It finally happened – Ten days ago I moved into my new rented studio space and after a time of unpacking and organising I had my first few working days there last week. I had been looking for a studio space to hire since moving to Northumberland at the beginning of February and with it being a rural area I had hoped to find somewhere fairly quickly – perhaps a vacant building on a farm or a run down shop or suchlike. There are some art studios not so far away but with  a long waiting list I had to bite the bullet and find somewhere to work as soon as possible.

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Whilst I had cleared some space in a spare bedroom, I was quickly running out of room to put any new work. Not being able to unpack 80% of my studio was beginning to hinder me in getting artwork together for a couple of events coming up and I was anxious to begin working away from home.

For the last six or so years I have had a home studio but it was now time. Time to take things more seriously – go out to work, rather than taking those few steps upstairs. Time to separate office (which remains at home) and creative space and be somewhere with no distractions, no internet and space to store everything out of sight so that all I have in front of me is what I am working on now. The easel and my art supplies – all that I need to be focussed – no wandering back to my computer when the notion takes me. That journey from easel to computer desk is always much shorter and easier than the long journey back from computer to easel again – although of course that should not be the case. So time to remove the distractions altogether.

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Eight weeks ago I found this space which is part of some converted buildings on a farm a few short miles away from home and an even shorter drive to my favourite harbour village. Things move at a slower pace here in the North and whilst I had hoped to be in within a week or so delays in getting the contract together meant for a rather long wait – a testing time for this impatient girl. But now that I have moved in, I am just delighted.

The windows are low down but let in a good amount of light. The hard-wearing carpet has been covered with dust sheets and outside of the main studio area I have two much smaller rooms which are housing all of the stuff that I need nearby but don’t need every day – frames, finished artwork, displays for shows and exhibitions – all of the stuff that cluttered up my last studio space that was constantly moved from here to there and back again. All put where I can get to it easily but don’t have to look at it every day.

I still have a few bits and pieces to move from the house and I am toying with the idea of going to the local auctions this weekend to pick up a comfy chair for those moments when I wish to just sit and think and ponder – a necessary part of my studio time.

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All of my art materials are within easy reach and on display – apart from my 2 carts (one for acrylics, one for oil paints) I have a tall metal shelving unit with a shelf for oil mediums, one for larger pots of acrylics and mediums, one for print-making supplies. On another shelf I have my tray of drawing materials which I can easily lift off and take to whichever table I choose to work on – standing or sitting, everything can be where I need it. Despite the fact that the room will inevitably become messier that it is now, I like to know where everything is and have some semblance of organisation.

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My favourite piece of furniture was a pinterest find that is going to make a frustrating storage problem a thing of a past. In my last studio I had a cupboard outside (the linen cupboard) where I had taken one shelf to store all of my large sheets of paper. I have the Alex unit from IKEA but it only stores paper up to A3 size and I buy my paper in A1 sheets generally and in bulk. Pastel papers stored on-top of various types of drawing paper, upon glassine paper, upon various types of watercolour paper. Now if you too have this set up, you will know that it is always the paper on the bottom that you need at any given moment and trying to get that one sheet of paper out with the weight of all the other paper on top of it, is no easy task. Without wishing to spend hundreds on a plan chest or really the means to get such a weight of a thing up the stairs to my current space, I had been trawling the internet for a solution and I came across this genius IKEA hack.  So off to Newcastle we went where I purchased the necessary Linnmon table tops and Capita legs.  The taller legs for the base layer and the shorter legs for the upper layers. Just 4 legs screwed into the corners of the underneath of each table top and piled one on top of the other. So now I can have all my different types of paper separated out and easily accessible. I might add another couple of layers on in time so that I can also store larger pieces of finished works on paper too and of course it also serves as an extra work surface or tea making area in my case. Much cheaper than architects drawers and easier to move too.

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Someday I dream of being an old eccentric artist in a light filled studio filled with beautiful antique furniture – dusty and messy but with an ambience born from warm, dark wood and iron fixtures and fittings. But with limited time and budget IKEA is the practical solution for the artist wishing to get to work quickly with everything in its place so that all I have to do is begin creating. Clinical white laminate wins over leisurely trips to the antique store for this moment in time although I am sure the dust and mess will gradually make its way in as I begin working away in this space.

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Old work is currently gracing the walls, so anxious was I to make it feel like my space as soon as possible but that will soon be replaced bit by bit as I make way for the new work to come.

Soon I will have work to share as I settle into a different way of working. Distraction free and no more painting in my pyjamas.

I would love to know your own solution to storing those large sheets of paper if you have found something different.

Till next time!