No, not literally. I do not light candles in my studio. Or my office. Or in the house, in fact. I used to, once upon a time. But then this kitten came to live with us–this kitten with the most amazingly huge fluffy bottle-brush tail you’ve ever seen. It’s unbelievable, this tail of 3-inch-long fly-away fur, and she’s always getting stuff caught in it–lint, bits of fabric, thread, her toys. She lashes it around, trying to see what’s gotten tangled in her fur, and, well: you can imagine what would happen if she jumped up to investigate a glowing candle and whirled her tail into the flame.
So no candles. But when I talked last week about lighting candles instead of cursing the darkness, the idea that was sparked by my podcast with Becki Smith, I was serious: I really do need to find more ways to make my home studio–and everything around our house and yard–into an oasis of creativity to combat this on-going, deadening, horrendous drought. Not to mention the general creatively-non-supportive atmosphere of this entire area. Perhaps you might want to do some virtual candle-lighting of your own, so I thought I’d share my explorations.
The first thing is to figure out what you need around you to be creative. For me, that means I thought about what it is that gives me energy. I have tons of ideas, so I don’t so much need to surround myself with inspiration; I need to surround myself with things that give me the energy to work for hours alone by myself. So I made a list:
1) natural light and lots of it
2) mostly quiet but with some natural sounds: birds, wind chimes, water
3) color–the more and brighter, the better!
4) and not much else
For me, #4 is key: I don’t like distractions or odors or human/machine noises. I don’t like to work with music or–heaven forbid!–movies or tv noises in the background. I don’t like things that take me out of my head and force me to sniff out something that smells like gas or smoke or weird sweet perfume or exhaust, and I don’t like the faint sound of voices with words I can’t quite make out, and–well, I’m kind of picky about not having stuff interfere with work. But I do love the sound of, say, birds, which brings me to #1. We have big trees and water in the yard (we keep shallow bowls of water for the herd of tortoises who live back there), so there are lots of noisy birds. I love wind chimes, so I have those hanging near all the windows.
Light is really important–I can’t live in rooms without windows or with heavy draperies over the windows. Because we have an 8 ft. fence around our backyard, the windows have no curtains over them, and light streams in all day long. If you need natural light, think about how you can have minimal curtaining or maybe shades that roll all the way up during the day. Clear away furniture or lamps that block windows. Maybe adding a storm door will allow you to open your door during the day and let more light in that way. If, on the other hand, you do better with less sunlight, think about what kind of lighting works best for you. I used to know a woman who kept her rooms dim, with the windows shut and the curtains drawn, but she filled those rooms with little scattered lamps draped with silk scarves in warm, glowing colors. Use low-watt bulbs to minimize the heat and chance of fire, of couse, and be careful about shade height (to put plenty of room between even a low-watt bulb and any flammable material). With this kind of mood lighting and a few strategically-placed task lamps, you can have plenty of light by which to work even if you don’t love sunlight.
Color. I’ve painted all the walls of our house in flamingly bright colors. The only room with any white left is the front bathroom. There the walls are red from the middle down to the floor and white above, with a white ceiling. I like that in a bathroom because it looks so clean, but white walls in other rooms? A sure block to creative thinking for me. I love oranges, golds, golden yellow, hot pink–warm, luscious, rich colors. You might love deep blue, aquamarine, sea green. Take some time and think about what colors get your brain buzzing with ideas and energy. If you need to, buy swatches of inexpensive fabric and pin them to the wall you see most often in your studio. Try red for a week, then taupe (shudder: taupe walls would kill me, I swear. But you might love them!), then a soft yellow, then a blazing orange. What works for you? If you can’t paint your walls, you can stretch fabric or hang it from rods. Maybe you can paint thin plywood panels and lean those against the wall–find out exactly what your lease allows and figure out a way to work within those restrictions.
Some other things I’m thinking about:
~~Ideally, a creek would burble through our backyard, right under my window over there. Alas, in the desert, that’s about as likely as a forest of oak trees, so I have to make do some other way. For a while, I had a fountain in the studio, and that was really nice. But I had to keep adding distilled water to it, and then the motor for the pump went out. I was going to buy a new one, but any unnecessary use of water at all feels wasteful, so I’m checking out various iPhone apps. There are some that are fairly realistic, like Ambiance. My favorites there are Black Forest Fountain, Outdoor Fountain, and Trickling Water. There are also some fairly decent wind chimes there: Wind Chimes, Large Wind Chimes, Glass Wind Chimes, and Metal Chimes. (You can get the app for your iPhone/iPad, desktop, or Android.)
~~In addition to lots of natural light, I like sparkle and twinkle: I’m a magpie at heart. When I can find some, I’m putting up more twinkle lights in the studio (almost impossible to find for a reasonable price once the holidays are over). I’ve got some glitter stars I made years ago (chipboard painted with gesso and covered with cheap silver glitter) and am going to make some more to dangle from the newly-painted-golden-yellow ceiling in the sewing studio. Strings of tiny round mirrors hang from the chandelier in there–I think I need some of those on the front porch.
~~We’re attempting, once again, to grow sweet potato vines. I’m undecided about that: it requires water, and I can’t bring the vines into the house because of the cats. But it’s something green, and we need any of that we can get. We’ll see how this particular adventure goes.
If you’ve got ideas for creating your own oasis, we’d love to hear about them~~
Ricë also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.
MORE RESOURCES FOR MIXED MEDIA ARTISTS