a welcome feature of the craft room. Barter has what she calls a wet wall, a rack where she keeps the paintings in progress. Brinkley has a large flannel-wrapped board (8 feet by 8 feet) that she uses to conceptualize a quilt layout. Other artists have vision boards made of cork or magnetic sheets.
Either way, artists agree that it’s helpful to have a surface that allows you to step back and see what you’re doing.
Now fire up that glue gun!
Marni Jameson can be reached at www.marnijameson.com
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