tips on self-build for a home studio - plus behind the scenes process
For my first blog post on my new website I’m providing you with some advice and tips if you are thinking of planning your own home studio in the future, as well as showing some behind the scenes of me at work in the studio. My friend Carolyn Carter took most of these photos and included them in her own blog post here.
The making of a home studio
I’ve been in my studio for about 4 years now, and it started as somewhere I could slip-cast my large vessels. During the last two years my work has been shifting and I now almost exclusively throw porcelain on the wheel.
There was a lot to think about when we first decided to convert our conservatory , which was too hot in summer and too cold in winter, into my current garden studio adjacent to our home. (5 long by 2 m wide). It is on the site of a former conservatory which was too hot in summer and too cold in winter to be of any use. As it was built on an existing small plot (5m by 2m wide), it wasn’t necessary to gain planning permission; it was built out of timber frames and is classed as temporary structure, but we did need building regulations as we made some slight changes to the footprint. It has this lovely cedar cladding; as well as windows facing the garden it has two Velux windows, and a door with half a glass pane. It has a separate kiln room for safety which used to be a downstairs toilet. This is now sealed off from the home completely and the studio has its own front door:.
If you are designing a space from scratch you need to think about your priorities for the space and what is most important for you. My key things were a light space, space to work and store my items.
As my studio is fairly small, I wanted to give the illusion of space by painting the walls white and maximising natural light available. I always find it better to use natural light rather than artificial light when I’m working, though that’s not always possible during the winter.
I needed basic elements of water, electricity and also wanted to have heating in there. Running water is essential for for clearing up my ceramics (using clay gets very messy), as well as lubricating the clay during throwing and we installed a sink trap so that the clay doesn’t clog up the drains.. We employed an electrician to install an electricity supply for the kiln as it can’t run off traditional mains. As the studio was built at the same time as we renovated our kitchen we were able to extend the underfloor heating in that space too. The heating is a bit of a luxury, but is a great space saver and it never gets the cold in there which most potters normally have to suffer working out of a shed or a garage.
I maximised the work space with built in work-top underneath the main windows and I also have a work space adjacent to the sink so that I can glaze my work whilst standing. There is also space to store the glazes, and glaze materials underneath this.
Storage was a key consideration, so I had extra shelves in the kiln room, as well as shelves to store the work as it dries before firing it.
In terms of storing my tools I have a peg board which makes good vertical space storage, a metal knife rack on the wall as well as some tubs hanging off a pole (from Ikea). Other than that I keep quite a few tools in ceramic pots I’ve made myself.
For anyone considering having their own studio it really is a game changer in terms of your productivity. If you are thinking about your own home studio - you need to consider space and available utilities. It might be that you can use an existing space and just convert it rather than rebuild.. Having running water is probably essential for quite a few crafts. Having space to make and store your items is probably key to most people so a disused garage or an out-house could maybe be used. There are also self-assembly sheds which can be purchased off the internet which I know are a relatively cheap alternative to a brick built structure if you have space in your garden for one. Many new homes now have a small bedroom which could easily be converted into a work room.
I used to work out of a share studio and off the kitchen table. I’m not sure a dedicated workspace has encouraged my creativity, but it certainly reaps rewards in terms of productivity. It is also a bit of a luxury if I don’t want to clear up one day and it gives me lots of space to spread out.
The journey of clay
I hope you enjoy the photos taken by Carolyn showing the stages of making a simple pot; how it starts as a ball of clay; add the magic of water, hands and a wheel and something very special happens… This series of images show some of the different stages in making of two different simple pots. Opening up the ball, raising the walls and turning the pot (removing excess clay from the base).
If you have any questions about how I built the studio or about my process please get in touch.