You may be a recent graduate wondering what your next step is, or in full-time employment hoping to dedicate more time to your creative pursuit. Whichever category you fall into, one of the first steps is finding a suitable place to work. This is my experience of getting an art studio and what to look out for when finding your own.
In 2014 I graduated and proceeded to take my painting practice back to the bedroom of my family home. This sufficed whilst I'd jumped into the world of work to sort out my finances. As time passed I realised that the office wasn’t the right place for me, so I delved deeper into painting. The problem was that I would get up in the morning, grab a cup of tea, and then proceed to work in my bedroom until 4 or 5pm. By this point my mind would be totally foggy, I’d realise I was still in my pjs and hadn't spoken to anybody all day. This caused me serious cabin fever and also meant that I found it very hard to turn off at the end of the day.
So, I researched a number of artist studio options (see below) and I took the plunge. I signed up for a studio at the Make Space Studios in Waterloo. It was 180 sq ft and about £310 per month (this has since changed to £345); considering its location I’d found myself a rather good deal. After a month of paying this, yet still earning very little, I invited a friend to share the space which we still do to this day. This helps with the rent and also gives me someone to chat to throughout the day - art studios can be ghost towns sometimes!
I’ve now been working there for just under three years and I couldn’t recommend having a studio more. Getting up in the morning and heading to the studio fills me with inspiration, as I pass through the city and get my body moving before starting on a new day of painting. It's a unique space organised to facilitate all of my creative needs and it is separate from my house, so the end of the work day is defined by when I decide to leave. When I get home I am fully switched off out of work mode and can relax.
It may seem like a big investment financially, but I found that once you put your money where your mouth is, it’s sink or swim. You're paying to have the space, so you’d better figure out a way to make some money. Even if there aren't immediate returns, you'll be working extra hard and probably be much more productive - ultimately, you'll reach your goal faster.
What to look out for when searching for your own?
Location: This is very important. I’m very happy to be positioned only a five minute walk from Parliament. It’s great when I have a collector who is interested in seeing my artwork or is coming to collect a piece. If they are working in the city they can easily visit my studio with no hassle as it's central and there are good transport links.
Lighting: Make sure your studio has good lighting. Big windows and natural daylight are hugely beneficial for the way you see your art and also for your day to day sanity!
Open studios: Research the management of the studios, how well do they run the place? I would recommend speaking to any artist currently in the studios and ask them what they think of the team. Are they merely giving you a room to work in? Do they market the place to the general public and bring in potential selling opportunities? – This is a big deal and should weigh in when you consider how much to spend on the rent. As you probably know exhibiting can be an expensive process with transport costs, gallery commissions, drinks, marketing, etc, so selling artwork from your studio is a big win!
Other Artists: What level are the other artists at? Are they all beginners? Are there some established names? I think it helps to have a mixture, people who you can grow with and bounce ideas off and also people who you can learn from.
Type of studios: What type of creatives are occupying the other studios? At the Make Space Studios I'm surrounded by a huge mixture of painters, theatre and fashion designers, interior designers, musicians and more. This is great for the diversity and broadens my ideas for interdisciplinary exhibitions, however the Wimbledon Art Studios has a much more concentrated amount of visual fine artists, which can be beneficial if you want to be around people who are on the same track as you.
Bills: Of course, the rent is an important factor, but don't forget to consider the cost of internet and electricity, especially in Winter as most studios are converted warehouses and get super cold, so you'll be using oil or fan heaters which can use up a lot of electricity. My studios don't charge for electricity, but I know others do!
Right - That's about all I can think of for now. I wish you all good luck!! It's a big step, but I found it was a worthwhile one! :)
Artist studio websites to get you started on your search:
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