“A room of her own,” author Virginia Woolf said in 1929, was essential if a woman wanted 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.
Why only women? Well, because for decades, and I know I’m generalizing, men have always had a place for them.
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.
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 .
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 class on creating a craft and quilting workshop. “The key,” she said, “is to break down barriers, so that 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 painting studio; another room for framing, varnishing and shipping; and a third to store frames, shipping containers and paints in inventory.
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 enjoyment of it better.
Here are seven features that Brinkley and Barter recommend considering when setting up your successful arts, crafts, or home sewing studio:
◼️ 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.”
◼️ A large flat work area. 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 while seated, such as at a sewing machine, choose a desk-height table 28 to 30 inches.
◼️ Sufficient 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. 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 sight. Small items like paint tubes, yarn, sequins and pins can be stored in labeled bins or drawers equipped with organizers.
◼️ The right light. Good lighting, preferably natural, is important, especially if your craft involves color or intricate handwork. 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.
◼️ A comfortable chair. Whether you’re sewing, weaving, throwing pottery, or knitting, you’ll never put in the necessary hours if your chair is a pain in the ass.
◼️ Hard ground. Because most crafts are messy, hard floors are easier to clean and make it easier to spot stray pins and lose pieces, which can get lost in the carpet. Barter puts wood-look vinyl 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 what she calls a damp 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 when conceptualizing a quilt layout. 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 is the author of six books on home and lifestyle, including “What to do with everything you own to leave the legacy you want”.