If your work-from-home studio is less than ideal or inspiring, try some of the tips below to make the most of the space you have and ramp up your motivation.
Over the years I’ve moved and worked from several studio spaces, the most challenging being a rented, unheated garage with one light bulb, one outlet, and water access from the third floor. Our studio spaces can make the difficult work of making work even harder, but I have some quick tips for creating a space that is motivating to work in.
Have you walked into your studio or making space and thought, I have no idea where to even start? For me, it starts with an organized plan to accomplish the tasks at hand. Literally speaking, organizing my equipment not only clears my workspace from clutter, but it also helps in making my creative flow more efficient. Though some equipment can be quite costly, we often forget that our time (a.k.a. labor cost) is the most expensive part of the handmade process. Therefore, make your space reflect efficiency and structure for creating. Get supplies up on your walls for easy visual inventory and access. I love using wall-mounted spice racks to organize kiln posts next to my kiln (see 4) or to keep pint-sized bottles of glaze above my table. I store heavy items—like dry materials or kiln shelves—under tables or on the bottom shelves (see 5), while lighter items like foam pieces are stored up high. This organization allows you to spend less time looking and more time making. Remember that it’s creating that restores energy to our core.
As artists, we understand how art and craft can impact our daily lives, so why not bring that impact into the studio? We often neglect our surroundings and forget the impact they can have. Paint is a great way to freshen up a space that feels dull, dirty, or uninspired. A fresh coat of white paint can be uplifting, or you might elect to go bolder with a mural. In my space, about four months into the pandemic, I knew I was feeling a major slump from staying home and working from home. I’m very used to the work-from-home life, but never leaving the house began to take a toll. Living in Fargo, North Dakota, I anticipated the long winter months ahead with the inevitable isolation it would bring. Painting my space to change up my surroundings had a big impact on my motivation to get in the studio and keep working (see 1). Can’t paint your walls? Adhesive shelf liner or removable wallpaper are options as well.
Find the Treasures
Another trick I use to get motivated is to go through things. When I sort out my space, I often rediscover old supplies, tools, and ideas that I haven’t gotten to do yet. The key is to keep those rediscovered items on display or in front of me. I use pegboard on the back of my shelving units to display tools and to make them accessible (2, 3). I purge items that are simply taking up space and I’m no longer excited about. If you’ve felt there are too many ideas and not enough time, discarding items creating clutter can help focus those ideas for where your enthusiasm is. Try to end this act of discovery by setting aside ideas to actively plan for in the near future. Without the planning, items you haven’t used for years end up back in the box or on the shelf with no action. For example, if I find supplies I’ve purchased for making a certain form like corks for bottles, I leave those out and plan to make some bottles with the rediscovered supplies.
Make It Comfy
Your studio is a working space, but does it feel comfortable? Not Netflix-and-chill comfy, but instead get-some-work-done-with-limited-distractions comfy. Install brighter light bulbs in dark spaces. Light a candle or bring in an aroma to trigger emotional responses in your brain—think eucalyptus and stress relief. Make sure you’re warm, fed, and hydrated. Again, obvious, but don’t ignore your lunch to keep working. Take a break so you can work longer and healthier. If you’re tired, consider what you’re listening to and how that changes your mood. Make all your senses happy.
Switch It Up
Now is a great time to try new ideas, learn processes, or get caught up. What have you been thinking about, but haven’t had the time to do or try? With so many virtual workshops being offered, you can learn a new skill from your own home. Also, in a more literal sense, switch it up by rearranging your space. Move a table in front of the window, if you have a window, or swap around where your wheel is located. Treat your studio furniture like the furniture in your home. Make adjustments that highlight the happiest parts of your space.
Above all, remember to do what makes you happy and keeps you making first. In the end, these are all just tricks to get through difficult creative times and build habits for a more sustainable practice. Nothing beats showing up and doing some work, but starting is often the hardest part. Do what you can to make that start a little easier for you. Get started, keep going, take naps, go for walks, and remember we all have highs and lows in the creative process.
the author Catie Miller is a studio potter living and working in Fargo, North Dakota. She continues to work within the art community, teach workshops, embrace motherhood, and relax with her husband and small dog. To see more of her work, visit www.catiemillerceramics.comand follow her on Instagram @catiemillerceramics.