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10 Things We Need in an Art Studio

Today I would like to talk a bit about the 10 things we need from an art studio space to move our art business to the next level.  

This question comes up a lot for us, as we have been searching for a way to maintain, or actually to expand our small creative business.  If you’ve heard from us before, you’ll remember that we were hoping to purchase a new site that would allow us the space, living conditions, and ability to grow our business into the future.  We worked from my parents home across the street for a while, and although the space was great, it was expensive, and wasn’t a place anyone would come visit.  We also have HOA restrictions on running a commercial enterprise from a residence in the neighborhood.  Makes sense I guess.

We started looking for real estate closer to Houston, and quickly realized that our budget would not stretch far enough to allow us to purchase anything suitable close into town, or even as far away from the city as we currently live.  We were able to find two properties that we loved.  Both were live/work warehouse type spaces with loads of room, and elements that were conducive to expanding our business goals.  Unfortunately, when we tried to secure a loan to bridge the gap in our financing, both places proved to be beyond our reach.  

So we’re now back where we started.  We have a home we love, a good 70 miles away from our Houston studio, and both are inadequate for our needs.  We generally can’t afford what would be suitable, and can’t secure a loan because we are freelancers with no guaranteed income month to month.

What then are our options?  I actually love problems like these, not because I’m a sadist, but rather that I love thinking outside the box and finding new solutions in unexpected places.

When we were looking for a property to purchase, we had three criteria that were indispensable.  First, it had to offer us a safe, comfortable place to live.  We had to be able to make it into a place we could call home, and offer us a reasonably comfortable lifestyle, and a place we would not be afraid to live in.  Secondly, it had to offer us plenty of space, both inside and out, to create and store our art, even large scale pieces.   And finally, it had to be a place where collectors and customers would actually come.  We could afford some very remote rural properties with plenty of space, and countries abroad in which it would be much more economical to live, but no one would ever make the trip to visit our studio.

So this is where we are today.  One option for us is to keep looking for the perfect property, and I’m sure we’ll continue to do that actively.  The other is to stay where we are, and figure out what we would need to do to make our house conducive to the needs of our expanding business.  That’s where we have created a list of 10 things we need from a studio, to see if we can find a workable solution.

  1. We must have a space that people will visit.  Where we are now, that’s not an option, not only because we are remote, but also those HOA restrictions we have to contend with.  Working from our home would require us to maintain studio space in Houston.  We have recently made the move to a much larger studio that Bogdan and I will share, which means that both of us will not need to drive into the city every day.  We can work from home often, and greatly reduce the amount of driving we must do.  So that’s a win.  The studio is a convenient, high end, amd safe venue that people are happy to visit, and makes us look more successful and professional in our business.

  2. We must have a gallery space to show our work, and from which to make sales.  The current studio at Sawyer Yards in Houston takes care of that as well.  There is enough space for us to create a separate gallery section that is distinct from the day to day workflow of running the business.  We can check that off our list as well.  

  3. We also need to be able to have enough space to host events; collector evenings, meetings, classes, exhibitions.  The studio in Houston gives us enough space for these types of events, and already has parking, bathrooms, and the infrastructure to make that easy, safe, and inviting.

  4. We need to have a dedicated space for running a small business.  Again, the new studio provides the space we need for computers, filing systems, delivery address, etc. that allow us to run a business effectively.

  5. Sometimes we need to be able to work outside.  At the studio in Houston, we can’t really do things like use power tools, spray paint a canvas, use smelly varnishes, lay things in the sunshine to dry.  If we worked from home, we would have enough space for those types of projects. 

  6. We need adequate space to create our work.  Now this is a problem.  While the studio in town is larger, it’s not large enough to accommodate both of us working from Houston.  We could however, use the money we intended to spend on purchasing a new home to remodel and renovate our current house to meet these needs.  As it stands, we have a garage space, and a large covered patio that could easily be enclosed to create studios for each of us.  We can afford those kinds of alterations, and that would give us a lot of flexibility for working creatively from home.

  7. We also need adequate storage of art supplies, seasonal displays, event and catering supplies, chairs and tables, camera and lighting equipment, as well as completed artwork inventory.  We do have plenty of room for that sort of storage here at home, and with the purchase of a new van on the horizon, we could transport those things to and from the city with ease.

  8. We have to have enough room to continue to run professional photography and video production services.  That means we need space to set up backdrops, lighting, tripods, video prompters, and a place to photograph artwork, people, products, and anything else that helps support us financially.  The studio in Houston gives us that space, as well as an easy address for people to come to.

  9. We also need space and equipment for video production and editing.  I long for the days when I could just step into a room that was already set up with lighting, backdrops, and cameras to create vlog, podcast and social media clips.  Having this set up in our home/studio environment is a must, and we have the room to do it.

  10. We need to have a place to live that is safe and comfortable.  We actually love our home, looking out to the lake, in a settled and safe community.  That issue is completely resolved if we stay where we are.

So what do you think?  Are we missing anything?  I believe part of the issue is that I’m not really good at hearing no.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate, respect, and acknowledge a road block when I see one, it’s just that I can’t accept simply quitting, or giving up on a dream when one door is locked. So I try another, and another, until I can turn a knob and pass through.  

I’m not entirely happy with the idea of working from home, and from a studio 70 miles away, but it’s probably the best solution for us at the time.  I hate the fact that I am bi-locating the business in such a way that we can’t completely run our entrepreneurial enterprise from either place.  I mean, if one location were to go away, we’d be in a mess.  I hate that part, but it also may give us some ability to respond to the strengths and weaknesses of both sites, and give us more flexibility as the world and market changes, as happened with the pandemic shutdowns.  I feel ok with the compromise, which means I can start to make arrangements for a remodel, and get back to work 100%.  Watch this space.  It ain’t over yet.

“Art Life Blog with John & Bogdan” is a weekly blog/vlog/podcast that creates a community, a conversation, between creatives in all sorts of fields at all sorts of levels.  We want to discuss what we’re learning, what we’ve experienced, and whom we’ve met in our journey of running a freelance creative business. John Bishop is a visual artist living in Houston, Texas. His work is largely abstract, and explores how to turn mythic, archetypal symbols into individual experiences allowing us to see them in a new way, with fresh eyes. Bogdan is a videographer and fine art photographer who constantly seeks to stretch the boundaries of traditional photographic work, with the added flare of his artistic eye.  Both artists’ work can be seen online, or at their studios at Silver Street Studios, 2000 Edwards Street, in Houston.

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