Getting My NYC Legs

Transitioning from working at an in-home studio to an out-of-home studio has been interesting.

There has been a learning curve.  Oh my, yes, has there ever.

Which, to be honest, caught me off guard, as I have had prior experience working in out-of-home, communal studios before (Dynamo, and Emily Carr University).  Guess I got so used to the creature comforts of working in-home that I didn’t realize I had forgotten how to function like a person with an out-of-home job.

For the past 12 years I was able to roll out of bed at 9am, throw on yesterday’s clothes (or not – sometimes I worked in my pajamas), eat breakfast, toss a load of unbleached cotton in the washer to be used later that afternoon, and get working in the studio by 9:30am.

These days, “going to work” has a whole different connotation.

Now, like many other people with jobs outside their homes I have to physically travel to my place of business.

Now, I have to plan ahead for the many minute details of my day.

Now, because I have to venture out in the world to access my studio – and, gods forbid!, be SEEN by other people during the day – I kinda feel like I need to give my work-day appearance a little more consideration than I used to.

I Was Going to Have to Make Some Changes

And it must be admitted that I was resistant to these changes.  Changes that required me to adjust my very-set-in-stone routine.  Changes such as getting up earlier so that I could incorporate showering, dressing and packing a lunch before I even set foot out for my studio.

In the first month, organizing myself to get out and on my way was akin to herding cats (and, dammit, just as frustrating).  There were very few days that went by when I didn’t feel rushed, like I was going to be late for work [trust me, my boss is a taskmaster and I’d hear about it all day long if I wasn’t on time ;-)].

Inevitably, in my haste I’d forget something that I needed: my lunch, my phone, the power cord for my computer.  On the days I did remember to bring my lunch, I often forgot the necessary utensils to eat it with [gah!].  None of these issues were the end of the world, but they did interrupt my flow.  I felt like I was stumbling around awkwardly, not yet having found my out-of-home studio NYC legs.  What I needed was to implement a way of navigating my new studio routine.

The Key to Re-framing My NYC Studio Experience

The key to re-framing my new out-of-home studio experience hinged on my daily time-blocking schedule.  For some reason I was trying to adhere to the time-table I had developed based on my old, in-home studio routine; a routine that didn’t take into consideration factors like first-thing-in-the-morning-personal-hygiene and preparing food for a full day away from a kitchen.  Once I accepted the notion that I had to make a few changes to my schedule, my mornings started to flow, and feel, much better.

The first thing I did was to re-jig my time-blocking schedule and allot a chunk of time just for preparing to GO to the studio.  This simple shift took away the pressure and stress, and gave me the permission to take my time getting ready to go out the door.  I now find getting ready to go to work enjoyable, and forgetting necessary items is no longer a common occurrence, but a rare one.

The second thing I did was to purchase a few small appliances for the studio space:  an electric kettle and a mini fridge.

The third thing I did was to collect and keep a dedicated set of eating utensils and a paring knife at the studio.

All of these minor adjustments went a long, long way towards increasing the comfort and flow of preparing for and working a full day in the studio.

Am I Still Missing My In-Home Studio?

Absolutely not.  The waters may have been rough in the beginning, but the benefits of having an out-of-home studio space – especially one in a building that has a large, diverse artist community – far outweigh the minor inconveniences that I needed to adjust to.

The obvious benefit, of course, is meeting and starting to build connections with other artists that you get to interact with in the building on a daily basis.  The atmosphere of isolation when I was working in my in-home studio in Vancouver was massively discouraging.  It feels amazing to sense that I am no longer ALONE.

Reis hall

There is a vitality here at Reis Studios that is palpable.  Even though many artists here choose to work with their doors to the main hall closed, there is still audible evidence of their production: canvas stretchers being made, paintings being hammered onto the walls, music being played and, (from my studio) the whirring of a sewing machine.

We’re all here, present.  Putting in our time, practicing our practice. All that raw, creative energy is ricocheting off the walls, down the halls, and through the venting above everybody’s doors.  It’s damn inspiring.

There just isn’t a substitute for that kind of collective energy.

I know it’s only been 2 months, but I can already tell you that even though working from home has its benefits, from this point forward I will always want a shared studio.  Whether it’s a more communal space with a few other artists, or being part of a much larger community such as Reis, the sense of kinship is what makes us thrive, artists or otherwise.  Now that I’ve re-experienced shared space (especially as a tenant and not as a manager like at Dynamo), I don’t ever want to go back to working in isolation.

Have you had both the experience of working in isolation and working in a shared community?  Which do you prefer?  Please feel welcome to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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4 Responses to “Getting My NYC Legs”

  1. Jake says:

    I keep a GOOD knife, fork and soup spoon in my desk, so all the chumps in the Tea Room with their plastic utensils gaze upon me as their Gustatory God. Also deodorant, toothbrush/paste and dental floss. A God must smell pleasant. Can’t wait to see your new workspace!.. that is, if there is an opening in the tour schedule.

  2. Erin says:

    Wonderful story, Jody! I love how something that seemed so intimidating and unfamiliar at first has become such a major source of inspiration!

  3. matt says:

    Home studio – I’m all about not collecting “stuff “. Home studio helps in this regard. Though having a proper studio would have its advantages.

    I would need discipline – like Tom Sachs
    http://vimeo.com/m/34901903

    • That video is priceless. Thanks for sharing, Matt. When I get in a position to hire art assistants, I am so making a code. Though I can’t imagine it ever being as good as Tom Sachs.

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