A Room of One’s Own

Es­tab­lish­ing a de­li­cious re­treat away from the house where you can bet­ter ex­plore your cre­ativ­ity.

Good - - CONTENTS - Words Sarah Heeringa. Pho­tog­ra­phy Ver­non Rive

Cre­ate your per­sonal re­treat

Many New Zealand women are ex­traor­di­nar­ily cre­ative – find­ing time to knit, felt, sew, write, upcy­cle, mo­saic, pho­to­graph, paint, col­lect, frame, col­lage, slump glass and a raft of other artis­tic and pro­duc­tive en­deav­ours. While some man­age to chan­nel their artis­tic pas­sion into a pay­ing ca­reer, oth­ers opt to squeeze art or craft projects into spare mo­ments, al­low­ing an out­let for what their day job doesn’t oth­er­wise pro­vide. Mean­while, a grow­ing num­ber of women are dis­cov­er­ing the ad­di­tional joys of hav­ing a ded­i­cated per­sonal space of their own – sep­a­rate from the main house – as a place to work, med­i­tate, think and cre­ate.

Mak­ing space

‘She sheds’, as they are some­times known, are women’s an­swer to the ‘man cave.’ These per­sonal spaces come in a huge va­ri­ety of sizes and styles, from pur­pose-built sheds to con­verted out­build­ings, re­pur­posed garages or cute retro car­a­vans. Be it a craft shed, read­ing nook, sum­mer­house, pot­ting shed or artist’s stu­dio, it’s about cre­at­ing a space that best fits your needs – whether that be rus­tic and rough, whim­si­cal and cosy, crammed with books, tools and in­spir­ing ob­jects or white­washed and stream­lined for max­i­mum tran­quil­ity and con­cen­tra­tion.

Where space al­lows, there are prac­ti­cal ben­e­fits to hav­ing your cre­ative space sep­a­rate to your home. Few houses have rooms free to be used as stu­dios, whereas small sheds can be bought in kit­set form, de­liv­ered ready-made on the back of a truck, or built on-site to your re­quire­ments for a frac­tion of the cost of adding on an ex­tra room.

In most cases, build­ing con­sents are not re­quired for build­ings that have a floor area of less than 10 square me­tres and that are lo­cated more than their height away from bound­aries and other dwellings. Car­a­vans can be even sim­pler to ac­com­mo­date – they mostly re­quire an area of flat land where they can be parked out of the way.

There are other sub­tle ben­e­fits to hav­ing a ded­i­cated artis­tic or craft area. We know our phys­i­cal sur­round­ings im­pact on our abil­ity to adopt a cre­ative mind­set. For in­stance, when get­ting into writ­ing mode I might go through a process such as mak­ing cof­fee or a pot of tea, set­tling into a favourite seat and per­haps putting on some am­bi­ent mu­sic. Like­wise, hands-on projects also re­quire you to en­ter both a phys­i­cal and men­tal space to al­low the cre­ative juices to flow.

Hav­ing worked as a jour­nal­ist, mag­a­zine edi­tor, au­thor and stylist I feel for­tu­nate to have grap­pled with cre­ative chal­lenges ev­ery day as part of my job. But work­ing in a cre­ative sec­tor hasn’t stopped me from want­ing to pur­sue other artis­tic and prac­ti­cal pur­suits at home – in­clud­ing a num­ber of craft and up­cy­cling projects that ul­ti­mately re­sulted in my book Re­claim That (New Hol­land 2015).

As any­one jug­gling mul­ti­ple roles knows, it’s not just about find­ing the time to cre­ate; it’s also about find­ing space to pur­sue var­i­ous projects. While work­ing on the book, I found hav­ing a ded­i­cated cre­ative space helped with both – en­abling me to make the most of limited time and for ideas to flow more freely.

Let there be mess

The cre­ative process is of­ten a messy one – there are ma­te­ri­als to col­lect and store as well as tools, in­spi­ra­tional images and ob­jects. It might in­volve sand­ing, paint­ing, pots of ink, panes of glass or bits of pa­per or fab­ric. There are times when you need to spread your ma­te­ri­als out, and times when you need to leave what you are work­ing on and re­turn to it later. The less phys­i­cal in­ter­rup­tion, the bet­ter you are able to pick up where you left off.

Kiwi artist Lisa Baudry un­der­stands the ben­e­fits of the cre­ative space. A free­lance com­mer­cial graphic and dig­i­tal de­signer, Baudry has worked in cre­ative in­dus­tries for more than 20 years and is cur­rently de­vel­op­ing unique tex­tile and wall cov­er­ing de­signs for the home­wares mar­ket. In 2013 Baudry and her hus­band de­cided to build a garage with space for him to do his thing, as well as a ded­i­cated stu­dio for Baudry at the back of the gar­den.

“I’ve rented a lot of stu­dios over the years and I have shared a num­ber of stu­dios, but it has never fully worked for me,” says Baudry. “For one thing, light­ing was al­ways a prob­lem – ei­ther dingy, or too bright and flu­o­res­cent. I’ve also found shared spaces to be quite dis­tract­ing. I need a lot of con­cen­tra­tion, with time to think, and com­ing out into my stu­dio is re­ally good for that.”

A neat re­treat

In­spired by the English di­rec­tor Derek Jar­man’s fa­mous wooden cot­tage, Baudry worked with a builder to get a de­sign that fit­ted her re­quire­ments. The re­sult is a cute build­ing of 10 square me­tres. A deck and over­hang­ing roof add ex­tra space out­side, while Baudry stained the tim­ber in­te­rior with a light white­wash. Know­ing sheds can be cold and that she would want to use her stu­dio at night, they filled the walls with an eco wool in­su­la­tion, en­abling the shed to be kept cosy with low-wattage heat­ing.

“It’s small but am­ple for my needs”, says Baudry. “The light is per­fect. Orig­i­nally I in­tended hav­ing a win­dow at both ends of the stu­dio, but didn’t in­clude one at the com­puter end be­cause I re­alised I wanted less di­rect nat­u­ral light on my screen. But I re­ally en­joy look­ing out of the ex­ist­ing win­dow onto the gar­den.

“Now my daugh­ter is at school I’m out here all the time,” she says. “It’s awe­some hav­ing a ded­i­cated space with my tools set up around me just how I want and even high speed in­ter­net. It’s what I’ve al­ways dreamed of.”

An ap­peal­ing as­pect of huts is their sense of re­treat. Be­ing cre­ative can mean ex­per­i­ment­ing and giv­ing your­self per­mis­sion to make mis­takes. Just as you need un­in­ter­rupted quiet to write, ex­plor­ing new tech­niques or de­signs is best done away from the skep­ti­cism of oth­ers or even the cu­ri­ous on­looker. Be­ing phys­i­cally sep­a­rate from the house can be an im­por­tant el­e­ment of this. De­pend­ing on space, sheds might be sit­u­ated just a few steps away from the back door or down a gar­den path.

Kōwhai, nikau palms and other na­tive trees and shrubs sur­round a stone path that leads to Baudry’s cre­ative cot­tage. “I re­ally like walk­ing out to the stu­dio,” she says. “Af­ter it was first built I was prac­ti­cally skip­ping down the path, I was so happy to have this space.”

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