Creative Living with Jamie Episode 283:
How do you politely set boundaries around your creative time and space? In this first ‘Ask Jamie’ episode, I offer some advice to a listener who is creating a unique studio space and share a few reasons why people so often tread heavily on our artistic hearts!
Take It to Your Journal
- Growing up, what did you learn about art and artists?
- How much space and time does artmaking take up in your life?
- How much space and time would you like artmaking to take up in your life?
- Where would it be helpful to establish creative boundaries?
Resources & Mentions
- Mixed Media Artist Lola Yang sent in our first Ask Jamie Question
- Devotion – a 3-month artistic immersion
- Do you have a question you’d like to ask a creative mentor? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Studio Yearbook
- Join the Studio and get access to 5 free Creative Practice Workshops
Welcome to Creative Living with Jamie. I’m your guide Jamie Ridler and on this podcast you and I are going to go on a great many adventures together. We’ll explore all aspects of what it means to live a creative life and we’ll embrace ourselves as artists. We’ll get curious, we’ll wonder and we’ll follow inspiration. We’ll wrestle with tough questions and we’ll brave challenges and sometimes will ask our friends for help. Along the way we will discover our courage, our confidence, ourselves and one another. We’ll come to know our artistic hearts and from there we will create. And that’s when the magic happens.
This week I am excited to bring our first Ask Jamie episode with a great question about creative boundaries. Plus, I’m going to share some big studio news and an important takeaway I want you to have for when creative containers come to an close.
So first, let’s turn to a listener question in our very first Ask Jamie segment.
Today’s question comes from mixed media artist Lola Yang who recently graduated from Devotion, my three-month artist-in-residence program at the studio. Lola has taken on the amazing project She is transforming a minivan into her own artist studio. I’ll share her Instagram link in the show notes so you can follow Lola’s creative journey. She is absolutely magical!
So here’s what Lola asked:
“Since I moved my studio from home to the minivan, I feel freedom and spacious, more connection to the outdoors, but somehow I feel there are so many disturbed moments: people passing by or getting curious (some I know, some I don’t).
For me, this space represents sanctuary, me time, my cocoon. I don’t feel I want to invite everyone to come in and take a look and explain why I am doing this, at least not now. (I am still arranging the space to make it feel more me and it takes time and I don’t want to rush). It makes me feel not generous when I make excuses to tell people why they cannot come inside. I dreamed this space will be only me and my people and what I enjoy doing inside.
Any tips for politely saying no in this situation?”
So, Lola, first of all, I want to celebrate that you have created this sacred space for your art and your creative heart. This is the precious unfolding of a dream come true and of course you don’t want to rush. You want to bask in it with all the freedom and spaciousness you have been longing for. This is a special time for you.
Creating boundaries around our artistic time and space is a familiar challenge for most artists, especially as they begin to devote more and more time, space and energy to their work. Often it follows this route of expansion.
First, we go through the process of learning how to let our art take up time and space in our own life. We have to get out of the way. We have find ways to get over our fears, our resistance, our procrastination so we can get creating. We find ourselves starting to choose creating over other things, whether that’s TV or scrolling or laundry, and we start to let artmaking become a part of our life. We let it take up space.
Then, as art starts to take hold in our life, it begins to expand and then we face some new challenges. How do we hold the line and let art continue to grow, taking up more time, more space, more resources even if it impacts others? We find ourselves starting to saying no more ofren, including to other people, because we want to say more yeses to our art. If we live with others, now we start negotiating for more creative space and more creative time.
Next, as the influence of art in our life grows and grows, starts to spill over into more public spaces. Maybe you’re wearing clothes you’ve sewn yourself. Maybe friends or family come over and they see your art on the wall. Maybe your neighbours hear you playing the piano. Now you’re not only dealing with your own responses to letting your art take up space or those of your friends and loved ones, but you are also now dealing with colleagues, neighbours and strangers.
Each step of the way you are learning to hold that line for your art in a deeper and stronger way – and not only for your art but also for art in general.
Because here’s the thing. Most people actually don’t know how to respond to artists. In part because societally we’ve done this horrible thing of separating people from their own artistic nature so that we grow up believing that art and artists are some rarified thing. Plus, making it even harder, we’re generally taught to see art and artists from the lens of being a consumer. So, if art is available, it must be for me – it must be longing for an audience. And then on top of that, because art is often viewed as a commodity, then I’m also not only allowed to view and consume it but also assess it and assess it in the same way I would a shirt or a bicycle that I see at a store. That’s why people will so casually say things like, “I’d like it if it was blue” or “Wow, I just don’t get it. I just don’t get the appeal.” Most artists who have worked in coffee shops or done something like urban sketching have found their work being commented on by strangers or had people stare over their shoulders to see what they’re creating.
Of course, there is also something beautiful happening here: the absolutely genuine human response to the power and allure of artmaking. And again, because so many of us have been separated from that impulse to create, we are profoundly curious about it and deeply drawn to it. The only thing is we often don’t know a way to engage that honours the artist and honours the work. chances are, Lola, that’s you’re responding to that beautiful impulse in people and that’s the part that makes you think, “Oh, I feel badly that I’m not sharing.”
But here’s the thing. Whatever the motivation – curiosity, admiration, nosiness – no one has a right to your work or your space unless you grant it to them. And Lola, as a graduate of Devotion you know, it is incredibly important that artists have time alone with their art, time to develop a strong and unwavering relationship with their work, before they share it with others, if they ever choose to do so.
Navigating people’s responses to your work can be incredibly difficult, especially while you are still in the discovery and birthing stages. This is the time when you need to listen to your instincts, when you need to listen to the work, including the work of creating your own sacred space, This is the time you need to listen to your own heart to discover what wants to emerge without the influence of even the most trusted companions never mind strangers.
So, let’s come back to the very practical and tangible answer to your question.
All of what I’ve said so far is to affirm that it is completely reasonable for you to keep your new studio space to yourself for now or for forever, whichever you choose. It’s also to say that people generally don’t know how to be around artists and so this is a great opportunity to show them how they can be around you.
My very simple solution is to create a sign that says, “Artist at work. Please do not disturb.” This gives you an opportunity to honour your role as an artist and to invite other people to honour it too – and it shows them how they can. Find language you feel good about and also know that as you do this, you are being a legacy. You are helping people understand that not only is art and an artist space compelling but it is also sacred.
In that spirit, you can also work on creating energetic boundaries around your studio space. Start to identify your space not at the front door but several feet in front of it. Imagine a sacred, beautiful and private bubble around the minivan itself. As you do this day by day, you will start to notice that people sense it too. You can enhance this by finding gentle ways to mark a perimeter around your space. Just placing some stones can make all the difference.
As you settle in you may find there are ways that you do want to share your space, like video tours on Instagram or YouTube videos about setting up a studio in a minivan. Maybe you’ll decide to invite dear friends into your studio for tea or have an art show that includes people being able to see the magical space you’ve created. Or not. Maybe it will always be your private sanctuary, a special place just for you, a place to fill your well so that you can keep shining and keep creating. You and the work will know.
Lola, may you find peace and freedom, joy and magic in your creative studio. I have a feeling you will. And thank you so much for sending in the very first Ask Jamie question.
Now, let’s have a little bit of Studio News, including that one thing I want you to know.
The big news in the Studio is that not only is time to order your Summer Studio Yearbook but it’s time for me to let you know that it is going to be the last one.
For over four years I have been offering this seasonal fill-in-the-blank journal that is designed to bring your creativity to life. The Studio Yearbook brings together creative practices I have developed over a lifetime, practices I have shared in my classes and with my clients. It is a creative practice studio in a journal and I am proud to say that it has impacted thousands of lives.
So why draw it to a close? It’s a balance of many things. There are practical considerations like the rising cost of paper and shipping but there’s also something nipping at my heels, that next thing that wants to come through me and into the studio to awaken creative magic. So, I am trusting that and leaning in.
This summer I intend to treat the last season of the Studio Yearbook as a grand celebration! We’ll have our kick-off on the Summer Solstice. I’ll host an inspiring ephemera exchange and make some contributions myself. And, for the first time ever, at the end of the season we will send off all participants with a selection of yearbook pages that you can print out again and again and again so you can continue your practice with ease.
If you have been wanting to check out the Studio Yearbook now is the time. Immerse yourself in these creative practices and then, whether the yearbook is available in print or not, the practices themselves will support you for a lifetime.
I do hope you’ll join me for this last round of the Studio Yearbook. Print copies are only available until Monday May 9th at 10:00 am EST. After that, PDF copies will continue to be available and, if you join the Studio, you’ll receive a 10% discount. I’ll have all the details for you in the show notes.
The Studio Yearbook is an incredible support, a powerful guide that takes you on a creative journey but what I want you to know is that the power is in the practice and the magic is in you. Of course, it is.
Have a wonderful week in the studio and remember, your life is your studio. I’ll see you next time.