Feeling Crafty? 7 Tips to Setting up a Home Hobby Room
“A room of one’s own,” author Virginia Woolf declared back in 1929 was a must if a woman was going to be a writer. Nearly 100 years later, I can’t disagree. If I want to write anything longer than a grocery list, I need to be A-lone.
Why just women? Well, because for decades, and I know I’m g-e-n-e-r-a-l-i-z-i-n-g, men have always had the room to themselves. Just being in a room somehow makes it all theirs. Meanwhile, for too long, women’s creative expressions have been relegated to the space between the laundry room and the kitchen.
However, Woolf’s wisdom goes far beyond writing. Whether they’re trying to craft a poem, a painting, a piece of pottery, or a peacock out of pearls, artists need a private workspace. Art can’t flourish in a room where your spouse is on the phone with a hard-of-hearing parent, while your third grader is learning to play clarinet, and Juno, the rescue mongrel, is squeaking his chew toy.
While we heard a lot about how to create a home office and a one-room schoolhouse during the pandemic, both certainly important, we heard less about the need to carve out corners for creating crafts. Yet, based on the soaring sales reports from hobby and craft stores, a sign that more folks were unleashing their inner artists, clearly the need for craft spaces is also on the rise.
To help those still crafting on the top of their washing machines, I talked to two successful artists and got their suggestions for setting yourself and your home up for crafting success.
Quilter Shannon Brinkley, of Leesburg, Va., leads quilting workshops and teaches a class on setting up a craft and quilt studio. “The key,” she said, “is to remove barriers, so when you have time, you can sit right down and get to work.”
Stacy Barter, a painter living in Winter Garden, Fla., devotes not only a room, but much of the five-bedroom home she shares with her husband to her art business. She uses the master bedroom as her painting studio; another bedroom for framing, varnishing and shipping; and a third to store frames, shipping containers, and paintings in inventory.
“Artists have to give themselves permission,” she said. “If you don’t take your art seriously, and give it the time and space it needs, who will?”
Whether you’re a full-time artist or weekend dabbler, a creative workspace with everything you need at hand, arranged beautifully can only make your work and your enjoyment in making it better.
Here are eight features Brinkley and Barter say to consider when setting up your home-based art, craft or sewing studio for success:
1. A dedicated space. A room with a door is ideal, so you can work without interruption, and can pick up right where you left off. A basement, attic or guest house works well. However, Brinkley adds, “not everyone has the luxury of an extra room. You have to work with the space you have.” If that happens to be the dining room table, make sure you can pull all your tools and materials out quickly and easily put them away.
2. A big flat workspace. Most artists and crafters need a large worktable. If you stand to work, pick one that is 36 inches high, or counter height. If you work sitting, say at a sewing machine, choose a desk-height table, 28-30 inches. Depending on your craft, you may need both.
3. Ample storage. A combination of visible and hidden storage works for most studios. Open shelving units with cabinets below let you display materials you want to see and hide the ones you don’t. Brinkley stores her quilt fabrics in an old China cabinet that’s had the glass removed. This lets her reach in and grab the fabrics, which are stacked and organized by color. Crafters who work with small materials, like stones, buttons or beads, can store them in clear jars. A peg board is another great way to recruit wall space to hold tools, like rulers, embroidery hoops and scissors in plain sight. Smaller items like paint tubes, thread, glitter and pins can go in labeled bins or drawers fit with organizers.
4. The right light. Good, preferably natural, lighting is important, especially if your craft involves color, or intricate hand work. “We all want that gorgeous natural northern upper light,” Barter said, “but you can also have too much light, so you want to be able to control it with blinds and enhance it with task lighting.” Operable windows can also help with ventilation if your craft involves glues and varnishes. If your work room is in the basement, where natural light is scarce, halogen light bulbs provide the next best light.
5. A comfortable chair. Whether you’re sewing, weaving, throwing pottery, or knitting, you’ll never put in the necessary hours if your chair is a pain in the derriere.
6. Hard flooring. Because most crafts are messy, hard floors are easier to clean and make it easier to spot stray pins and lose pieces, which can get lost in carpeting. Barter puts vinyl wood floors in her studio because they are turpentine friendly and make cleaning up oil paint easy. She also appreciates the slight cushioning vinyl wood flooring offers, which helps with all-day standing.
7. A design wall. A place to pin inspirational images or your work as it’s unfolding is a welcome craft room feature. Barter has what she calls a wet wall, a rack where she puts paintings in progress. Brinkley has a large (8’ x 8’) flannel wrapped board she uses when conceptualizing a quilt’s layout. Other artists have vision boards made of cork or magnetic sheeting. Whatever it’s made of, the artists agree, having a surface that lets you step back and see what you’re making is helpful.
Now go fire up that glue gun!
CAPTION: Creation Station — A combination of open and hidden storage, a vision board, and tools at hand help crafters unleash their inner artists at home. Photo courtesy of Dreamstime.