“A room of her own,” author Virginia Woolf said in 1929, was essential if a woman wanted to be a writer. However, Woolf’s wisdom goes far beyond writing. Whether they’re trying to create a poem, painting, or pottery, artists need a private workspace. Creativity can’t flourish in a room where your spouse is on the phone, your third-grader is learning to play the clarinet, and Juno, the life-saving bastard, is squeaking her chew toy.
During the pandemic, we’ve heard a lot about how to create a home office and a one-room school – both certainly important – but we’ve heard less about the need to carve out corners for creative pursuits. . Yet, based on reports of booming sales from DIY and craft stores, it’s clear that the need for craft spaces is also on the rise.
To help those who are still crafting at the 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, whether you’re a full-time artist or weekend hobbyist.
Quilter Shannon Brinkley, of Leesburg, Va., leads quilting workshops and teaches a class 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 a large portion of the five-bedroom home she shares with her husband to her art business. She uses the master bedroom as a paint studio, another bedroom for framing, varnishing and shipping, and a third for stock storage.
“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?”
Here are seven things to consider when successfully setting up your home arts, crafts, or sewing studio:
A dedicated space: A room with a door is ideal so you can work uninterrupted and pick up where you left off. “Not everyone has the luxury of having an extra bedroom,” Brinkley said. “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.
A large flat workspace: Most artists and craftspeople need a large worktable. If you are standing to work, choose one that is 36 inches tall or counter height. If you work while seated, such as at a sewing machine, choose a desk-height table 28 to 30 inches. Depending on your job, you may need both.
Sufficient storage: A combination of visible and hidden storage — open shelving, for example, with cabinets underneath — allows 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, so she can reach and grab the fabric, which is stacked and organized by color. Artisans working with small materials, such as stones, buttons, or beads, can store them in clear jars. A pegboard recruits wall space to hold rulers, embroidery hoops, and scissors in plain view. Small items can go in labeled bins or drawers equipped with organizers.
The right light: Good natural light is important, especially if your craft involves color or intricate handwork. “We all want that beautiful natural northern light,” Barter said, “but you want to be able to control it with shades and enhance it with task lighting.” Windows 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.
A comfortable chair: Whether you’re sewing, weaving, throwing pottery, or knitting, you’ll never get through the necessary hours if your chair hurts your behind.
Hard floor: Hard floors are easier to clean and make it easier to spot pins and loose parts that can get lost in the carpet. Barter puts 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.
A designer wall: A place to pin inspirational images or your work as it unfolds is a welcome feature of the craft room. Barter has a “wet wall,” a shelf where she keeps paintings in progress. Brinkley has an 8-foot square flannel-wrapped board that she uses to conceptualize a quilt layout. Other artists use see-through boards made of cork or magnetic sheet so you can step back and see what you’re doing.
Now fire up that glue gun!