While the hustle and bustle of city life can be inspiration for some artists and inventors, many creatives seek the natural, open spaces. Urban areas often inspire impressive street art, political or cultural pieces, and architectural wonders. These are all marvelous mediums, but still some artists might look to the hills or natural landscapes for creative inspiration.
Several visual art mediums are challenging, if not impossible, to set up in the city. While studio spaces are available, they are often small in size and may cost you the same, if not more, than an apartment’s monthly rent. If you cannot buy your own studio space, your landlord may not be as apt to installing a kiln or furnace to support your creative investment.
When assembling your dream creative space, start by putting together a list of your basic needs. Hopefully, if you are looking to invest in an outdoor-indoor studio space, you have some experience and at least a few of the necessary tools to set up your shop. The biggest challenge will be finding a space that fits your light, electrical, and dimension needs.
Whether you’re a professional looking for a place to start your own small business or you’re a novice anxious to pick up a new hobby, your new studio is sure to help you hit the ground running. Before the creative sparks begin flying, here are some ideas to consider.
Live Off the Land
One of the best parts about setting up a studio in nature is the opportunity to use native resources. Depending on your geographic location, you may find that many raw materials found in nature can be repurposed into your art.
Wood Burning and Carving
In wooded areas, search for fallen tree limbs or scout for timber to use for carving. Soft woods, such as pine or aspen, will burn more easily than hard woods and be easier to apply your design. You can purchase supplies for both wood burning and carving at your local hardware store.
If you have the acreage to grow flora, think about crops of seasonal flowers for arrangements. The market for fresh flowers is always blossoming; however, it’s a tricky business to launch due to the unpredictability of crops and the perishable nature of the arrangements. If you plan to arrange bundles to sell at a local farmer’s market and on holidays, the work may be laborious, but nothing beats the sweet smell of fresh flowers.
Textiles can be a beautiful touch to any home. Depending on how in-depth you want to go with textiles, consider using your outdoor space for natural dyeing of yarn or fabric. If you have no interest in dyeing, find relaxation in sewing, weaving, embroidery, or macramé. Choosing to dedicate your space to a tapestry studio may include rolling cabinets or shelves to hold yarn and keep spools separated, but it might also require space for a loom or sewing machine.
2-D Art and Design
One of the largest categories in the visual arts is two-dimensional artwork. This can include setting up a paint or drawing studio, photography lab, or space for digital arts.
Homeowners might repurpose an existing structure to allow in more natural light. Consider opening up a north-facing wall by adding windows to create the sensation of being outside while you work. If there is a sunroom in your new home, make use of the open air and natural light.
Wired or Wireless?
If you are longing for a tranquil studio escape, you might not need internet access. However, if you are exploring the digital arts and media, you probably want to ensure that your studio has the capacity for both electrical wiring and internet access, as well as room for a router and computer desk.
Easy to Access
Consider the route to access your studio. If your creative space is within your home structure, this won’t be an issue. If you are using a shed that is located off of the beaten path, consider how much and how often you will need to haul cumbersome art pieces and supplies.
The cold, earthy feel of the wet clay between your fingers just before it dries into dusty layers that sprinkle new fragments across the studio floor is therapeutic for many makers. The craftsmanship of pottery, however, does require a lot of space, supplies, and power – which is perfect for a rural or garage studio.
Clay Storage and Drying Racks
Before clay is formed, it comes in large, heavy blocks. The blocks can be cut into more manageable sizes using special tools, then rolled flat onto a slab and formed into smooth, beautiful pieces – but this requires a slabbing table. Pounding the slab can be a noisy process so you’ll want to make sure you do not disturb any neighbors. If you plan space and equipment appropriately, you might get a taller slab table to house the clay supply underneath until you are ready to use it.
After you have formed the clay into your desired pieces, you will need to allow the green clay to dry before firing in a kiln. Think about tall shelves to hold your drying clay until it is ready to fire. If you want to add color to your pottery by using glazes, you will also want to have adequate storage for your bottles of liquid glaze.
The best part about building clay pottery is getting messy. Be sure that you can have adequate space to set up your pottery wheel (if desired) and don’t be afraid to splatter on the floor and walls. You will need to mop daily any area that is prone to clay dust. More importantly, you will always want to wear a mask to prevent prolonged exposure to the dust particles that can accumulate in the lungs.
Kilns are necessary if you want to be able to use your ceramics for household purposes or as dinnerware. Kilns are extremely heavy and expensive, and they require a large power supply. For future maintenance, plan for hefty repair fees to a technician for service.
Glass blowing, or the art of manipulating molten glass in a hot furnace to shape beautiful designs, is possible at home, but should be done alongside a professional. Many specialty studios will teach you to blow glass safely, and you can also purchase necessary tools and supplies from their business.
Materials and Supplies
Glass blowing generally requires a furnace, a worktable, a yoke, and an annealer to slowly cool the glass after removing it from the furnace. Blowpipes, molds, and other metal tools such as crimps and shears will likely be necessary, depending upon your project.
As with any medium, safety should always be taken into the upmost consideration. Be sure to wear specialized eyewear to protect your vision and keep your studio well ventilated. Wear protective gear such as closed-toe shoes and safety gloves at all times when in your studio.
Materials and Supplies
The media you plan to use and the size of your sculptures will determine the space you need. Some sculpture pieces may require similar tools to glass blowing. If you are using metal to create an abstract sculpture, you may need a torch and other welding supplies. Be sure to practice safety first and always keep the area well ventilated.
If your sculpture pieces are larger than life, look for a studio with high or lofted ceilings. You might consider building the full sculpture in multiple pieces, then assembling them outside if the height is too overwhelming for your space.
Express Your Creative Freedom
Aside from ample outdoor space, there are many benefits that rural areas can provide for creatives. Rural and suburban areas offer the quiet tranquility away from the city, extra space to spread out, beautiful landmarks and raw materials for design inspiration. Natural surroundings provide a peaceful environment to bring your ideas to life in your home studio so your creative sparks can fly!
Melanie Theriault is a writer, counselor, and lifelong learner. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from Southwestern University, where she discovered her passion for fostering human connection through storytelling.