Choosing a Creative Space

With the self-employment demographic on a steady increase since 2001, more and more of us are carving out our own careers and going solo. Whether that be starting up a business venture or taking the plunge into the world of freelance, it can be a scary step to take. Many start out from the comfort of their own home and there are certainly understandable reasons as to why, others, like myself; source an external location in which to chase their set goals. 

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Working Environment

Pro's & Con's

Home Office

PROS

  • No added rental costs
  • Home comforts (a fully stocked kitchen at lunchtime, for one)
  • No commuting costs
  • No added facility fees (internet, electricity etc.)
  • 24 hour access

CONS

  • Potentially restricted on space (house size dependant)
  • Inviting work into the personal realm can be damaging when creating a healthy disconnect
  • Dependant on your profession would this suit the image you are portraying when hosting meetings?
  • With any home life comes the distractions that tempt your attention away from the job at hand
  • Are you based in a suitable location for what you're looking to achieve. Will something in your job require you to leave the house time and time again?

External Space

PROS

  • Designated working environment and the ability to physically leave home, disconnecting personal life from work and avoiding 'cabin fever'
  • Allocated space to store assets and property
  • A professional environment to hold meetings with clients, and a base that reflects your business
  • Location may be better suited than your family home. For me, my studio is opposite a road of fabric shops should I need an emergency supply. If I worked from home I would need to travel an hour's round trip for a spool of thread etc. 
  • A blank canvas. You needn't rearrange your study or living room to accommodate your workspace. It is also an added bonus to leave work left out overnight so you can pick up where you left off the following day.

CONS

  • Additional costs for rent, ameneties etc.
  • Some places may not offer 24 hour access dependent on their policies
  • Consider your commute, costing you further time and money
  • Security of the location will need to be considered
  • Postal convenience and logistics

 
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What to Consider

So you've taken the plunge and are on the hunt for a creative space to call your own. You've taken into consideration the pros and cons outlined above and have decided to proceed. The primary factor for me when sourcing the atelier was space. I had hoarded quite a lot of stuff during my time through university. Although my Dad's house comfortably held it in storage whilst I worked in the industry, it was never destined to stay with him and equally unfair to take the space in his home (I was 23 after all). So when I moved home to Cardiff I invested in my studio before I invested in my own flat, as essentially this was to earn my living and relieve my Dad of the clutter. 

When considering the size it is oh so easy to run away with ideas of a large, bright room with space to cartwheel - but it comes down to priorities. I found the building whilst sat at my desk in AllSaints knowing my time in London was unsustainable and already planning ahead for my future. The church itself is host to multiple studios all varying in size and quality. The cheapest of the spaces on offer are located in the basement, although the floorspace was of similar size, many had supporting pillars bang-smack in the middle of them, which was unsuitable for my needs of a large pattern cutting table. However, as witnessed, these suited artists perfectly who could manoeuvre around and simply needed storage for their easels and supplies.

Privacy was also a large factor in what I do. Not only working with Xandra Jane collections in advance but handling confidential client work through freelance, means the ability to have an enclosed space is rather important. I also like being able to work without disruption or noise when certain projects require intense concentration. I am aware of other creative spaces on offer provide only 'pods' in a more communal setting which wouldn't have be attractive for my needs. However, the sense of community that offers can of course be a wonderful positive. A local venue that does this to perfection is The Sustainable Studio

Another important consideration was natural light. This is essential. When working with detail such as black thread on black fabric or millimetre precision in pattern cutting, straining your eyes to meet your work is hard to maintain over a daily period. A creative career is visual, and therefore needs to be supported and enhanced by your surroundings. It is also integral when photographing work that we use as much natural light as possible to lend itself to post-editing. All our product shots are hung up on our white wash wall with the large church window casting light on them, to pick out as much detail as possible for your review when purchasing. Although the basement rooms had windows, they just weren't to this scale.   


 
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Questions to Ask

From the perspective of a fashion designer and my own experiences in relation to the site, my questions included:

Any issues with damp?

This was important in terms of damage to fabric, a building with damp can cause short and long term issues for storage and stock. 

Security?

Access to my studio is only available to those who have keys to the certain area of the building, and of course the studio itself only to me and the building manager for emergencies. I would like to see someone try and shift the industrial machine down flights of stairs and navigate winding hallways without the security cameras catching them. 

Other uses of the building?

My location used to be an art shop to which they have now converted the area to exhibition space and further studios. The exhibition space is free for me to use. At times they host movie screenings and live music which can lead to a little noise pollution, but more often than not I am absent from the studio at these times. 

Is my intended use of the space okay? 

Check with the landlord/manager if your intended use will be appropriate. For me, a corporate office space in a shared building would be unsuitable due to noise levels of the industrial facilities and occasional (frequent) music playing. You must consider those around you and the affect you may have as opposed to solely your own interests. It was also important the manager of my venue be comfortable with interns coming and going and any further keys potentially being supplied to those I take on full time. 

Payment and termination protocol

Many places may have a contract, others may be rolling month payments. It is also important to figure out the process should you decide to leave, how much notice must you provide? Should there be any further charges? How should you get out of the contract should the situation arise? 

Insurance

Always get your own insurance. Do not rely on that of the building, but it is of course worth asking their cover for reassurance purposes. What happens should there be a fire? Or theft? Considering all outcomes will really help you get a clear perspective on approaching the commitment when choosing a creative space. 

Emergency Contact

Establish who you can reach in times of need. Should there be an electrical fault, damage to the space or anything worse, be reassured you can contact someone with ease and have any problems rectified without issue. You don't want to be stuck in a flooded building with the go-to guy on holiday. Get at least two reliable contacts. 

Facilities

What is available at your location. Is wifi included in the price? If so would the wifi be strong enough for your needs? Find out added rates for electricity etc. Is the venue disabled-access friendly, does this matter to your business? 


 
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For me, the ability to physically travel to work and be surrounded by a space with the sole purpose for design, not only allows me to maintain any motivation and that all important invaluable aspect of routine, but really liberates my creative process and focus. I personally know if I kept my studio at home the eternal access to cups of tea and farm distractions would have an unavoidable impact on my business and freelance commitments.

When my partner and I decided to move out of my flat to save for something more permanent, there was no question in my mind that my creative studio was being left untouched. It really is a place to call my own, and the time taken to consider all aspects of my needs from these four walls, has paid off in the long run. I wish you the best of luck in your search and please do ask any questions if I can be of further help. Tag me in any discoveries on social media, as I'm sure like many others, I love a good insight into someone's home away from home!

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