A Room of One’s Own

A Room of One’s Own


Many of us have an inner artist we want to nourish, but not the budget for a painter’s studio or writer’s retreat. Here’s how to carve out a sacred space for creativity.

There’s a stereotype that creative types are messy. The writers, toiling away with papers stacked high on their desks. The painters, with oils staining their smocks. We create! We expand! Birthing isn’t supposed to be tidy. True, but what happens when our artistic outpourings become clutter?

Take the jewelry-making enthusiast whose bead supplies hog the bedroom, making her husband feel unwelcome. Or the painter who hasn’t had a sit-down meal in months because her dining table has become a de facto easel. How can we share space with our art, and still have room for ourselves and others?

“Some studies seem to indicate clutter enhances creativity, but other studies indicate clutter prevents us from doing our best work,” says Arizona-based Joshua Becker, a leader in the simplicity movement and founder of the blog Becoming Minimalist. “Our artistic gene may produce certain tendencies in life, but those tendencies do not have to become habits. We choose our habits each morning.”

The goal is to find the optimal amount of supplies to do your best art, says Becker. “We need certain tools to create our work, but when the supplies or the physical clutter becomes burdensome on our energy, time, or mind, those same tools actually detract from our best work. We should worry more about finding the optimal amount of art supplies, not the constant accumulation of more. Because most often, in our society of overproduced and constantly marketed goods, our supplies have become a burden to us, not an advantage.”

Paring Down

Becker’s best tip for artists and crafters is to remember that your best creativity is in your hands not in your tools. “We focus too much energy and attention on the pursuit and accumulation of tools than we do in honing our craft. No new piece of gear is going to complete your work for you. Sometimes even the opposite is true: Removing unneeded items from your workspace may remove distraction and provide more clarity for your work.” He suggests asking the following questions:

  • Do I spend more time shopping for supplies or honing my craft?
  • If I were to create a list of only the most basic tools necessary for my art, what would make the list?
  • Do the physical tools around me inspire me to work better or do they distract me?
  • Do I really need more supplies or do I need more time to do my art? If the answer is time, what clutter can I remove to create more time and space for art?
  • Because the bottom line is, you don’t need more supplies to be a better artist. You need to sit down and make some art.

Shared Rooms

Roxie Sarhangi is a public relations and social media marketing professional in Los Angeles and the owner of Roxie PR. She’s also an avid painter, and as she’s working more with larger-format canvases, finding space in her apartment is getting more challenging. Her dining room is becoming half canvases, half dining room. But such coziness can be a blessing.

“It inspires me. If I have a piece I’m working on, I can find new ideas. Having it in my view can be very useful. There is something nice about walking by it every day with fresh eyes.” To keep her paints, brushes and specialty papers in order, she uses an art cart with drawers. “I had it in a closet and recently decided I would rather leave it out. I enjoy having it in the space because it’s easier to access. But it’s organized, it’s all in drawers, it’s neat. I keep the brushes in clear glass containers or a white flower vase. It looks artful.”

Sarhangi’s mindfulness is a great example that rooms don’t have to serve a single purpose, as long as you’re intentional about it. Think about what boundaries or storage solutions a room needs in order to be dual purpose. Becker says, “Sometimes the boundaries are time-related (at 5 p.m., I need to put everything away). Sometimes they are physical-related (all of my art supplies need to fit in this cabinet). And sometimes they are mindset-related (Right now, this is not a room where I think about art, this is a place where I enjoy dinner with my family).”

When decorating an art zone, “think about if you want a space that is energizing, or peaceful and calming,” says Samantha Williams, the principal designer at Pasadena-based Ederra Design Studio. “If it’s soothing and calming you’re after, focus on cooler colors and selective items that support the space. Lighting is very important. Think about soft lights or layers of soft lights. If you want an energizing space, focus on reds, oranges, greens, this could be through the furniture, paint, or art on the walls.”

Even if it’s inside a closet, or a secretary desk that pulls down, the key is to enhance a space so that you’ll be excited to go and create.

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