At the beginning of 2015, I moved out of the attic studio that had been my work space for six years and took over a little bit of space at my husband’s office, which happens to be located in a former factory building that’s been re-zoned to house artists and creative entrepreneurs.
I set myself up with a desk, a computer, some walls to display work in progress and a little shop area where we can store and package samples. I’ve also been lucky enough to have the help of my husband’s assistant, Corine, who packages up samples, handles delivery and logistics and customer service. Her list of responsibilities continues to grow, and I wouldn't have survived 2015 without her!
I’m at the office 3 to 3.5 days a week (but this doesn’t include hours in the attic after dinner, where you can sometimes even find me working into the early morning). This is the kind of schedule you keep when you balance work you love with caring for young children. Our kids are 7, 5 and 2 and getting better by the day.
I haven’t made easy, conventional choices. I like a challenge here and there. Why else would you expatriate, learn a second language, gain dual citizenship, have three kids and start your own business within a 6 year period?
Maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment …
But I did most of this in my pyjamas, and so it’s been really nice, this past year, to put on decent clothes again and go to a real place of business. I’ve gotten out of the house, held meetings, and enjoyed working as a team with my husband and Corine, and others, in this endeavor/adventure we call Ellie Cashman Design.
I wasn’t looking for a move/change, but somewhere around late October/early November, I started staying home when I wanted to paint or write. E-mail and web maintenance and meetings were office activities, but my creative process was stalled in a big, shared space that was full of other people’s energies and activities.
Home felt like the best place to fully occupy my own heart, and work without distraction or interruption. (The kids were all at school and daycare, obviously). Our kitchen/dining room became my painting studio by day. I broke out acrylic paints and something started to flow …
Around this time, I went for a morning run in my neighborhood and my improvised loop took me by Fort Isabella, a former military base that was converted to house refugees in the 80’s and then, several years ago, was opened up to artists and business people as a place to rent (temporary) studio and office space while more permanent plans are being made for the complex. It’s a really funky, charming place, and I hope your neighborhood has one just like it!
Well, to make a long story short, this run by Fort Isabella reminded me of a fellow print designer I’d met a few years ago, who was one of the first people to set up shop there. “I need to call her,” I thought to myself mid-stride. I haven’t talked to too many people during the last few years, due to the aforementioned kid/business combo. Lately I’ve been feeling the need to reach out again.
When I spoke to Sandra the next day, she casually mentioned that a studio across the hall from hers would be available as of December 1st. Would I be interested?
I didn’t even entertain the idea at first. I had my attic studio, my office space, my convertible kitchen/dining room/painting studio by day ... I was already having trouble keeping it all straight. And after all, we live in the Netherlands, where space is at a premium. I was sure I must be maxing out my quota of square meters already.
But the more I started to think about it … The more it all made sense. This space would fill a fundamental need I hadn’t yet realized I had. It would be a space all to myself, where I made all the choices, all the rules, and could be my real, uncompromising self. I could play music out loud ... I could take yoga breaks without offending anyone ... my creative process would have full reign! Oh my!!
You grow up in your parents’ home, share a series of dorm rooms and apartments, then a house with your husband and before you know it, three kids. The years go by and with each one you make new concessions. Don’t get me wrong, I love my home life, but it is, by nature, a group dynamic, a balancing act, a collective effort, and sometimes I don’t know where I end and my family begins.
So, after mulling it over for a few hours, and before even seeing the space, my decision was made. Yes! I really wanted a room of my own.
So in early December I signed the lease (the first lease I’ve signed alone since hopping over the pond in 2007) to my very own 42 m2 of Dutch soil, and spent much of the month patching, sanding, painting, hanging curtains, purchasing a used drawing table and taking the first steps toward making the space my own.
For now it’s mostly just full of air and light and silence and yes, I guess you would call it emptiness. I can unpack my dusty old sketchbooks, step back, have a look, observe, see, think, hear myself …
I don’t know yet what I will fill this space with, but I know there’s finally a room, and it is my own. And that’s a place, to start ...