Well, hello again. The past couple of months for me have been all about revamping my art studio, so I haven’t spent much time writing blog posts. With the dust having settled (at least for now), I thought I’d share some of that experience with you.
Up until December, I had been sharing the space with another artist for several years. When my studio mate moved on, I decided to go it alone rather than take on a new studio mate. Taking that plunge into having my own studio was exciting, but also a little scary. For a few days after signing the lease, I vacillated between ecstasy and terror. My mind was on fire with endless ideas for improving the space, and for growing my art-making and my business. I immediately recognized that I hadn’t felt that inspired in some time. From that perspective, it seemed like a really good move. Until I’d wake up in the middle of the night and think, “Oh my god! Can I do this? Can I afford this? What if I can’t make it work?”
Not only would I no longer be sharing the rent, but the rent was also going up. I was about to be paying more than double what I’d been used to. After I (mostly) got over my fear about this, the reality of that served to focus me. There was an internal shift happening — it felt great to be moving forward. I had been wanting to grow my business and here was my chance.
The photo up above is a shot of the front (gallery) part of my studio today.
The photo below shows what the front (or gallery) of the studio used to look like prior to my taking over the whole studio. See that wall on the left that obscures the entrance? It was about 6 feet wide, and had a drop ceiling behind it connecting it to the doorway, effectively making it a low tunnel. As you can see, it did have a window in it, but it only allowed people in the hallway to see a bit of what was inside the studio. Some people very much like to see what they’re committing to before walking into a space, and I’d always felt that the wall created a psychological barrier for many people.
I had often imagined that wall gone, and in December the first thing I did was to have it removed. Below is a photo taken the day before it was knocked down, as I was preparing for the dust by taking all the art off the walls and covering the furniture:
The next morning I met the contractor at 7 am. After I let him in, I went to run some errands. When I returned at 9 am, the job was almost done.
When all the debris was cleaned up and the plastic removed, VOILA!
After the wall was gone, there was a strip of floor revealed that had been painted grey before the wall went up. I recognized that grey from many of the artist studios in this building. I think that at one time many of the floors had been painted that color, and somewhere along the line someone who occupied my studio had stripped it off and stained the floors. These floors have definitely taken a beating since last stained. I imagine that was a pretty long time ago because the floor stain tone varies wildly from being worn down. Am I planning to restain them? Probably not. I am still undecided about how to address that grey strip, though. I may paint it in varied shades of brown like the floor, just enough to make it less noticeable.
The next step was getting the walls smoothed out and painted where the wall and the drop ceiling framing had been removed. There was also a section of ceiling over the entry that needed to be painted. As I told Paul, my go-to painter guy, I didn’t need the walls to be perfect. Just smoother and less ugly. I don’t own this place, so I want whatever money I invest in it to be for the things that have the greatest impact on its overall aesthetic and functionality.
This is an old factory warehouse building. These artist studios have high ceilings and tall windows, as well as exposed brick, beams, and pipes. I want to retain the unique feel of the space. I want a pleasing and homey place to work, and a good neutral space to display my work. One of the nice things about this particular studio is that the back area is separated from the front area by narrow partial walls. While it is easy to see both spaces at once, the layout provides a natural gallery area in the front and a natural work area in the back. The back of the studio has tons of natural light, making it a very enjoyable space to work in.
I did a lot of searching for a bench for the middle of the gallery, and finally settled on one that had built-in storage. Now I needed a rug to make the space more inviting. To figure out what size would work best, I measured out different sizes and and then taped outlines on the floor until I decided on an 8′ x 10′ size.
I spent a ridiculous number of hours finding just the right rug — not too big, not too small, not too dark, not too expensive, not too patterned, not too bold! I saw lots of really pretty rugs that I’d love to live with, but this had to be a rug that wouldn’t distract from the artwork. I finally found one that worked well in pale shades of grey and white, with one subtle white medallion pattern that lies underneath the bench. I was in luck as I found it during a 15% off sale.
A few years ago I had had my mom’s old sideboard shipped to Boston. It’s been in my studio ever since, and has been handy for storing things. The tapered mid-century legs, however, were always a bit off-kilter and wobbly. I was beginning to notice that a few of the drawers were getting hard to open and were scraping some of the wood off their trim when opened. The problem was they weren’t sitting squarely anymore. The whole structure of the piece was beginning to shift. One day, I moved the piece over an inch and one of the legs snapped off. The piece fell forward, emptying itself of its contents. Oops!
After taking all the drawers out, I removed all the legs and set it on some felt sliders. I found I liked it just as well without the legs, especially since lower furniture opens up the sight lines a bit more in the gallery. It will also be much easier to move from now on! I’m happy with how the front of the studio has shaped up.
Next came the work area of the studio. It had felt great going from being cramped in my work space to suddenly being able to spread out, but the area needed a lot of changes to become more functional and inviting. There was wall patching and painting to be done. Drapery rods were installed in the wood beam just above the window line. Drapes were hung, and a bright red drain pipe near the window was painted white. I purchased a white lacquer standing desk. It has a crank on the side for moving the desktop up and down, so it can be used either sitting or standing. Best of all, it’s on wheels. This allows me to easily rearrange my work area for whatever I’m working on. I love this versatility. Having two tables comes in super handy, too. It’s especially great when I’ve just had new prints made and need surfaces to spread them out on.
Here’s one work setup, photographed before the red drain pipe was painted white:
And here’s another setup:
I was also able to extend some display area into my work area. This wall became an extra gallery wall for my abstract artworks, which are different from what’s in the main gallery area.
To add some comforts of home, I got a mini refrigerator and a friend gave me a coffee machine she wasn’t using. She also gave me a countertop and 4 IKEA adjustable height legs, and that became my “kitchen” area.
There are a few more things I plan to do with the space. I’d like to add a hanging LED light track to the work area for that extra gallery wall. I could use another electrical outlet a little higher on the wall. I could also use a rolling cabinet of drawers to slide under the kitchen counter. It would help store all the leftover things I don’t yet have a place for. And for First Friday open studio events, I could roll it out and use the top as a wine and crackers table. I may add wheels to my big wooden table, too, so that all my work tables can be easily rearranged.
I’ll hold off on the track lighting a bit until I’ve psyched myself up for more dust. There came a point where I felt enough work had been done on the space that I could settle into getting some work done again. For the time being, I’m enjoying focusing on my work without all the dust. I’m happy with how this space has evolved so far.
Thanks for reading!
Until next time,