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Weekend Prompt: We Carry Our Studios With Us
A creative prompt for creative spaces
Real quick before we start: I’m doing a shop sale this weekend. Use the code SUMMERCAMP for 20% off any order through Sunday. Prints, cards, and more. The shop will be closed July 19-early September.
Now… welcome to the weekend Creative Fuel prompt!
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I’m preparing to leave on an extended trip later next week. I did this last summer, and while two times doesn’t make it an annual “thing” yet, it feels like it could become one. I envision it as a creative sabbatical of sorts, a time to take in new things, to explore, to step into a different version of myself.
There are a lot of loose ends to tie up. Most pressing, is a big papercutting project that has to be finished before I get on that plane. This is partly because I am trying to protect this upcoming space and keep it as open as possible (time off, what a radical concept), but it’s also because my studio doesn’t travel well.
If you’re an artist, then a space to make art is pretty essential. You can of course make almost anything work: kitchen tables, couches, floors. The point is to honor your practice, take it seriously, by giving it some kind of a physical space.
I remember a workshop I took where someone else mentioned living in a very small space and taking out a piece of masking tape to mark out on the floor what their studio space was. There might not have been a door to close, but there was a physical boundary of sorts.
That doesn’t mean that creative work only takes place within those boundaries. Creativity doesn’t stop when you shut the door to your studio, or clear off the art supplies from your kitchen table.
A studio also resides beyond physical walls. Think of studio as a verb, aspointed out recently.
I have a few group text chains where occasionally someone sends a “real life studio” photo or video. These are always meant to capture the full-blown chaos of whatever our creative spaces look like.
I do not mean a curated, tidied creative mess with some intentionally placed paint splatters like we see in magazines or in any type of book that compiles photos of artists spaces in attempt to inspire.
No, I mean real creative messes. Boxes on floors. Stacks of all kinds of things on a desk. A multitude of coffee cups from a week’s worth of work. Overflowing everything. You know, basically the most cluttered, messiest spaces that you might be hard pressed to share on a more public level.
I often think that my own studio is as much in my mind as it is a physical space. If I imagine that someone were to come and photograph that? Talk about a messy place. Also (thankfully) not destined for any architectural or interior publication. Or I think about just a few weeks ago when a large chunk of the midsummer creative retreat got written in an airport and on an airplane while wearing a mask, not at some calming desk setup overlooking the forest. Definitely not photo worthy, but yet another edition of “how the work gets done.”
There’s so much mess to the creative process—the physical and the metaphorical kind—that we never see. To not understand how someone came to an idea, to not see the winding paths, the many starts and stops, makes it easy to assume that it was an “aha moment,” or that person is simply a creative genius.
A friend once noted that a studio is fluid, that it shifts and changes and evolves. It’s messy one day, tidy another, and then back again. I like this vision of a studio that is less about four defined walls and more about a state of being., and it felt apt for a moment thinking about leaving one space for another, and what that means for creative process.
I’ll close the door to the studio next week, but open up one to a different kind. A studio that’s in a more liminal space, found on the pages of a sketchbook, in the seat of an airplane, on the wall of a museum, in the hum of a ferry engine, in the cadence of a different language.
We carry our studios with us. Because our creative practice isn’t defined by tools or mediums or what we produce— our creative process is us.
Where is your studio today?
Where are you doing your thinking? Your writing? Your making? Where is the inspiration? Where are the ideas coming?
Some days it’s at the desk, others it’s on a walk, a bike ride, or in a conversation.
The studio is whatever you want it to be.
“Everything in nature invites us constantly to be what we are. We are often like rivers: careless and forceful, timid and dangerous, lucid and muddied, eddying, gleaming, still.”
―Gretel Ehrlich, The Solace of Open Spaces
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