“I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse, perhaps, to be locked in.”
— Virginia Woolf
I really enjoyed working from home the last 4-5 years. I always had a separate room for my office, which meant we always had at least a two bedroom apartment or home and part of my income went to affording us a larger living space. The first couple of years I went through the honeymoon phase of working for myself by sleeping in as late as I wanted and working as late as I wanted, often times not even take a shower or get dressed before “going to work”. I’d roll out of bed- sometimes off the couch from a late night of work the night before- and just sit down at my desk and start working, sometimes not even getting up to eat until well into the afternoon. I thought it was cozy and indulgent, but I found that I was never really ready to just run out for an errand or join a friend for lunch- and heaven forbid if I had to sign for a package- that was often an awkward moment at the door with just a robe on! Realizing that perhaps that wasn’t the best way to work from home, in the third year I made a point to only get on the computer after I had showered and dressed. Granted, there are still a few occasions when that doesn’t always happen, but I’ve noticed that I feel much better and more productive when I’ve taken care of myself first. (Which reminds me to start making some tea before writing any further.)
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. ”
— Virginia Woolf (A Room of One’s Own)
One of the drawbacks to working from home is isolation, (or if you have children at home, it’s distractions). With the internet becoming increasingly more productive for working remotely, there’s rarely a need to get out and enjoy the world or interact with other people. For some people this is great, for me, it became increasingly depressing. I found that the less I interact with others, the less tolerant I become. It’s so easy to get locked in your own little world of what’s right and wrong, up and down, without anyone else to check you on your judgement. So, to challenge myself and broaden my horizons, I decided to take on interns. Ironically, having interns come in twice a week actually made ME more productive and forced me to keep my home and office in “visitor ready” condition almost all the time, which created much more peace and sanity in my daily life. It was quite awesome, and I recommend it to anyone who is open to the idea. Everything seemed idyllic after discovering what was previously missing in my environment and I thought I’d always be able to work from home.
“Arrange whatever pieces come your way.”
— Virginia Woolf
This summer my husband was granted the opportunity to become Faculty-in-Residence in the UMass Lowell Honors House (based on the Harvard model of living-learning communities) and it sounded like a pretty sweet deal: no rent, no utilities, a dedicated parking spot, even a few meals included! Of course, you often can’t get something for free without making a compromise or two. I would have to give up my home office because there was no space in the residence for anything other than a bedroom, living room, and kitchen. I can’t say that I was thrilled about this idea, in fact, I was close to depressed at the idea of giving up my big beautiful live/work space and trading it in for a dorm apartment.
“You cannot find peace by avoiding life.”
— Virginia Woolf
Ever since we moved to Lowell, I had an affection for the Western Ave Studios and the lovely artists who indulge their creative spirits there. We actually met quite a few wonderful people through W.A.S., simply because they participated in the regular Open Studios event on the first Saturday of each month. So, naturally, when it was time for me to find a new home for my work, WAS was at the top of my list. (Click play on the video below for a stop motion tour of WAS, created by fellow WAS photographer Adrien Bisson.)
Luckily for me, new spaces were available where there had only been a waiting list before, allowing me to sign a lease and move in right away. At first, it just didn’t seem cost effective or energy efficient to have a separate space away from home for my office, but when we had my office in my home- I was actually paying double per square foot over having it in the Western Ave space and probably using more energy because I wasn’t sharing utilities with anyone else. Wedding season hasn’t afforded me much time to work on making my studio visitor-ready yet, but I hope to have it ready by my birthday in April, so we can celebrate with a grand opening. I was able to do just enough painting inside and out and put a few prints up on the wall just in time for the annual Lowell Open Studios (which I didn’t participate in because I was photographing a wedding) and was happy when I returned to find all of my business cards (aka Anne Ruth”mints”) gone from my studio wall.
“I can only note that the past is beautiful because one never realises an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don’t have complete emotions about the present, only about the past. ”
— Virginia Woolf
It’s so inspiring to walk past the studios of other artists on my way to work and be reminded of keeping passion and art in my work. I look forward to evolving my business and myself as an artist through my experience of working from a studio at Western Ave, and I sincerely hope that when it is ready for visitors, you will visit me sometime so that I can welcome you in and offer you a cup of tea and a hug.
(Learn more about Virginia Woolf: A Room of One’s Own.)