For many years I shared studio space with other creative people. Mostly because I lived in an apartment and needed another space for creating. I also couldn't afford to rent a space on my own, so sharing was the only option. Weaving equipment takes up a lot of room. Luckily, the spaces I rented with others were able to be divided out in a way for me to have room for my loom.
Upon returning to my home town from being away for university and a year aboard, I searched and searched for studio space, until I was offered to share an entire upper floor with a group of musicians who made up various local bands. The space had amazing floor-to-ceiling windows, but no heat. At that time I was just so excited to have the capacity to create, not having heat wasn't an issue. I carved out a space for my stuff and for the first time ever was able to set up my floor loom and tapestry loom at the same time.
I was never sure who would be in the studio at the same time as me, where it was band members, friends of band members, or large groups of people. I would only find out how loud practicing bands can be. The energy was terrific. There was always an interesting conversation, if you wanted. Or, you could just appear busy and not get bothered too much. The physical space was inspiring. The walls were covered with a collage of posters, stickers, drawings, song lyrics, and many other things. The connection I felt to the moment and the life of the city was invigorating. I created a large body of work during my time there. But, after having to work so often in the cold winter months with freezing fingers, I decided to find a place with heat. I found 3 other creative women who were also looking for studio space. We found something suitable. It was a great creative space. We all had a huge space to work. It was quite incredible but not long lived. The owners of the building decided only after a few months of us being there that they wanted to do extensive renovations. Finding another suitable place wasn't easy, but we did finally move. I created another body of work at this space. The energy of other artists was a bit different to musicians. The space seemed more stable and conducive to concentrated work. Not long after, I bought a house and moved my studio home. I had lots of space in my house to work creatively. I did make a very large body of work, but it took almost 3 years to complete the tapestries. My creative practice was continually interrupted by the house renovations I was doing with my dad, and there was always the other menial house work to accomplish. In the 10 years I was in that house it seemed like every creative project took an incredible amount of time to finish. I don't think I have made a significant body of work since then.
I am now in a different house, with a much much smaller studio. The size of my tapestry weaving has changed, but I like that I can work any hour of the day or night I wish. I like that I can be mid production and leave everything in a mess, if I need to. I like that I never have to worry about bothering anyone with my projects. I can walk down the hall and start working. I can work in my comfy clothes, if it suits me. I can work on many different things all at once. In my new little space, I being productive with tapestries and upholstery fabric, and smaller sewing smaller products, but I sometimes miss sharing studio space with others.
When you share space you reciprocate energy with the other occupants. You create a safe space to express your ideas and creative goals. Others can keep you accountable for your creative time and creative work. Studio mates are there to hash out ideas, and to give constructive criticism. They can cheer you on, or tell you when you need to take a break. They can even potentially be interested in collaborative work.
Working in a solo space, and sharing studio space both have pros and cons. I do definitely miss having large spaces to spread out my fabrics while I work, or have a few looms set up at the same time. Sometimes I miss having constructive criticism and brain storming sessions. But, I definitely like being in total control of my creative space and schedule.
How do you work best? On your own, or with others around? I welcome your comments below.