up the top of the garden, we have a summer shed which for the past few years has just been used as a storage/dump and the space hasnt been used at all. ive been aching for a place outside of my bedroom ever since i graduated in 2019 to make artwork, and i think these two contexts - the place to sleep/relax, and the place to work/create - should be separate if possible otherwise their functions can become blurred in an unwelcome way in our minds. im lucky enough to be able to move towards doing this by converting the summer shed into a studio!
what is key for me is using lots of what we already had to create a functional space to create work, but also to enjoy fresh air and the stunning garden.
the first step was to get everything out and check out the space! it is a pentagon shape with two large walls and two smaller walls with long vertical windows, and the fifth wall fitted with double doors. the walls were just covered with chipboard which i decided to leave and paint white. in the corner, we had to remove a floorboard as moisture was heavily getting into this area due to where the summer house was placed, and at the moment we cant really do much about it.
painting it white took a whole day and it needed three layers, and i went over certain areas of the chipboard an extra couple times to help fill any larger gaps. i really, really tried not to be messy...
at this point, i had sort of decided where the furniture was going to go based on watching where the sun would be positioned throughout the day. i like to work in natural light and - if england's weather allows it - have the sun shining directly on the canvas. there was a wheeled cart already in the shed which i decided to keep, so if i was in there for long periods i could sort of move with the sunlight. i moved my metal wheeled cart into the studio too. i liked the idea of covering the walls with recycled shelves for storage, but i realised when gathering stuff to move in i didnt actually have that much thanks to numerous konmari-style declutters, and i also remembered my time at university where i left my walls blank so that i could paint on them directly and put things up depending on where the work was going at that time. my mother painted this unit black which i thought would be a good place to store books, canvases, and papers, and i also kept this half dismantled chest of drawers as a desk, saving me having to try and lug my current desk from my room all the way downstairs.
i was greeted by a special visitor throughout this weekend. our neighbour's cat seems to think the whole neighbourhood is her garden! i suspect she will be visiting me often in my studio...
this weekend, i started to move stuff from my room into the studio. my room has never been an ideal space to work, as things are stored in different cupboards, under the bed, and all over the place. its easy to forget what i actually have.
this is my previous space. i had trouble here trying to juggle my cd-player, materials, laptop for references, and the artwork itself so i wanted to create an L shape desk that would allow me to have all these things nearby without it being cramped. we used an old shelf put into the wall at level with the desk, and my metal wheeled cart is useful for if i need a little extra space to my right.
i learnt how to use the screwdriver and put up another office-style paper holder, and using nails and a hammer created lots of hooks for my coat/jacket/gloves as well as for other bits, and to create washing lines for anything i didnt want to pin, tape, or bluetack to the walls. underneath the table, use nails to hang my recycling bin bag and the bag i use to hold paper i need to paint over so i can reuse them. i also had to cover a screw that wont come out of the desk in bubblewrap so i dont injure myself. the little gap beneath the shelf allows me to store various easels. i swapped out my basket style bin for the metal one in my room as i imagine itll hold up better in the winter should there be any moisture problems.
i then decided to leave any more shelving additions, particularly around the desk itself, until i have used the space for a while to figure out how well it functions and what i need to add. i imagine i might like to add some small shelves around the window. the first thing i made in this studio is a present for my friend princess T :o)
first of all, let me introduce you to the studio guardians. as i mentioned before, the neighbours cat treats the whole neighbourhood, including our garden, as her own garden. she often comes to relax in the planter outside my window. her name is dusty. her brother, whos name we do not know so we have dubbed him "big chungus" (not my idea), also comes to visit and has the same mindset as his sister.
dusty is very friendly and sometimes comes into the studio. big chungus, however, is more of a scaredy cat and so ive yet to become friends with him.
during this bank holiday weekend, it has been very sunny, and big chungus spent a whole afternoon lounging behind this mattress wire. i could see him from my doorway, and dusty in the planter through my window.
im very used to the constant presence of a cat, but this year ive sort of lost that. my cat molly is almost twenty, and prefers to stay downstairs now as its harder for her to come upstairs. i see her everyday and spend time with her of course, but what used to be a 24/7 presence has been cut down to a couple of hours. we also lost her sister from the same litter, maisy, this year. despite this, it seems i cannot escape the presence of a feline, as now i feel the presence of dusty and big chungus should the weather allow it...it makes my mourning a little easier.
now that it has been a couple months since i got this studio to a stage where i can work happily in it, i can reflect on it so far. i dont get to spend an awful lot of time in it due to work and other responsibilities. there is no internet connectivity up there - which is VERY good for buckling down on a project and just having some mental space. its also rather quiet as well, i can hear the birds and the sounds of the neighbours. cant hear traffic. the only downside for this is that if i need to say look up a reference, i need to go into the house to do so. ive had to start using an iphone again and the 4G on it seems to also suck in this part of the garden, i dont know why lol. ive learnt to make sure i gather everything i need before hand and sort of have a gameplan of what work i am doing while in the studio to minimise any need for the internet.
another part of this planning is using a small artists toolbox to bring eveything i need to and from the studio, in another attempt to maximise my focus by not having to get up and get extra stuff, or if i want to take my sketchbook to my bedroom for some late night doodling etc. despite this, it does help me to get a whole chunk of extra walking in if i need to go into the house so its distance is quite welcome :)
i havent made any additions to the studio in terms of shelving, but i know i could really do with some above the desk just to hold the clocks and other tidbits. even with the shelf along the side, and the wheeley table which i use to juggle two projects with annoying drying times, i still find i need so much room to spread out allll my shit XD i need to put the second paper holder up which i used to store random loose bits of paper and swatch sheets. i put a mini wash line up to display things i dont want to pin or blutak, but ive also put art up using this method.
having this space is very reminiscent of my time at university. we had studio space - not a lot, i usually had half a desk and a couple meters of wall at most - that we could do pretty much whatever we wanted in. it was nice to come into an environment where art was happening all around, and the only distractions are what you bring yourself, but you just had to be careful that no one would come and steal your shit XD ive not got a photo to share, but i covered the wall where the paper/canvas storage is and the second window with my art-related achievements and valued things as id never done that before. it helps remind me how far ive come and gives me a much needed confidence boost. ive always been quite reserved about my artwork in real life, but i need to come out of my shell!
i feel very lucky to have such a space like this after years of using my bedroom floor and desparately trying not to get paint on my floor and failing. lol
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