I think everyone in our studio might have a different story/insight into their typical day in the studio, but
here is mine. I get up early about 7am (reluctantly) as we have to pack two boys off to school, make pack
lunches, and basically organise their day before I start mine. Once the boys are off, I take the dog for a
walk. This is a relatively new routine in my day as he is just a puppy. I take him into the studio sometimes
and as he gets older, hopefully a bit more.
I live quite near the studio, about a 20-25 minute walk or super fast cycle. I can walk down The New River
Walk which is a little oasis and reminds me of what season I’m in. It’s so nice to see to see ducks, cranes
and moorhens, I feel lucky to experience this in a city. Walking in particular is a nice separation between
home and work. I plan my day as I walk. We have a lovely deli around the corner from the studio, and
that’s my first stop. I can’t eat when I first wake up, but I can’t work without breakfast and coffee. I rarely
arrive in the studio before 10am. I feel I should get there earlier but in all these years haven’t managed it,
so should stop feeling guilty!
Like most folks, I switch on the computer when I get to work and check my mail. Sometimes if I feel like
I’m spending too much time on admin or being distracted by online temptations, I use the Pomodoro
Technique. It’s basically a 25 minute timer with 5 minute breaks. I allow myself a maximum of 2
pomodoros of mail and general time wasting. It also makes you get up and walk around after 25 mins. It’s
quite scary how quickly that time passes.
Most days I work on what I call my ‘play desk’. It’s actually 2 or 3 desks, where I have lots of art materials
from pens, pencils, inks, paints, stamps, cutters etc. I often work standing up here. I love that I can
make a mess here and it doesn’t matter. I have a red apron, I generally put on as this means I can wipe
my hands, dry brushes, and be less inhibited as I work. What’s important on this desk, even though I
generally have a task to complete is to experience some kind of unpredictability. I roughly know what
I have to do, whether it’s lettering or drawing, but by having an assortment of materials around, I can
experiment, play or go ‘off piste’ if I feel the urge. Trying to explain one’s creative process is not easy
but as I’ve been asked to give several lectures on it over the years and so I’ve gleaned some insights. I
worked out that I really enjoy the process of making things as much as the final outcome. Play is the most
important thing and also combining any experience I’ve had recently into the work, whether it was an
exhibition, film or a conversation with someone on the bus. It’s also important for me to keep moving to
the unfamiliar, that’s what keeps me interested in what I do.
I sometimes film what I do, I keep a camera and tripod handy, but I can’t do it too much as I find it
affects my concentration and freedom to work in that uninhibited way, it’s like having an audience.
I find it works best if I have it on slow timer, then I can forget it’s there. I am envious of the younger
generation who manage to make work, film it, blog it, photograph it. I find it hard enough just to make
the work without thinking of promoting it at the same time. I think our generation missed out on that
opportunity, I’m sure I would have embraced it when I first left college had that been the means of
I work through most of the morning until lunch. I wander over to a few folks in the studio, to have a
nosy at what’s going on, catch up on chat. It’s nice to see what people are working on. I can’t get round
everyone as that would take up the whole day, which wouldn’t be such a bad way to spend it! My agent
has a studio within the studio here, so I normally check in with them on jobs, gossip. We make quite a lot
of cups of tea in our studio. Everyone generally takes a turn, though of course some make it more than
others! Because we have at least 24 people in the studio, someone has a birthday every other week, so the
rule is to bring cake in to share on that day. We eat too much cake in this studio and too many Jaffa cakes.
For lunch, I mainly bring something in from home that I can make in the small kitchen we have here, or
I buy something from the deli. I try to go out once a week to a cafe, partly to stretch my legs but also for
social reasons to chat to the studio members who like to eat out.
In the middle of our studio we have a large refectory table. This is not only where we have lunch but
where folks put things for others to see, whether its sweets, books, discarded presents exhibition invites,
interesting mail art, student work that’s been sent, trashy magazines alongside highbrow art magazines.
I like that table, it’s like an interactive notice board.
In the afternoon, I do more admin, email, fiddle around and buckle down and start working again.
The afternoon session is always a bit more intense as I’m usually on a mission to get some work done
before I have to leave. (and I’m not so productive in the morning) In the days before kids, my most
productive time was between 4pm and 8pm. I still feel that is my most creative time, but practically
it’s a disaster. I normally have to leave the studio any time between 3.30 and 4pm to pick up the kids.
It’s always a wrench as I’m normally just getting into the swing of things and I have to down tools and
run out of the door. My exit from the studio is normally a bit stressful as I always leave it too late and
run around grabbing my stuff whilst I shout goodbyes. I quite often put some work in my bag with the
intention of finishing things off at home. I really shouldn’t bother, because by the time I collect the kids,
make dinner, do homework, walk the dog and sit down, I am incapable of doing anything other than
whimpering with exhaustion until my lovely husband gets home and cooks our dinner and helps get the
kids to bed.