How To Find The Right Art Studio For You

If you look at Pablo Picasso’s art studio at 7 rue Grand Augustins in Paris, it’s larger than many of our homes! Contrast that to the A model Ford Georgia O’Keeffe used to create her work in. This cookie jar would’ve made me feel claustrophobic. Kept her safe from the bees, though.

When looking for a workplace, one of the first things we ask ourselves is: How large should it be? But looking at the examples above, space may not be the most important qualification your studio needs. O’Keeffe’s main desire was to be able to move from place to place. A traditional study simply wouldn’t work for her. Buildings don’t like to be moved around and considering that they are usually made of heavy construction materials, it’s wise to honor their feelings. A car, in the end, matched O’Keeffe’s requirements the best. It was the right art studio for her.

Listing Down What We Need

Likewise, when we ourselves are looking for a suitable workplace, starting with our own list of essentials, will help us filter the potential options available. Everything from the kind of work we make, to the materials we use, will tell us what our ideal studio is going to look like. Here are some of the things we should keep in mind:

  1. Sculpting Materials
    Let’s start our list with the two things I’ve already mentioned.
    Heavy materials are less suited for a studio on the third floor. And if you spend much of your time sanding, carving and milling; in short, creating the amounts of dust that would make Sandman proud, a dedicated room inside your own room may not be what you’re looking for.
    The materials we use, will already give us much information about the type of space we need.
  2. The Size of Your Work
    Size absolutely matters. If you make tiny sculptures out of bronze, the material may be heavy, but the overall piece is small enough for you to carry it up a flight of stairs. Try this with a life-sized marble statue of a chicken and suddenly things aren’t going too well for you.

    When the work you make is large and cumbersome – no matter how light the material – you might want to look for ground floor options. If you need to use a forklift to move your pieces around, this is a no-brainer. Small scale sculptures are much easier to carry up and down, despite their weight.
    A rule of thumb is this: When thinking about having to carry your work (or your materials) up and down several times a week is making you break out in hives… look for a workplace on the ground floor.
  3. Are There Special Appliances You Use?
    Due to the materials that I personally use, I require both a fridge, a common kitchen oven and enough ventilation to deal with possible toxic fumes. Other people need a safe space to place their kiln. Your large wooden attic might not be the best area to fire up that piece of equipment. Unless of course, you’ve been planning to redecorate your house.
    If you wish to do your own bronze casting, this comes with a whole slew of safety precautions that includes your workshop’s interior. And lastly, some of the machines we use are quite noisy. Using them in a residential area is the less preferable option.
  4. Light.
    Just like painters need daylight to get an accurate sense of the colors they use, sculptors to need light to know what they’re doing. If you’re a stickler for natural light, you’ll want to get yourself a space with windows facing north. This way, you’ll get lots of indirect daylight, without the sun interfering.

    If you don’t mind, or the space you own/rent has windows facing another direction, some genius has invented daylight fixtures! And they’re heaven. Not only can you decide for yourself how much light you’ll want in your art studio – anywhere from ‘’I’m quite sure I left the floor hatch open…” to “honey, I’ve lit up the city like a Christmas tree!” and anything in between. But they keep you awake as well! Even during winter.
  5. Do You Need A ‘Wet Room’?
    Some of us make our own molds. We also like make our own casts with a number of materials. Considering the materials used in this process are liquids and – in the case of silicones – quite sticky, a question you’d want to ask yourself is if you’d like to have designated area for this? And if so: How big does it need to be? Perhaps a metal capped corner of your workbench is enough for you. Or maybe, you’ll need an entirely different room.
  6. Dust-Free Area
    Likewise, is it important for you to have a dust-free area? Either because your work contains milling and drilling, but you do not want other parts of your projects to be covered in dust. Perhaps because materials you work with are very sensitive to dirt. Or maybe because your workshop also has a photography- or exhibition area.
    Sculpting often is quite a dirty profession. You might want to spend some time thinking about what other activities make up your business and what their requirements are.

Some Final Requirements To Think Of

  1.  Ceiling Height
    It’s not the first thing we think about when looking for a workshop, but how important is ceiling height for you? For me personally: Very important. I can deal with limited floor space, but I need to be able to move my work around without having to worry that it is going to hit the ceiling. I like my armatures to be tall, so that they still provide structure, but not be in the way. And when taking pictures, I like to stand on top of a chair or table. Preferably without hitting my head.

    This may not be the case for you at all. But it is something to think about.
  2. Exhibition Space Or Not
    Finally, do you want your atelier to be more than just a workplace, or not? With enough space, some artists also use it as their personal calling card. They have a designated area where they display their art. This allows them to show their work in the most advantageous way possible. It’s a great way to show interested gallery owners, or potential customers and clients who you are and what you make.

    The downside is that you need quite a bit of space for an art studio like this. And if the average size of your work is the size of a skyscraper, you’re in for a bit of a challenge.
    In the end, the question is: Are the potential benefits worth it to you?

Time For Workshop-Hunting

So there you have it, a few questions to get yourself started. There are many more. Your budget, for instance. Not a variable you’d want to ignore. But when you have a clear image in your head of what you need to make your art, it becomes easier to search for that perfect place for you. Perhaps it turns out to be that luxurious apartment with a floor space that would make Louis XIV jealous. Or maybe, you’ll be quite content in the confines of a car. Only you will know.

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