Moving into my new studio

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If you follow me on social media, you will know that last year my husband and I moved house. Moving from suburbia into the country, oh and under a flight path, enabled us to buy a property with more land than we had before which in turn gave us the opportunity to build an art studio for me.

We wanted the work completed by the end of last year, having moved here in August, but all sorts of things got in the way and/or went wrong. The   one exception was the planning application, which was fabulous and went through in well under the recommended or legally required time. It’s all a far cry from what we had to endure with the planning officers in our previous home.

Anyway, work didn’t start on building my studio until the end of January and took three months to get to “first fix” stage, i.e. all the walls up; roof on; insulated to within an inch of its life; and windows, doors, lighting, and electrics all installed.

My eldest son then decided that he and his fiancée needed to use it as a bar for their engagement party, so that added another week’s delay to my being able to move in. However, last weekend we put the carpet tiles down in what is now the office area and we have moved all my office furniture into the space.

This is a fantastic opportunity for me to go through all the files and get rid of things I no longer need, helping to streamline not only my use of the space but the things I place in it.

Now I am having problems with the studio area. I am not complaining; with an area of 8 x 5 metres, I am hardly short of space. However, it does pose a different set of problems. I know what I want. I want three zones: one for painting; another for print making; and a dry area for bookbinding and dress making (I really want to start making my own clothes again!).

My husband will be installing a sink when it is delivered (five weeks waiting time with B&Q, which they don’t tell you until after you have handed over your money) and we have a hob fuelled by a gas cylinder. In the past I have used the hob for melting wax and for steaming paintings on silk (to set the paint). I’m not sure if I will use it but as we already have it may as well be installed. Basically, I will have a kind of kitchen area just inside the door, a location which I don’t have to think about as that is where the services enter the building. So, how do I “zone” the other areas?

It makes sense to have the print making and painting zones near the kitchen area, so water and wet paint items can be easily transported to the sink if needs be. That means the dry area needs to be at the end near my office. I also want to keep the walls fairly clear of cupboards as I want to have a painting wall and space to hang finished works, for events like open studios, as well as for my own pleasure of seeing my (and other artists’) work every time I walk through the space.

Another consideration is the height of the work surfaces. Sometimes I need to sit and other times standing is essential. This means that the dry zone will need to be about waist height, and I will have chairs which can rise and fall so that I can work without hurting my back. So, I am fairly happy with the dry zone; it is the rest that is troubling me. I actually have too much space. A wonderful problem to have, I know, but still a problem which needs solving.

I have sketched a rough plan on a scrap of paper and my husband, who is an engineer, is making a proper one on graph paper. He is even cutting out the shapes of the large pieces of furniture so that everything is all to scale and can be positioned on paper before moving any heavy equipment. I like to start by putting the large items, in this case two very heavy printing presses and three A0 paper stores, in situ first and then figuring out where everything else goes around them.

What I am most concerned about is that the whole space could very quickly become chaotic and disorganised and whilst I know that will happen because when I am in the middle of a particular series of works, I pay little attention to organisation, I do like to be able to clear up afterwards and to have a place for everything.

I am fortunate that I have all my equipment in clear boxes which makes it super easy to find things when I need them. I also don’t want cupboards with doors, which is nearly killing my husband because he likes to put things in drawers and cupboards and close everything away to look neat and tidy. I, on the other hand, prefer to have everything neatly organised but on show so that I don’t have to hunt through cupboards to find stuff and I don’t have to think about doors swinging out and taking up room. I had pocket doors installed in my office so that it increases the usable space overall.

I must now wait for a group of strong men to come and help move the heavy stuff before I can make my final decisions and that can’t happen for a couple of weeks, so I am still in limbo a bit. In the meantime, I intend to start making work for the Open Studios event in June and worry about furniture placement when the big things are in place. If anyone has any experience of setting up a large studio, I would love to hear from you.

No doubt things will change, and I will keep you updated on how it is all going.

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