A Room of One's Own

posted on: November 10, 2009

The outside of my studio at Western Ave

"I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse, perhaps, to be locked in."
— Virginia Woolf

I really enjoyed working from home the last 4-5 years. I always had a separate room for my office, which meant we always had at least a two bedroom apartment or home and part of my income went to affording us a larger living space. The first couple of years I went through the honeymoon phase of working for myself by sleeping in as late as I wanted and working as late as I wanted, often times not even taking a shower or getting dressed before "going to work". I'd roll out of bed- sometimes off the couch from a late night of work the night before- and just sit down at my desk and start working, sometimes not even getting up to eat until well into the afternoon. I thought it was cozy and indulgent, but I found that I was never really ready to just run out for an errand or join a friend for lunch- and heaven forbid if I had to sign for a package- that was often an awkward moment at the door with just a robe on! Realizing that perhaps that wasn't the best way to work from home, my third year I made a point to only get on the computer after I had showered and dressed. Granted, there are still a few occasions when that doesn't always happen, but I've noticed that I feel much better and more productive when I've taken care of myself first. (Which reminds me to start making some tea before writing any further.)

"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well."
— Virginia Woolf (A Room of One's Own)

One of the drawbacks to working from home is isolation, (or if you have children at home, it's distractions). With the internet becoming increasingly more productive for working remotely, there's rarely a need to get out and enjoy the world or interact with other people. For some people this is great, for me, it became increasingly depressing. I found that the less I interact with others, the less tolerant I become. It's so easy to get locked in your own little world of what's right and wrong, up and down, without anyone else to check you on your judgement. So, to challenge myself and broaden my horizons, I decided to take on interns. Ironically, having interns come in twice a week actually made ME more productive and forced me to keep my home and office in "visitor ready" condition almost all the time, which created much more peace and sanity in my daily life. It was quite awesome, and I recommend it to anyone who is open to the idea. Everything seemed idyllic after discovering what was previously missing in my environment and I thought I'd always be able to work from home.

"Arrange whatever pieces come your way."
— Virginia Woolf

This summer my husband was granted the opportunity to become Faculty-in-Residence in the UMass Lowell Honors House (based on the Harvard model of living-learning communities) and it sounded like a pretty sweet deal: no rent, no utilities, a dedicated parking spot, even a few meals included! Of course, you often can't get something for free without making a compromise or two. I would have to give up my home office because there was no space in the residence for anything other than a bedroom, living room, and kitchen. I can't say that I was thrilled about this idea, in fact, I was close to depressed at the idea of giving up my big beautiful live/work space and trading it in for a dorm apartment.

"You cannot find peace by avoiding life."
— Virginia Woolf

Ever since we moved to Lowell, I had an affection for the Western Ave Studios and the lovely artists who indulge their creative spirits there. We actually met many wonderful local people- who have since become friends, simply because they participated in the regular Western Ave Open Studios event on the first Saturday of each month. So, naturally, when it was time for me to find a new home for my work, WAS was at the top of my list. (Click play on the video below for a stop motion tour of WAS, created by fellow WAS photographer Adrien Bisson.)



Luckily for me, new spaces were available where there had only been a waiting list before, allowing me to sign a lease and move in right away. At first, it just didn't seem cost effective or energy efficient to have a separate space away from home for my office, but when we had my office in my home- I was actually paying double per square foot over having it in the Western Ave space and probably using more energy because I wasn't sharing utilities with anyone else. The other nice thing about a studio is being able to have a space that is truly my own. Wedding season hasn't afforded me much time to work on making my studio visitor-ready yet, but I hope to have it ready by my birthday in April, so we can celebrate with a grand opening. I was able to do just enough painting inside and out to put a few prints up on the wall just in time for the annual Lowell Open Studios (which I didn't participate in because I was photographing a wedding) and was delightfully happy when I returned to find all of my business cards (aka Anne Ruth"mints") gone from my studio wall. What a wonderful thing for potential clients to find me and be interested enough to take my card even when I'm not there! I can't wait for the Holiday Open Studios in December when I hope to have my wall as I really want it to look! (Remember the sketch from last week's mobile monday?)

"I can only note that the past is beautiful because one never realises an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don't have complete emotions about the present, only about the past. "
— Virginia Woolf

It's so inspiring to walk past the studios of other artists on my way to work and be reminded of keeping passion and art in my work. The hallways are always changing with different colors and artworks to keep that little element of surprise alive every day. I look forward to evolving my business and myself as an artist through my experience of working from a studio at Western Ave, and I sincerely hope that when it is ready for visitors, you will visit me sometime so that I can welcome you in, offer you a cup of tea, and give you a great big a hug. ;-)

(Learn more about Virginia Woolf: A Room of One's Own.)

16 comments, to add [click here]:

  1. I love the work you've done on the exterior of your studio! It's perfect.

    And thanks for the link! :-)

    Adrien

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  2. It's great to read this post today. I woke up this morning and for the first time, forced myself to take a shower and wash the dishes BEFORE jumping on the computer. It's been only an hour and a half and I've washed and folded clothes, washed dishes, taken a shower and made myself pretty, prepared lunch for later, taken care of the dog, tidied the house... and now I'm sitting with coffee and reading your post and feeling hopeful:) Congrats on the new space!

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  3. CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!! I love the look of the outside, bet the inside is just as cool too!!

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  4. Congrats! Can't wait to see your studio space tomorrow!

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  5. Anna,

    Matt and I are looking for an office space right now. :) It has been a couple of years of dedicating a space of our home for the office., but it's time to move out. I loved your green color!! I have green on my home too. Lovely painting and style.. It makes me excited to see ourselves in a better space. Congratulations on making yours so special :)

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  6. Hooray! Isn't WAS fabulous? Glad you're enjoying it! As a stay-at-home mom, my studio at WAS is my refuge, I love going over there, and look forward to being able to spend more time there as the munchkins get bigger. (And I agree with Adrien - the exterior of your studio is fab... Will have to stop by sometime and see if I can catch you in residence.)

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  7. Great post Anne, I re-tweeted it because I know a lot of artists will find it relevant and interesting! Welcome to WAS and the energy that is an artist collective. I know you are already enjoying the resource of having other atists to bounce ideas off of, that's one of the most valuable things I've enjoyed at WAS.

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  8. Man I'm so glad I'm not the only one that has delivery man anxiety b/c I don't dress to go to 'work'. Er well did. ;)

    Gorgeous GORGEOUS studio Ms Anne! I love it!

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  9. Congratulations on your new space. Everything that you described in your post was exactly how I felt up unitl I got my studio in April. Best of luck with everything!!!! Again, so great that you are blogging again.

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  10. anne: it's soooo beautiful! and thank you thank you for the virginia w. excerpts ~ the one about arranging the pieces is exactly what i needed to hear today. congrats on the new digs! you're an inspiration!!!!
    amy.silverbox

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  11. Congratulations. This is beautiful on the outside and I am sure the inside will be amazing as well. Totally fits with your brand. Bravo!

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  12. eep I'm still in the "honeymoon phase" I guess, working from home working very late hours, no alarm clock, and there have definitely been a couple awkward encounters with the UPS guy ;0) thanks for calling me out and putting it into perspective.. i showered and got dressed before I went to "work" today just thanks to you ;0)

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  13. What a gorgeous space. Can't wait to see what's behind that green wall.
    I imagine it will be quite an adjustment, going from working at home to having a separate space. Best of luck!

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  14. I agree with so many things you said here! When I was in my new house Lat year I had a nice space to work but I definitely hadto take care of myself first before I became productive. I also felt like I had to get out & interract with people to 'begin' my day which led to a addictive starbucks habit. :) can't wait to see what you do with your space.. & thanks for the reminder about havoc people (interns) around to unofficially keep me accountable& focused. :)

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  15. Jackie10:22 PM

    *having

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  16. This is what I wish the Russell Industrial center could be for us. Not sure if you are familar with it, but it's a huge industrial complex turned to artist's spaces in Detroit. Unfortunately, it's just not well kept and has sort of become our grungy shooting space and back-up plan for really bad weather. This building you are in is so colorful, clean, and cheerful and full of postive energy. It looks like a wonderful place with a lot of synergy!

    Will this strictly be a working/meeting space or will you be shooting there too?

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