I'm sure many of us are familiar with Virginia Woolf's passionate argument that, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Now of course her work carried a strong feminist message and centered around the issues weighing women down in 1928 but I think we can still understand the sentiment. If you can't carve out a space, no matter how big or small, that you can comfortably work in, then it makes it extremely difficult to commit to your work and to your practice.
I have been conducting a series of studio visits for an upcoming exhibition I am curating. These visits have reinforced the connection between an artist's physical space and an artist's head space. Now, it is not always easy to find or afford the perfect studio space. But with the right attitude I think anyone can make a space that will work on some level for them. It may not be a space that is ideal for all the work you'd like to get done but having at least an area that you can call your own, will allow you to take yourself and your art a little more seriously. It is interesting to see just how artists handle the task of carving out said space. Seeings how we are all hard wired for creative problem solving - the studio space is often times a very unlikely but suitable space.
The three studios I have visited recently have all been very different but each and every one worked for the artist and based on my observations allowed the artists to explore, experiment, and thrive. The first space I visited was in an industrial area in the suburbs and was a somewhat large space. The second visit was to a husband and wife who were both artists. They lived in duplex and divided it up between living and studio space. The third visit was an old antique shop that was for sale. While not in the best part of town, it had a ton of character and a great layout. The artist snatched it up and quickly made it her own.
Now what if you can't afford a large overhead? Perhaps artist communities that offer studios for rent are scarce or above your price range? How can one have a space that is going to allow them to focus without breaking the bank? Well, let me tell you about a few other spaces I've seen in the past that may be a little bit more along those lines.
I've seen a few artists turn their garages into full time studio spaces. Mostly in warmer climates though. Yet I suppose with some insulation and space heaters anyone could make that work for them. I personally, have my studio situated in our finished third floor at the moment but am sharing it with our office space . Not ideal, but working for me for the time being. In the past I've has studios in reasonably priced spaces in giant old warehouses but the trade off was they were not in the safest of areas.
If you need a temporary studio space residency programs are wonderful. There are so many types of residencies out there that it is easy to find one that will fit your needs. The hard part is getting in as sometimes, depending on the place, these can be competitive. But if you are lucky enough to find a great fit for you and you get accepted, you are given a space to work and often times live. Quite a luxury so if you can afford to take the time to go I'd highly recommend it! To get started looking for residencies you can start by checking out your local arts scene or maybe travel a bit and look at http://www.artistcommunities.org/artists to expand your search beyond your backyard. I secured a two month residency at the Santa Fe Art institute and it was one of the most productive times of my artistic career.
Any way you spin it, making a space of your own takes a little leg work, but creating a sanctuary for yourself is a must. To really create something that matters to you, you have to spend time with your art, and to spend time with it you need to have a place for it. Another way to look at it is, art takes work and to work you need a work place. That place should beckon to you from afar. Even if it's just a corner of a room it should be so comfortable that you don't want to leave! Make space for your work, space for your practice, make space for what matters - make space for yourself.