Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Andy Warhol did it in his rented Manhattan studio. Oscar Wilde did it in the reading rooms of the British Library. JK Rowling did it in the cafes of Edinburgh. The only limit to where you can craft your masterpiece is your imagination. We asked freelance creatives from a range of disciplines where they work and why…

Home is where the art is
It’s not hard to see why many creatives work from home. The coffee flows freely, you can keep your own hours and, if so inclined, you never need change out of your pyjamas. But beware – proximity to housemates, family and the kettle breeds distraction. “When you’re at home there’s always another cup of tea to make, there’s always a little household chore to do, there’s always something else you can do before you start writing,” says comedian Meryl O’Rourke, who writes at a desk in her living room. “Also my husband’s got a horrible habit of walking in and out and not really regarding it as work. If he can’t see me typing, he doesn’t realise that I’m thinking and I’m trying to work something out.”

You can avoid this by creating a separate workspace within your home. Renting a live/work unit in a converted warehouse, an increasingly popular choice for young artists, would give you more room to do this than would a typical than a house or flat share. If you have outdoor space you could take your cue from digital artist Nettie Edwards who built a wooden shed in the garden to use as a studio. “I find it a very relaxing place to be,” she says. “At night when I shut the door and come up to the house that’s it.”

Working from home can be a lonely pursuit. Renting a desk or a studio in a shared workspace provides ample opportunities for networking and collaboration but it will cost you, in time as well as money. Designer Kimberly Golding, who runs an up-cycled babywear company, Mini Magpie, concluded that the two-hour round commute to a rented studio wasn’t worth it. “I just don’t like the idea of wasting time going back and forth,” she says. “My time is really, really important.” And with a two-year-old son to look after, Kimberly doesn’t have time to spare. But, inspired by coworking spaces she used while living in Berlin, she is exploring alternatives: “I’m working on a business plan for a project for parents who are freelance to have a space that also has a crèche for their children,” she says.

If you can’t afford to fork out extra rent, there’s a place where you can have desk space absolutely free – it’s called the library. Journalist Nell Frizzell favours the Women’s Library in London for its “very, very quiet” reading room. The only drawback is the woeful absence of caffeine.

Cafes (or fast food joints)
For some creative practitioners, cafes have that winning combination of Wi-Fi, white noise and refreshments the library down the road sorely lacks. “Cafes have to be alive, but not distractingly loud. Not cramped,” says writer Sapphire Mason-Brown. “Music is a no-no, and it kind of helps [if] there are other people working.” Until the overly loud soundtrack and the temptation of chips got too much to handle, Meryl O’Rourke found working in McDonald’s gave her some great writing material. “The people you get coming into McDonald’s are quirky – you see characters in there. It would actually be quite inspiring comedy-wise, because I would see horrendous parenting skills and wide boys and builders and things like that.”

A mix of all or some or none of the above
Curator and artist Lucy A. Sames of Kiosk Collective switches between her home, her studio and the gallery where she works as a programmer, depending on a variety of factors, including (in no particular order) how tidy, busy or noisy each place is, whether it’s raining, whether she has a meeting on and what tasks she has to do that day. Which goes to show that, whatever your discipline, creative work involves a range of activities – from thinking of new ideas to researching them, to holding meetings or rehearsals – each of which has its own requirements. Where you choose to do these ultimately comes down to a blend of economics, time management and plain old personal preference.

Useful resources

Public libraries 
Find information about your local public library.

Website aimed at 16-25 year olds where you search for empty spaces to use for rehearsals, meetings, performances, exhibitions etc.

Spaced Up 
London letting agents specialising in rented live/work warehouse units and studio spaces for artists.

The Hub 
An international network of coworking spaces, particularly aimed at people whose work has a wider social benefit. Membership starts from £10 per month.

This article originally appeared on IdeasMag.

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