We moved from Charlotte, NC to Portland, OR at the beginning of March 2020. Right after we moved, everything shut down because of the Coronavirus pandemic. I had studio space in the loft of our Charlotte apartment. We picked the Charlotte apartment specifically for the loft because it was the perfect size for a home studio. The loft was at the top of a spiral staircase - like it was straight out of a movie!
I knew I wanted to have a studio space outside of our home in Portland.
Ideally, I wanted to find a space in a building that housed other artists too! This would be a great way for me to meet new people and get out of the house regularly. I know that I can be a pretty serious homebody. Working from home full time meant I was unlikely to meet new people in a new city.
Well fast forward to March, and the first week we were in Portland I started googling and touring tons of spaces. The next week the stay at home orders went into place. So I stopped touring studios and decided to hold off on finding an art studio in Portland for a little while. With everything so up in the air, it made the most sense to wait a bit and see what was going to happen.
I set up my work table in a corner of our apartment and made it work.
We downsized from Charlotte to Portland assuming that my husband, Adam, would be at the office each day and I would be at the studio. Now we are both claiming corners of the apartment for our own makeshift home offices and trying to not make too much noise. It was more than a little cramped.
After a few months, it became clear that this situation was not sustainable.
I was spilling out into every corner of the living space. We never got to use the dining table because it was covered in stuff. Hugo, our cat, was stealing yarn all day long. I had to time when I could use the sewing machine around when Adam was not on a call. As a manager, it seems like Adam is literally ALWAYS on a call. The majority of my supplies were still packed away in boxes. I couldn’t find anything! I started researching how I could safely find and use studio space and four months after we moved, I found a studio!
Here are some of the things I was looking for in a new studio space
- Four walls and a door that locked
- Building-wide mask policy
- Sink in the studio for hand washing
- Minimal shared/communal spaces
- Affordable price per square foot
- Walkable or easily bikeable from my home
I Found a Studio Space!
When I decided to look at studio space again, there weren’t as many options as I wanted to make sure I had truly private space to minimize my contact with other people. After researching the studio spaces in my neighborhood I ended up finding a space that checked all of the boxes.
Here in Portland, there is a website called RACC that has information on artist studio spaces in the area. I also used Craigslist and Google and Facebook Groups to research what was in my area. There was really only one space that fit the bill and thankfully they had a space open when I called. It was perfect! My new studio is a fifteen-minute walk or a five-minute bike ride away. It even has a window!
Moving Into the Studio
After securing my space, it was time to break down my little corner and drive it all over! When we moved from Charlotte to Portland, we sold my car and are now a one-car family. We thought Adam would need the car to drive to work every day and we planned for me to walk or bike or take public transportation to get to the studio.
Since we have no idea what the next year or two will hold for us or the world or Adam’s current work from home setup, it was important to make sure my studio space was still accessible without a car. The car was essential to get me moved in and after about three trips from the apartment to the studio everything was moved over! The studio here in Portland is bigger than my last space so I realized I would be able to build a second work table.
Building New Storage
This phase of setting up my new studio was the most fun for me! I brought two tables with me from Charlotte - one that I built myself and a basic IKEA table. So I built a second table with a larger work surface. I also moved some shelving with me and set those up over the IKEA table for the office and shipping section of the studio.
The next phase involved building a new table from scratch.
I did the same thing almost two years ago in Charlotte when I built my first work table. My last studio was a bit more long and narrow and this space is more square. This meant the second table could have a larger footprint.
To build this table, I drew everything out and calculated what cuts of wood would be needed. I went to the hardware store and had everything precut in advance and assembled it in the studio. My background working at Anthropologie and the woodshop in college meant I was pretty comfortable designing and building a table from scratch. One day I would love to have a small woodshop of my own but that is a long way away.
Something I’ve learned over the past few years is that putting wheels on your work tables is a game changer! I might be prone to dropping pens, pencils, needles, pins, phones, AirPods, and more behind my tables… Wheels are key to retrieving dropped belongings!
One of my favorite features of the new table is the fabric library at the back. I built a shelving unit into one of the ends and use it to store yards of fabric. This is both very visually satisfying and allows me to see my fabric at a glance.
Finalizing the Layout
Because of the location of the main outlet, the ironing station needed to be by the window. I built a drop leaf ironing board up against the wall so it stores flat when I don’t need it. The narrow table I brought with me was a logical choice for my sewing machines. Since I started sewing masks at the beginning of the pandemic, my sewing machines need to be out all the time. In Charlotte when I was machine sewing infrequently, my sewing machines usually lived on a shelf and only came out occasionally. Now they have a permanent home.
I prefer to stand while I work so both of my sewing machines are standing height. I bought a computer stand for the standard sewing machine because I prefer that machine to be taller so I can see what I’m doing more closely. Both of my tables and my ironing board were built so they are a comfortable standing height for me.
One of the key purchases for my new studio was to buy foam floor tiles.
Because I prefer to work standing, I wanted something a little more comfortable for my knees. I also work barefoot (and generally prefer to be barefoot whenever possible). The built-in floor is a pretty basic wooden subfloor. Adding the foam tiles turned the entire floor into a giant anti-fatigue mat! I snagged some cute and cheap rugs off Facebook Marketplace to prevent the chairs from puncturing the foam tiles. I don’t sit often, but there is a bar stool near my tall tables and a small stool at my desk.
I took my time creating an organizational system that would work for me.
I already had a decent idea of where things would need to go for them to be useful based on what was useful in my last studio space. One of the things I added in my new studio was an additional pegboard over in my desk and shipping area. This pegboard has my small jewelry tools on it as well as my current jewelry inventory. All of my shipping supplies live above the pegboard making my packing process simple and straightforward.
Both of my tables have storage built in underneath.
I took the time to add a shelf to the old table. On the new table, I built a half shelf so that I could tuck the chair in all the way when I wasn’t using it. This has added a lot of storage space that is easy to use. I already had some bin storage that I brought with me but I purchased additional bins for a new shelving unit. My old IKEA Kallax that had cubbies built-in is now the TV stand at our apartment. I picked up some white bins for all of my yarn and other fiber.
I am incredibly grateful for the ability to have a studio space and to be able to use it safely during a pandemic. My building has strict mask policies and because all of the spaces are private, I rarely see other people in the building at all. It is about the same amount of in-person interaction as our apartment building.
- Having a studio building safety checklist was important to me.
- My new space is walkable!
- Taking the time to set up the storage areas and workspaces helped create a productive workspace.
- Put all your work tables on wheels.