words NICOLE MCKENZIE above ERIN LIGHTFOOT’S STUDIO. PHOTO BY KELLEY SHEENAN
Whether you have a small corner desk or an entire room dedicated to getting crafty, setting up a great creative space can make all the difference in productivity and enjoyment when it comes to engaging in your hobbies.
To help us on the quest for the ultimate creative space, we enlisted the help of illustrator and paper artist Laura K Sayers, ceramicist Erin Lightfoot, and Great British Sewing Bee finalist Man Yee Woo – all sharing the secrets of their spaces and top tips for setting up your own.
above MAN YEE WOO’S CRAFTING SPACE
Make the space your own
Adding some colour and art to your space, reflecting your own personal style, will make it somewhere you want to be. Man Yee’s space is shared with her partner but she was given autonomy over the decor – “The walls, shelves and cabinets are painted with my favourite colours. Definitely the most colourful room in our home!”
Laura went through a period of not looking forward to getting creative so this motivated her to make some changes to her space. A friend introduced Laura to Austin Kleon’s idea of building a “bliss station” (from his book Keep Going) – a place you can disconnect from the world, and look forward to spending time in. Laura embraced this concept and freshened up her space with artwork and furniture.
above LAURA K SAYERS CREATES FROM A SMALL CORNER IN A SHARED ARTIST STUDIO IN GLASGOW. PHOTO BY THEODORA VAN DUIN
Make the most of the space you have
With thoughtful storage and a little creativity, even the smallest areas can be made functional and tidy. Erin says it’s easy to waste space but “you can always squeeze out a little bit more by doing something clever like storing something in a different way”.
Man Yee recommends making the most of vertical space by putting up shelves or peg boards to store and display your favourite – and most useful – items.
Don’t be afraid of change
Your space doesn’t need to be static or “complete”. Laura redecorated when in a rut, Man Yee shares that she’s still decorating a year after moving in, and Erin’s space is still changing after 12 years.
Erin and her husband, who works alongside her, are passionate about incremental improvement, aligning with the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen – to continuously improve by making small changes. They regularly make changes to improve workflow and make the most of their space. Erin recommends making small changes immediately instead of waiting for a time you can make a big change – if a workbench is too low you could put a box on it as an interim solution rather than waiting for something more permanent.
above ERIN LIGHTFOOT’S STUDIO. PHOTOS BY KELLEY SHEENAN
Keep it tidy!
While many creatives are known for their chaotic and, some might say, “messy” spaces, a little tidying goes a long way. Erin and her husband spend 15 minutes at the start of each morning tidying their space – this helps to keep it functional and saves time rummaging for tools throughout the day. On the other hand, Laura recommends packing up when you’re finished for the day “so you can fully switch off”. “[Clearing the table] was a solid way for me to admit to myself that I’d done what I could that day and to rest in the fact that I would make better work the following day if I took this time away from whatever I was piecing together,” she says.
above ERIN LIGHTFOOT’S STUDIO. PHOTO BY KELLEY SHEENAN
Taking up space can be a great way to enhance productivity and stay calm. Erin has a common creative experience when making, where “stuff piles up around you and then you’re working on this tiny bit of your desk, and you don’t even notice because you’re concentrating on what you’re doing”. To combat this, she follows Marie Kondo’s advice and culls unnecessary items – the useful things that creep into a space but don’t get used regularly.
While Laura’s art form is physically much smaller, she uses tools to encourage herself to spread out. She uses an A1 cutting mat – “So I’m not constrained or limiting my movement” – and an adjustable standing desk to see work from new angles.
Man Yee recommends filling the space “with things that make you happy and get your creative juice going”. She keeps some of her favourite fabrics on display alongside her sewing machine. Laura suggests keeping inspiring books nearby to turn to when creatively blocked – both those that relate to your craft and “something completely irrelevant to take you out of the moment so you can come back to your work with fresh eyes”. This time away can be extremely valuable. “Sitting in the same spot can be creatively stifling,” Laura shares. “Make time for curiosity; it’s not always procrastination.”