Thursday, December 12, 2013

My Studio

The workbench, 12 feet by 4 feet, with lots of storage
underneath.  My stash is partially visible on the right.
I love looking at photos of other people's studios--cool rooms with vaulted ceilings, huge banks of windows and designer furnishings.

My studio is in the "hayloft" of the blue barn behind my house, and has none of the features mentioned above.  Nevertheless, I love my space, and I am never happier than when I'm in my loft drawing, painting, sewing or just putzing around.

I have intended for years to clean up my studio and take some finely crafted photos to make it look better than it is, but that is never going to happen.  Sooo I've decided to put my studio, the ugly step-sister of studios, out there for all to see.

My space is upstairs in one end of our barn, in a 12-foot by 24-foot bowling alley of a room.  Because it is under the barn roof, it has a high, but sloping ceiling.  The room is insulated, and clad with salvaged corigated  metal on the two sloped sides, and sheet rock on the two flat walls.  I've always meant to paint the metal white, but it's been 12 years since my husband constructed the room for me, and so far, it's still raw metal.  The metal is magnetic, so it is easy to stick up photos, drawings, notes to self…anything that I don't want to lose in the clutter.

One end has a work counter which is really useful when I don't bury it in tons of stuff.  Because of the sloping roof, under the counter I have a space about 6-feet deep to store WAYYYY too much stuff.

My pink foam insulation table.  It was easy to build, cheap,
and works well for free-motion quilting.
The other end of my loft has my sewing table.  I used some pink insulation foam to enlarge the clear acrylic table that came with my sewing machine.  Now I have a huge, flat surface for free-motion quilting.  I painted the foam white, since I didn't want my studio to look like Barbie's Little Stitch and Sew, and then covered the whole thing, including the acrylic table with a clear, plastic shower curtain.  It was ALMOST slick enough to slide my quilts around on, but not quite.  So I sprayed the shower curtain with spray starch, and wiped it dry with a clean cloth.  I don't know what made me think of using spray starch, but it was probably the only spray I had that wasn't glue.  OH MY, do my quilts skate around now.  Some times I have to stick pins through the quilt into the insulation foam to keep them from completely gliding away from me.

The real pig sty of my entire studio is the counter-high table where I work with paints, glues, and small amounts of dyes.  I have a couple of those non-stick silicone sheets to work on.  They clean up really well.  Under the table I stow bolts of fabric.  I typicially only buy fat quarters to use in my quilts, but I do buy bolts of petticoat netting to use as a base for my machine appliqued quilts, bolts of tulle for zillions of things, and bolts of white cotton, canvas and muslin that I use for dyeing, painting, and other odd-ball projects.  Serious dyeing of yard goods happens elsewhere, because my studio doesn't have running water.

On the left you can see my design wall.  It is two sheets of 4x8 foot pink insulation foam glued to the sheet rock , and covered with a queen-sized piece of cotton batting.  Small pieces of fabric stick to it pretty well, and it is easy to stick pins into it.  Because of the sloped ceiling, the far end of my design wall has the corner cut off.  In spite of being 8 feet wide, I often wish it were bigger, as I always seem to be working on multiple pieces at the same time.   To give me more design/construction space I tape two sheets of foam-board together and lean them against the wall.  At any given time, the quilt on the design wall is the favored child, while the ones on foam boards are the problem children awaiting that elusive stroke of genius to salvage the mess I've made.

I used to have these really cool old industrial-looking hanging lights, but here in the gloom of the Pacific Northwest, in my north-facing studio, they just weren't bright enough.  My husband suggest I go to a place that specializes in designing lighting for industrial shops.  The guy I talked to told me artists need full-spectrum lights, placed in room spanning banks to get bright, shadow-less light.  He looked at the diagram of my studio, and got me all the bits and pieces he said I needed.  I paid him $300, and my husband and I brought the lights home and installed them.  (Well, my husband installed them, and I handed him stuff up the ladder, and made the tea.)  Today I have NINE sets of not-very-pretty lights, but I LOVE them.  (you can see one bank of them in the photo above.)  My room is bright, and there are no dark spots or shadows.  Of course, bright lights highlight the fact that I need to clean up my room, paint the walls, and probably replace the flooring.  All that light is also great for photographing my quilts…but not so great for photographing my wrinkly face!


  1. Thank you for this post and starting the SAQA yahoo thread. I shall reciprocate tomorrow! I am maybe a little jealous for although mine is bigger and finished and full of new cupboards, my insulation board only came in plain white. Bo-riing :)

  2. I love seeing a REAL working studio with piles and little messes- makes me feel like you are actually using the space rather than interior decorating it! Thanks Shelia- looking forward to seeing what comes out of your little blue barn!

  3. Thanks for sharing. Our work spaces are so important to us and yours is great!

  4. Looks like a great space to me. I like the way you made your sewing table with insulation board. Very useful! I will have to photograph my very messy, cluttered studio and post too.

  5. Great post! I may try the spray starch trick myself!

  6. A lovely space, a happy-looking space - the kind of space where lots of work gets done!

  7. Sheila: I'm going to be writing an article for a magazine (due out in Spring), and I'd love to include a photo of your sewing table made from rigid foam insulation. If you are willing (I'll need a high res photo, but your photogaphy and set up is perfect for what I need!), please write to me by via my website's Contact page--that way we can take this to email? THANKS!