Making space: how to turn your home into a creative oasis

Dec 1, 2015

In:Creativity

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making space

“To have a sacred place is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room or a certain hour of the day or so, where you do not know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody or what they owe you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be.” Joseph Campbell

To me having a space that inspires creativity is half the battle (okay, maybe a third of the battle, along with making time and overcoming my inner critic). In all the homes I’ve lived in, I’ve tried to have such a space, though it’s not always easy. Sometimes I need to carve out space in a multi-functional room, and sometimes I need to work in less than ideal conditions. But I use what I have and always make sure that I have at least a small area dedicated to art making. Then I try to make it better, any way that I can. The more comfortable and content I feel, the easier it is to create the magic that I’m looking for.

Your home is a place of refuge, of relaxation, and comfort. It should be a place where, even if you’re not always actively creative in it, you are constantly being refreshed, revitalized, and inspired; where you are reminded of what’s important to you and encouraged to spend time in creative pursuits.

Does your home inspire creativity or squash it? Here are some things that have helped me make a good environment for creating, plus some suggestions that I’ve found in my travels around the web:

Space:

  • Have a dedicated space. Even if it’s a shared space (like the dining room table). Having a specific place to make art, or write, makes me feel like I’m valuing these activities as much as I value things like sleeping and eating. These are important things. Now I have almost a whole room to myself but in previous homes I set up a craft table in the living room (and was very thankful to roommates who were okay with this) or parked my writing materials on a small table with a view of the front lawn. When I would walk by these spaces, I was reminded of the projects I had on the go, and when I sat down I felt like I was ready to focus my energy. A friend of mine turned a closet under the stairs into an art studio when she was living with her parents – it wasn’t very big but at least it was hers.
  • Optimize a shared space: If you can’t have a space dedicated to what you’re working on, at the very least find a way to store your materials so they will be close at hand. Put a box of art supplies on the shelf next to the table, or use a tray that you can carry from room to room.  Your supplies need to be easily accessible or you won’t bother to haul them out when you get the urge to create. Even if it means getting creative with your organization, you need to find a way to make it work.
  • Encourage creative multi-tasking. Keep a colouring book and some markers, or a knitting project, by the TV. Post some paper on the fridge for doodling while your water boils. Keep a notebook by your bed to write down story ideas or your dreams. Using a few minutes here and a few minutes there can help keep your creativity flowing, even when you don’t have a lot of time. making space
  • Allow mess. Don’t let yourself be hindered by worries about staining carpets or ruining furniture. Create a space where you can get as messy as you need to, by laying down drop cloths and covering furniture. I know that when I have to be careful while working on something, it tends to hold me back, making me more tentative and hesitant when I really want to let loose.

Inspiration:

  • Surround yourself with inspiration. Minimalists need not read any further. My house is, and always has been, filled with a curated collection of art, souvenirs, and antiques. These things might look like clutter to some, but to me they remind me of interesting places and energize my spirit. Even if you don’t fill your whole house with interesting objects, choose at least a few items to decorate your creative space and help you get into the right mindset.
  • Collect beautiful books. I also keep a collection of inspiring books. When I was travelling for 10 months I didn’t miss my clothes, or my car, or my kitchen supplies. I missed my books. My collection helps to ground me and remind me of what I truly love. When I was away, I longed to leaf through them and be carried away on clouds of inspiration. Now I try to flip through them regularly.

making space

  • Make an inspiration board. If you don’t have a lot of space for collecting objects or books, or have a more minimalist aesthetic, assemble an inspiration board that you can pull out when you need to be reminded of images and ideas that really get you fired up. Here are some great ideas for how to do it. If you can, put it in the space you spend the most time in so that inspiration will always be top of mind.
  • Designate a creativity corner. Have a little tiny spot where you go to recharge and fuel your creative engines. We have a room off the side of our living room that has been designated the garden, because it’s full of plants. Matt has an altar there with precious objects that bring him peace, and I have a little nest with pillows on the floor, a shelf for all my library books, some candles, my Tarot cards, a soft blanket, and headphones for listening to classical/ambient music. When I snuggle down into it, I almost immediately feel relaxed and open. 

making space

Conditions:

  • Bring in lots of light. Even if you are working in a basement with tiny windows, use lamps to create the light you need. The sun goes down around 4pm here in the winter so when I was living in a bachelor suite I had 5 lamps in the room because I was tired of feeling like I couldn’t see clearly. When a room is well-lit, either through natural or artificial means, it makes it feel more open. And openness is a key component of creativity. In our house we use a lot of full spectrum lighting that mimics sunlight but if you prefer the cozy, yellow colour, get incandescent bulbs.
  • Add greenery. Studies have shown that having a view of nature while working helps to relax and focus the mind. If you’re not lucky enough to look out over some trees, or winter has put a damper on local greenery, bring in some house plants. Find ones that don’t require a lot of care and, if you don’t have a lot of natural light, ones that don’t mind being in the shade. If you’re already thinking of buying full-spectrum lights, however, you can have plants thriving in any dark corner of your house.

making space

  • Make your space nap friendly. I find that naps are an important part of my creative process. When I’m stuck in a project I’ll either go for a walk or have a nap. I usually sleep on the living room couch where there’s lots of light, so I don’t sleep too deeply. I also have two soft, fuzzy blankets that make my nap extra delicious. Collect pillows to lay down on the floor if you don’t want to use the couch, and find a blanket that just makes you go “ahhhhh…..”
  • Think about colours. Blue is supposed to inspire creativity while red inspires focus. Think about what colours make you feel good and energized and excited to make something.
  • To clean or not to clean? You want your space to be the right level of cleanliness for you: not what your favourite blogger says is the right level of cleanliness. Some artists need mess and a little bit of chaos to get into the zone. Some people need pristine work surfaces and everything in its place. I like things to be tidy, but I refuse to clean up in the middle of a project, which means that I’m often burrowing through piles of paper and tools to get to my work. After a period of intense activity and stress, I cherish having time to clean my house and put things in order. My art/craft table gets cleared off, my supplies are put away, and there’s space to move around and to start on the next project. Decide what level of cleanliness works best for your brain and stick with it.

What’s one thing that you can do this week to make your home more conducive to creative energy? Leave a comment below!

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