LESSONS FROM THE MOVE: Your Next Studio

This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….”  For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines, and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.

It doesn’t get easier. The life lessons just keep coming, and that’s a good thing.

I hope!

Here we go again. I’m moving into a new studio later this month!

I got an offer on a new space last week. It’s the same space I was offered almost exactly a year ago, when events at my current studio nearly blew my sacred, happy space into smithereens.

Last year, it was so tempting. It’s a large old building in the middle of a field, a five-minute drive away. It’s one of two buildings next to each other, both full of artist studios, both managed by good people. The rent was affordable, it offered twice the space, and the co-managers really, really wanted me there. “We love your art!” they exclaimed. “We’ve always hoped you’d move out here!”

At the time, there was still hope for my old space. New management, new potential, in a once-shabby neighborhood that’s turning the corner, mostly due to a swanky new restaurant that opened a couple years ago.

Filled with hope that things would work out, I turned it down. I stayed in my still beautiful little space.

And here I am, a year later, one of only two artists left in the building, everyone else gone, one new biz moving in (eventually) and another biz space almost ready to rent out. The building is now managed by the owner. Major improvements are in the works. There’s already a beautiful new wood fence where jasmine used to bloom.

Trouble is, I already miss the jasmine.

The last 10 months have nearly driven me mad. The uncertainty, the noise (renovations and other noisy stuff), the lack of foot traffic because the coffee shop next door closed.  Mostly, though, the uncertainty. I’m pretty sure my rent was going to go up, too.

My wonderful little studio now feels like a cage.

I started looking for a new studio space, but everything was either too small, too expensive, too far away, or not easily accessible by the public. I kept hoping things would work out, but couldn’t keep the dread out of my heart.

Finally, I got the call last week that the exact same space in that big building was available again.

And this time, I leaped at it.

For one thing, I knew if I did have to move again later in 2019, these kind people may not reach out again. I was number one on their list of takers both times, and I’m not gonna blow that again!

Secondly, in addition to the advantages I mentioned at the beginning, there is a teaching space available in the building. My biggest hassle when I teach is gathering all the supplies and tools I need. I want to be prepared for every contingency, and in the end, I almost always leave something critical behind. Now this won’t be a problem, because my studio will be 30 seconds away!

Another artist already in the building assured me the building is well-managed, and safe to work in at night. Not the case at my former space, for the last year, anyway.

The additional space means I can move more framing supplies and display out of our cramped garage, which will free up much-needed home space.

But it’s still hard.

I will miss my “show window”, where people walking by could see my work any time, any day.

I will miss my view of public artist Bud Snow’s lovely mural just outside my door.

I’ll miss being able to run next door to grab a hot chocolate or coffee.

I will miss the “drop-in” factor, the people who just happened to come by, and became passionate supporters. In fact, people can’t just come into the new building—the entrance is locked. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just….different.

I will miss my husband being able to just walk down to my studio with the dogs, to take a quick walk around Julliard Park and look for minnows in the creek.

On the other hand, parking is free. (Street parking at my current studio is so tight, I paid to rent a space in a private lot.) There’s another open studio event I can now participate in annually, based on this new location. And did I mention classroom space?

The final realization is what nailed it for me.

Our art neighborhood is changing. It’s going a teensy bit upscale. Not big time—yet. But the writing is on the wall. A few buildings have changed hands, rents are going up, and that will be the kiss of death for many artists. Artists colonize “unsavory” spaces, because they are affordable. They also subtly change the neighborhoods for the better. Soon, the studios AREN’T so affordable anymore. And we move on.

So I believe I’m getting out while the going is good. Yes, I may regret it. But I’m guessing not.

As I look back, I’ve always believed my current studio is the best one I’ll ever have. One of my early mentors, textile artist Deborah Kruger, listened to me fretting about what would happen if I lost my second studio, almost 20 years ago. I said, “What if I have to move?! This is the best studio I’ve ever had!” And she replied, “Until your next studio.”

My next studio….

Some of us are fortunate to have home studios. I did, for almost 20 years. There were pluses and minuses. It’s hard to ignore the dishes when you have to walk through the kitchen to get to your studio!

I’ve had studios outside the home. I thought they were wonderful! Looking back, I can now see they were not easily accessible to the public. That’s a deal-breaker for me now. One was not private, just a space inside a larger room. That’s a no-no for me today.

And if my life lessons hold true, I will grow to love my new space. I will remember my old one fondly, but with no regrets. It worked until it didn’t work, and then I moved on.

My buzzy brain is still at work, though. So those of you who have had several studios, please chime in! How did you deal with such a major change? What worked out well, and what didn’t? What would you do differently about choosing studio space, if you knew what you know now?

Gotta go….several weeks of packing ahead. Wish me luck, and lots of wine!

 

LESSONS FROM THE MOVE Part Deux: Giving Stuff Away

My column at Fine Art Views on how to ease the pain of letting stuff go. Enjoy!

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