tooling around

About three days after my initial tooling around post, I was f-r-e-a-k-i-n-g out. I have no tools!

What am I going to review for you? The world will collapse and it will be all my fault! And then Tara cut my panic attack short by pointing out that I can’t make something from nothing so, odds are, I have some manner of tools.

Oh. Right. I do.

First, I have the one tool that should be at the top of every maker’s wish list: I have a space in which to create. We’re not talking a two by three foot nook off the kitchen.  I am lucky enough to have a whole 12- by 10-foot room; more if you count the now doorless closet.

Yeah, that isn’t it.  But wouldn’t it be awesome?

My room actually looks like this:

Insert trombone slide.

This photo is a  frankensteined photoshopped panorama of my room, but it is also a pretty good representation of my workspace. Kind of blegh, wouldn’t you agree?

After a week of moping around, feeling inexplicably blue and uncreative, I realized my space was bringing me down.  Here I have a whole entire room to work my magic and I HATE being in there. It is uncomfortable, cramped, dim, and messy. This is certainly not what I had in mind when I first envisioned the “Never a Plain Jane Space for the Production of Pure Delight.” In fact, that space up there is undeserving of such an awe-inspiring title.

But let’s focus on the positive: I have a whole entire room in which to create.

Why is that important?

  • Spaaaaaaace. I can spread out and really see what I am working with.
  • I do not have to drag all my supplies out each time I want to work. It is all ready and waiting for me. Sometimes it actually calls to me which leads me to bullet point number three:
  • I can shut the door. This means I can shut myself in for uninterrupted time with my creative genius and I can shut myself out when it is time to be with my family.
  • I can shut the door. Yeah, I already mentioned this, but that door is crucial. If I have a project all laid out I can shut the door and nobody will see my mess. No first-grader hands will be tempted to touch the silky fabrics. No fatally curious kitties will play hockey with my collection of beads.

I have this super long list of things I think I need in order to excel at making and selling wedding garters: laptop, Gingher brand scissors, Go Cutter, shelving, sewing machine attachments…but I cannot make the money to invest in my business if I don’t feel like creating.

The time has come for me to make my space inspiring and comfortable.

I can’t believe I didn’t see it sooner. At least I can show you the light, and in case I didn’t make it perfectly clear:

Yes, your workspace is a tool. Make it work for you.

Here’s some advice from the pros (okay, maybe they are just my idols and would never actually call themselves “professional,” but they’re pros as far I’m concerned):

Kathleen of Grosgrain Fabulous

Ashley of Make it and Love it (four part series)

Amy of Botanical Brouhaha

Ronda of One Little Word (and owner of the awe-inspiring craft room above)

post edit – You can see more of Ronda and her fabulous scraproom at her blog Help Me Ronda.

There are probably a thousand photos of fab work spaces on the web to inspire longing and jealousy, but how would you do it using only what you already have? What about with a budget of, say, $150?

28 thoughts on “tooling around

  1. There is nothing like getting your space organized – it increases your creative freedom to the 10th power! I just cleaned out my studio (I am a potter) – talk about clutter and wasted space! It took a couple of days but the difference is phenomenal. I worked for the first time yesterday in my new space. I felt so unrestricted, free to let my mind create – it was peaceful. I created zones to do various tasks in. Put like tools and supplies together in label boxes. We potters like using lots of unusual tools. Plus to make it even better I made a dedicated space for shipping out pottery. All my shipping supplies are all in one place and readily accessible. By taking the time to reorganize your work space will pay off big-time in the end. A couple of days of production lost in reorganization will pay off with higher productivity afterwards!

    1. Here hear! I am actually in the middle of doing just that. Getting those darned mattresses out of here made a world of difference. Now I have space to create dedicated stations! Plus, my fabric is now closer to my sewing machine. Seeing it there while I work has really allowed inspiration to flow.

  2. Funny this just came up for me this week. I posted Tuesday about making over my work space after the sudden realization that it wasn’t functioning as well as it could. We tend to get accustomed to our surroundings and accept them as definitive when there is always room for change. We accept the mattresses even though we know they don’t belong there. What seemed an ideal work space last year may not be this year. You are so right that our work space is a tool and an important one at that!

    1. It is almost scary how quickly things become invisible. I have only had this room for six months, but I had already stopped “seeing” those mattresses. I love that you brought up the need for change from year to year. Our spaces need to accommodate our changing skills and product lines. What made you realize your space could be more functional?

    1. Wow, Elizabeth, that is a really intense piece. It really gets into the difference between using a tool and letting it use you (up). Just like writing, it is important to remember your workspace is YOURS. It isn’t for a Better Homes and Garden feature, it isn’t for another artist. It is for you and therefore only has to live up to your expectations. If it isn’t perfect no one will know, and they might not care if they did because, well, for all they know it IS perfect for the person that uses it. And if it isn’t, it can be changed.

  3. I agree — having a good space to work in that’s all yours is so important. The spare room that I share with my partner is tiny and dark and needs various repairs and repainting, and sometimes it actually discourages me from creating. Lately I’ve been keeping all my projects spread out on the living room coffee table so I can work while he and I watch TV — he’s less than thrilled. :)

    When we bought our condo, we moved from a 2-bedroom-plus-office apartment so each of us had our own space. Now, we have to share and I really miss having my own space with a door that shuts! I hate having to stumble over his music recording gear to get to my work. We are trying to work out a mutually acceptable solution but it’s just SUCH an odd space — long, narrow, oddly placed windows, large radiators blocking places where you’d normally put furniture, etc. UGH!

  4. Love love love the inspiration room. I’m making jewelry surviving off of a rolling cart and a small desk. The time opening and closing containers looking for everything I’ve had to put away is time away from doing what I love! I think it’s time to upgrade and take over part of the “man room!”

    1. Kudos to us for posting our workspace on the internet! My brain is so messy I *have* to be neat, but sometimes I forget and then wonder why it seems like everything is going wrong! Do embroidery machines require a certain type of table?

  5. I love my studio (s). I am a bit spoilt I guess I have a metal and a glass studio and they are two different work spaces. But I need no clutter to work effectively so for me it’s worth the cost it took to build the two spaces. I’d still like more storage in the metal studio, the small machining room is a bit of a mess right now. It’s not finished and has stuff scattered everywhere. IF I could get my husband to finish the sink and hang the cabinet I’d be done AND so much happier! I love some of the storage ideas shown in some of these studios!

  6. I work in a corner of our dining room, where I have a desk and a small cabinet for office supplies, plus a larger cabinet in the wall for crafting stuff ( – yeah, that’s when it was organized…doesn’t look that nice anymore). I just take over the dining table if I need extra room. Some things I did on th cheap were: creating a wall-hanging organizer for the tools I use most often:
    For decor, I like to buy pretty paper from Paper Source that I just can’t bear to cut up, and hang it up. It’s very affordable, and easy to change out when you want something different to look at. You could even use some to spice up the back of your bookshelf!

  7. WOW that scrapbox is awesome! I want one even if I don’t need it.

    How I came to realize I could make my space better is really pretty funny. I was watching a video of Tara’s and saw these giant calendars in the background. This spurred a conversation on organizational tools and off I went. Here is the result

  8. Thanks for including my studio, Janice! I just love seeing how others organize and decorate a workspace. You can see so much personality in the different spaces. Love your post! You’re the best…

  9. I’m moving in three months (scary!) and am already planning out my new workspace, despite having not even chosen a new home yet. I’ve realized over the past year in my first apartment that an organized, roomy workspace is invaluable to my success. This year, I consistently waste 15 minutes getting set up and 20 minutes cleaning up every time I work. That’s a lot of wasted time!

    No more. I’m getting organized from the get-go this time around. I posted about my studio space on my blog (linked) the other day. I have a nice, short wishlist for the new space and some decent pics of my current space and organizational habits.

    1. Have you considered painting all of your “hodge podge” furniture and storage? Maybe it would feel less cramped it was more monochromatic. I must have missed your wishlist. What’s on it?

  10. Before I got a house, I used to take over the dining room table with my projects. But now I have my own room to work in! It could use some more organization… when I first got the space, I was buying supplies just because they were on clearance. I was filling up my room so fast! I’ve promised myself (and hubby) not to buy any supplies that I don’t immediately need for a specific project. I’ve been starting to work through my stashes.

    One big thing on my wish list for a future workspace is a door! My current room is technically a small family room, so it’s open to the rest of the house.

    1. Have you thought of using a folding screen. There are so many styles you can find one for every type of decor. Or make one yourself (you know, with all that spare time you have)! It would offer so many possibilities – cover the work room side in corkboard for pinning inspiration, Hand file trays made for office cubicles, make it mirrored to add light and size to your space. Gosh, now I kind of wish *my* space didn’t have a door.

  11. I dream of our next house, where I *will* have my own space, with a door, to do my work. Right now, I’ve got my work spread out over three rooms in our 700 sq ft house with a 2 year old who likes to ‘help’. Frustrating, to say the least.

    When I do get my space, though, it will be my space. I will decorate and organize how I want it, but I’ll also be the only person responsible for it…including the cleaning. At this point, I’d do anything for that chance :)

  12. I love Make It and Love It – faithful follower and I sometimes attempt (although not with the same results) her diy projects.

    Love this post!

  13. Janice, I can’t wait to see the “after” picture of your studio, hint, hint :)

    Really, this is a great post. I’m lucky enough to have a room for making all to myself too. My husband LOVES that I do…less string and small pieces of fabric/paper/fill-in-the-blank all over the house. I couldn’t agree with you more about how awesome it is to just close the door…

    I haven’t had my space for long, just a few months, and it’s fairly functional, but lately I’ve been thinking that it could be more so. You’ve inspired me to do a little spring cleaning and get it to where I need it to be. It is, after all, one of my most valuable tools.

    1. Emily, I’m thinking of starting a flickr account for the Tooling Around Series. I think it’s be great to see everybody’s work spaces (before and after) and tools (haves and wants). What do you think? Oh, and where are your photos, Missy?! No fair dropping hints and not sharing your own space. I’m not sure when I’ll get a chance to cover my refurbished workspace here, but you are welcome to visit my blog to see the work in progress:

  14. Loved this post. Especially the emphasis on “I can shut the door.” How I long for a door! I have a decent sized workspace but it is a room jutting off of our living room – without a fourth wall, much less a door. Still, I am grateful to have it.

    1. Bonnie, see above where I mentioned getting a folding screen. It is funny how we take those fourth walls for granted. I can only imagine what studio apartment dwellers go through!

  15. Thanks so much for featuring my scrapbook room. It is a slice of heaven and does inspire me to create. I love being in that room. Every few months i tend to purge & reorganize based on my needs. it’s really spurs on my creativity when i clean up the room!

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