A Girl and her Studio: A Love Story

Together with Caylee Grey and guests, we’ll explore what it REALLY means to be an artist. Practically. Warts and all. So that you can be an artist, today, now, even if you work a day job, have a million and one commitments and own a cat that likes sitting on your art.

No more excuses. Okay? Okay.

Never miss an episode

The best thing to come out of 2020 for me has been my studio. It’s my one true love (sorry T). It’s an old shipping container in an old slaughterhouse. It’s gritty, and raw, it’s hipster as hell, and its mine.

This studio has enabled me to do that weird thing people talk about called “work-life-balance” and for that, I am truly grateful.

I wanted to dedicate an episode of the podcast to it. It has a story. It’s a love story. And to make it worth your while, I’m sharing what a studio space of your own might do for you…

Podcast Show Notes


(This transcript is automatically generated and is sure to contain hilarious errors as the robots figure out our accents. It is provided here for your convenience)

This is a love story. This is a love story about a girl and her studio.

Four years in a new country and I still hadn’t made any good friends in my area. I had made acquaintances here and there and had friends within train distance, but my main homeboys with three gorgeous, almost a hundred year old people that I walked my dog with daily. I learned the dog’s names, but our only if a ever learn one of theirs and it was also by accident, I worked for myself from home and I was living here my third language, and this doesn’t give much of an opportunity for making friends. And then my business partner, the left, the business, the person I was talking to every day was no longer there. And I think that this was the catalyst to realize something that I should have known. And before I was cripplingly lonely.

And let me tell you, I felt so much guilt about that. I love my husband, sunshine for a child, and I could speak bad German to old people who could barely hear me on my dog walks. I loving family through WhatsApp and FaceTime, and I had a community of incredible artists, friends and humans online then later, uh, I was listening to Renee Brown podcast and she said, spoke about being lonely without being alone. And that you need more than one top of human interaction. And I finally let go of the guilt of being lonely, surrounded by people. Um, and I remember at this, at this time I messaged my two best friends. They were both expats, one in London, one in Switzerland and asked them, how do you guys deal with this foreign a loneliness? Um, all situations are a little different. I think they are a little bit more extroverted than I am.

Um, and they also had office jobs and office mates and they could speak language that’s in there. Hot. I wanted to know if they also had this loan. Yeah, this was the, was, was, this was laugh so difficult. Um, and I found out that it was the same for them. I learned it’s the same for all humans being an ex-pat doesn’t mean I’m the only person who’s ever going to feel lonely working alone didn’t mean that my life was more difficult and my best friends helped me see that loneliness. It was just like most other things in life conquerable. I could tackle it the way that I tackle all of my issues, make list action it, and then maybe I could stop feeling like, am I puke from loneliness? Things on like they were in university. You don’t automatically make friends. It’s something that you have to work at in the past, pouring myself into the people inside of get, may see, um, online community.

That was what helped the Nina’s. It had helped countless countless times before, but it wasn’t this time. I knew that I had to see real life actual people. If you’re a feeding line, me, I’m going to share my list. I joined meetup.com. I rejoined the Facebook group for South African experts. I hate that group. I hate Facebook groups. I hate Facebook, but I did it. I knew that there were South Africans in Germany that I could speak to and we could bond if based on nothing else, based on the fact that we sell Africans in Germany, I also shared my loneliness online and then that led to other sharing their loneliness, which made me feel less alone. I also receive recommendations such as gone girl, international girl gone international. And I was from Mariah. Who’s an expat in Spain. And then there was the big one, the big autumn on my to do list.

I began my search for a coworking space, so that I’d be forced to wash my hair, put on some mans, leave the house. There is a happy ending to the story. I’m no longer lonely. There’s another happy ending to the story. I now work outside the house and I want to, to chat about that in this podcast episode, I wanted to talk about the differences between having a studio at home and having a studio outside, what it can do for your creativity or productivity or self worth, everything. I’m just gonna, I’m just gonna chat about that. Um, I want to give you some background. First, my studio, I call it my studio in reality, it’s an office. I’m not making money from a [inaudible] art. Um, I just have a creative business. And so my art can’t pay for the space, but my business can pay for the space.

My work revolves around creativity and encouraging others to be creative. And so part of that is actually making stuff every day. There’s a quote from Emily Jeffords. It’s kind of like her mantra. And she said something that speaks really deeply to me and something that I’ve found to be true. And that is your creative business is only as strong as your creative practice. And so I’ve noticed that big time when you run a creative business, it can be really tough to create for yourself. Sometimes it’s, you know, when you turn anything into work, it makes it work. It’s not easy. Um, and that’s the, that’s the hard part of running a creative business, right? It’s not all magic at mostly is, but it’s, it’s hard when you are forced to create. And so I create here in my studio every day, but mainly mainly I’m running a full-time six figure business, managing a small team of location, independent people from the space.

So yeah, that is my studio office at Telia workspace. And so when I started my search, I was just looking for a desk. I already had a studio space that I was, uh, paying small amount of money for, but it wasn’t a basement. Um, and yeah, so when I started looking, it was just for the desk, just for the desk. And I came across something that was called a creative incubator. Now I’m sure you know, about the silicone Valley incubators. They put computer nerds in a house together at the start of the business, give them access to knowledge and help, and they watch as a pace off. And it’s the same reason engineers and doctors and actuaries hold off. My friends, um, did foreign from banks offering fancy credit cards. I remember when we all left university, all my friends were getting the calls for the, uh, premium banking, private banking.

I thought Meilleur, not me. Um, uh, but the banks know the potential and that’s, it’s like a similar set up with incubators. And so there was this place and it was run by a section of the government and basically for creative nuts, creative needs at the beginning of the company’s life. And so even though my business was not in year, starting in 2014, this was in the middle of 2019. Um, it was German knew when my business partner left, I had to create a new German business. Um, and so I qualified and I filled out the application form. And I can’t tell you like, it’s stressful filling out application forms, but doing one in a language that’s not your first, do you know how many times I checked my German grammar of the application form? Like I was more worried about that then about the content and maybe that’s what gave me some guts and they responded.

I couldn’t believe it. Um, things are weird when you run an online business, uh, you kind of disconnect from the world real world a bit. Uh, but I, to prepare a presentation about my company, I took a video with, I took some OC generals in person to explain what the heck Archer link even is. Uh, took all of my financial statements. My demographs, my demographics, all of it. And I, I can’t even explain the nerves that I had talking in person. When I ran an online company, I walked into that room. I thought it was going to be a one-on-one and there were five women across the biggest table I’ve ever seen. And they were all there just to listen what I had to say, but this is what I was asking you for. This was outside my comfort zone, completely vulnerable telling someone how legitimate businesses and how they should put their faith in me that it’s going to make them proud one day, not only me, but them too.

I mean, obviously got it obviously got in. Not obviously now it’s obvious back then. Not at all. Obvious. Um, especially with terrible German, you’re already making a bad impression. Uh, they obviously liked it as much as I did. So I’m going to talk about the space. I’ve got a love, hate relationship with this city. Uh, it’s uh, UNESCO city of media arts, sorry, they’re doing a lot of work to make the city more creative and engage in its creative side and its artistic side. So that’s pretty exciting. And the building is in a creative part of that creative city. They’re a bunch of art museums nearby. Um, and this part is called the old slaughter house in German. It’s a collection of buildings that were part of an old slaughter house and it was restored for new use was going to be demolished. And then someone decided, wait, we can do something here. And so they started restoring it. And the building that I’m in is the old animal market hole.

The offices inside are all shipping containers, real life upcycled, shipping containers. Some are just one, some are three put together. Um, the first time I saw it, it was after the meeting and the lady asked, have you seen this space? And I was like, what? I can go to the space. Like I have been searching Google relentlessly. I have looked at every single page on the website. I had looked at the Instagram hashtag the location. The geodata like, that’s my extent of it. And so after the meeting I came here and the first of my soda literally took my breath away. There isn’t anything normal about this space and I’ve never seen anything, this hipster. I think my parents still don’t quite understand it and wonder why I’m not making enough money to afford something. Like what, why would I stay in this place? You know, exposed pops, graffitied walls, broken tiles, very hipster, very hipster place.

And when I first moved in on 1st of January, 2020, I was sharing a three container space with another woman who’s running creative in-person workshops. And last week I moved into my own single container space. And that’s what I’m going to tell you about. Now, if you’d like to look at photos, I have a million of them. Um, and I, I share it on Instagram a lot just because man, I can’t tell you like the, the feeling of having a space outside of your space. That is that houses, your creativity. It’s a good feeling. So briefly I’m on the ground floor right next to massive windows. It’s perfect for filming. It’s perfect for lot happiness. Freedom. Yeah. Okay. It’s pretty great. It is a shipping container. The walls are all magnetic. The walls are all white. It’s very minimalist inside. Um, B big windows. Yeah. I’ve got a desk in here.

Um, and I’ve also got a little outside area too, so it’s outside, but it’s still inside the, um, the whole. And so the, uh, what I’ve done is I’ve kept the inside shipping on tenant. That is my work area that is work time there. And then outside right next to the windows. That is my creative area. And so I’ve got two massive forgot the English word for table tables outside there. And I’ve got a standing desk inside. I’ve got a massive screen. It is 49 inches ultra wide. It is 1.2, five meters wide. It is a beast and I love it. And my computer, my computer is near to, I, I love it. I love it. Everything is just working in this space and it’s been bad. It’s been a long time coming before this. I’ve had, um, yeah, basement. I had my son’s room before my son was around.

I’ve had just a desk. I’ve had barely the kitchen table. I’ve used my parents’ dining table. I’ve used my bed, my lap. This is a long time coming in. Um, Oh man, like talking about it today. I’m just, I just feel very grateful for having it and so in love with it. So not with it. I really took my time in deciding what to put in the space. I knew that I was going to put all the old vintage chairman furniture that my husband hates and I can’t have, I’m not allowed to have it home. I knew that was going to hit go here. I’ve also got to, um, standing desks. They’re supposed to be adaptable, but they barely are, um, for creating. And they were made by Egon Ironman, who is, as it turns out very famous architect. So he made these tables for himself.

He designed them just for himself as an architect because he’s sitting there the whole day. Um, and then they started selling them because there was so great, but something cool about him is he’s famous for a very famous church that has my heart in Belen. Then he came to the city where I am now and he taught at the university. So he’s pretty famous here. I think having his tables also helped, helps me put money Rootstown in, in Germany and in the city a lot more. I have two massive, um, apothecary cabinets. Uh, one is, I mean, it’s not really a Potter carry one is a library filing system, which I discovered. So a lot, a lot of drawers and I can pull them out. I keep all my art supplies in there. Um, they’re so well organized. They really, really great. And they also come out.

So when I’m creating, I can just, you know, if I’m using a critic, soak wash, I can take out the entire jewel and keep that on my table with me tables also huge. Have I spoken about the tables yet? My tables are two by one meter each so massive apps. They didn’t mess up. I also have two white Ikea shelves. They, the fuel re no way I can pronounce it, but they’re what they super sturdy. They’ve got four drawers at the bottom each and I, it was a big decision for me, but I brought all my journals, not all my journals, most, somewhat half of my journals, maybe from home. And they’re on the shelves there. I have plants, lots and lots of plants more than that. Yeah. I think I’ve got it. Little pieces of me and little pieces, um, of people that are important to me that have, you know, made gifts.

Um, I’ve got a postcard to get me to see postcard that says the path to making good art includes making bad art. And that’s from, uh, Anika from the handcrafted story. I have a weaving I’m just like looking around and just getting so happy. But there’s bits of me all over the studio. It’s not a busy studio. It’s still very minimalist in my opinion, but the environment is not minimalist. It’s kind of raw and stripped. It has graphics on the walls. Um, it has the broken tiles as they exposed brick, that’s been painted white. It has a story. All of it has a story. And so I’m just excited about being here. I think I’ve spoken enough about my space. I’m going to share, but more about my decision-making process around it. You can obviously tell that this was the right decision for me. I am not a hundred percent, a hundred percent sure if I would have done this.

If I wasn’t feeling lonely, I really like being at home. I’m not sure if it would have done it. If I was back in South Africa, if I had a lot of friends that were visiting me at home, if I was leaving the housewife and there were days where I would not leave the house a month, four months, um, before Elliott, I was just always at home. It was unlike looking back now, like very unhealthy and a very easy way to make, make me to depressed. Um, and, and so the space, the space is making sure that I’m getting showered, that I’m washing my freaking hair, even in winter, that I am putting clothes on that I have clothes, you know, I have clothes again. It’s not just a fan.

Okay. Leggings and t-shirts, you know, and so all of my experience comes from that. So I want you to take that with a pinch of salt. So I’m going to be loving the space because of that. And not just because it’s a space. I think if you’re not able to have a space outside of your studio, then it is a really good idea to have a space inside your house. So whether that is a desk, a dedicated desk or a dedicated room, maybe you’ve, you’re able to do that. Um, if you’re not able to do that, a tiny desk in your bedroom or a corner of the dining table that no one sits at, because it’s the worst position on the dining table having that space. Oh, also, um, if none of that is a possibility, then I recommend getting a little crate or box or pencil case or something like that and keeping everything in there. And so even though it’s a movable space, it’s your space. It’s dedicated. That’s where you go to release your truth, to explore yourself, to make, or to have fun play. Having a space is important.

Um, I want to talk about what I have noticed in my work and I haven’t written any notes, so this is a bit more conversational, but in my creative work, I have noticed that there is all of a sudden, a big pressure to creating. It doesn’t seem as seamless. Um, and I think that also has to do with the fact that I’m working here. So when I’m creating, I’m feeling guilty that I’m not working, or I think about something to do with work. And I’m like, okay, I’ll quickly do that. And then I don’t go back to creating, or I’m sitting, chatting to a friend during my break on WhatsApp. And, and she sends me gorgeous picture that she used gold leaf in. And I’m like, well, I need to, you know, screw work now after lunch, I’m going to go create, and then I don’t create because the feeling past, so there is this new internal play within myself where I’m struggling to separate it again, something that I can do that goes, that helps.

That is, um, having a dedicated time. So I had, uh, previously in the space, as soon as I got to work, I created and I created for an hour and it could be creating, um, or I can make magic, but I’m just showing up and I’m just waiting to see what happens. I’ve also noticed that I am filling up journals more quickly and being even more minimalist. Uh, I am making a lot of quick decisions. I’m kind of just like throwing up out there. So previously I took my time. I could create for days and days. Um, I’m not finding that anymore. I’m finding that I need to create an entire journal and I need to put everything in there. I need to close that journal and I need to walk away from it. So maybe, you know, there’s a lot been going on from him personally.

And so maybe it’s got to do with that and nothing to do with the space, but that’s, what’s happening in my work at the moment. And if we want to look at what having a space has done from our professional work, it has been insane. Um, I think that another reason for getting the space is that I wanted a work-life balance. And I wanted that work-life balance also with creativity, which sounds a bit weird, but I went through a stage where I was creating way too much and I wanted to be inspired and reform well a bit. I think, you know, I’ve reached the end of that creative, um, boundless creativity and comma for me, things are comma for me in my heart, in my creativity, in my life work. And so this space gives me more of an opportunity to have that work-life balance.

And if you’ve ever worked, if you’ve ever worked full stop, you know, how difficult it is to find balance so difficult. And for me, that balance is made and restored with clear boundaries. If I navigate away from there, I can reign it back in, but, but these boundaries are really important. And the space, this is where I work. This is where I create. I don’t have, and this might be controversial, controversial, but I don’t have any of my art supplies at home. I’ve brought home a journal once with a pen, and that was fine, but here’s where I create. And this is where I work and it’s going to change again later, but this is what’s working for me now. So when I leave the office, I closed my container. I closed my door and I go home and I spend time with my family.

And I do really particular things like crossword puzzles. I love crossword puzzles. I don’t, I’m not working all the time. I’m not working a hundred percent of the time anymore. And let me tell you, how could that is her work and weirdly for me right now, that’s good for my creativity too, is not creating all the time and not creating on a deadline. I’m not working on any self created courses inside gave me a C I am not doing any YouTube videos. I’m not doing anything I’m creating for myself. And I’m realigning with myself and I’m also realigning outside of creativity. And that’s what, that’s what things look like right now. And I think that that’s the main difference between having a studio and having an home office. We recently moved houses. But before that, my office was in my lounge, it was, it’s a stupid, massive lounge, really ridiculously badly designed German long lounge.

And so I was, I was living in that one room really all my off time was in that room or my on-time was in that room. It messed with my head. And so, yeah, that’s the main difference between a studio and a home office is you get to explore all those different sides of yourself. You get to, you get to have a break. And I love what I do. I freaking love it. It is my absolute favorite. And so it’s hard for me to take a break because I just want to keep doing it. And there’s always something to do. And it’s always fun. And I always love it, but it’s important to sit back, to be mindful, to do nothing, to be slow. Think the pandemic has taught us that a little bit when we fought against the quiet and the silence and the calm and the, and, and just being with yourself when we fought against that is not good for our mental health.

So let’s turn it into something that you can take away. Let’s summarize what I’ve said a little bit and make it a pickable to you right now. If you’re thinking about having a creative space, have the creative space, do it. If it’s feasible for you, do it, you are able to find one that fits your budget. I know that’s the most, the biggest consideration, um, and find a coworking space, a co artists space, um, or one that you can hire on weekends, just a space. Uh, if you are a homeschooling mama there and you still want to space, perhaps on a weekend for a day, go to a space that is not your home. It can be a cafe. I know that that’s difficult at the moment. It can be a park. It might be difficult with winter. All of these things, what you need to do is you need to put it out on the table and say, this is what I’ve got right now.

These are the facts. Facts are, you know, I don’t have space at home. I don’t have time at home. I’ve got a million children. I have all these things. I’ve got a day job. Okay. Those are the facts. And now what else is the facts? I’ve got $50 a month to spare, um, his mission. Cause I’m not spending money on take-aways or restaurants or whatever, you know, um, fact is, you know, all these things. And if you still can’t find a physical space, perhaps you want to find a digital space, get Macy has something that we call Hangouts, where a bunch of creatives get together over zoom and create. You can do that. You can join us. You can ask a few of your online art friends. If they want to do that, a space doesn’t always have to be a physical space. You can create that physical space. You can create that physical space in your life. Like I was saying about my not finding the time to create you just make that space. So for me, it’s in the mornings and you do it.

If you don’t want to branch out of your house, especially now in the pandemic, then I really recommend that travel kit that has spoke about an at home travel kit. Just put all your favorite supplies into a little basket and move into a new space inside your house, inside your bedroom, um, and create that way. And then once you’ve made that space for yourself, whether it’s a physical or digital or emotional space, just be mindful and see how it affects your creativity. Do you like it? Is it good for you and might need some time before you’re able to make a rational, um, idea of a situation, a conclusion, um, hypotheses, you know, but if you keep at it and you keep mindful and you move towards what moves you, that’s where you find the magic and maybe your space doesn’t have the love story that man has, but it’s quite a love story. And I encourage you to be grateful for it, whatever space you’re able to carve out for art, because art is magic. And when we give it space, it gives us space and it’s able to it’s, I dunno, it’s like a frigging flower, right? Instead of just trying to plant a seed amongst like all these bushes and stuff, if you plant in the rod place and you give it space, it’s able to bloom and grow and you’re able to plume and unfold.

Caylee Grey

Caylee Grey is the host of Get Messy and a South African perfectionist currently pursuing imperfection.

Caylee Grey, host of Get Messy

The Get Messy Podcast

I’m Caylee Grey. Creator of Get Messy, official fairy freaking artmother and your pro excuse-squashing ninja.

In the Get Messy podcast I’ll be chatting to a selection of amazing, real-life humans just like you are who are dealing with the very same barriers … but overcoming them to create their art.

Together, we’ll explore what it REALLY means to be an artist. Practically. Warts and all. So that you can be an artist, today, now, even if you work a day job, have a million and one commitments and own a cat that likes sitting on your art.

No more excuses. Okay? Okay.