Author Virginia Woolf felt so strongly that writers need access to a dedicated physical space – a studio so to speak, from which to fully pursue their creative genius – that she titled her classic 1929 feminist essay just that, “A Room of One’s Own.” In it, she rallies and insists against a history of lost opportunities for women – to the world and to ourselves. Woolf inspires us to imagine not only the literature but all the art that was never engendered, because our need for, and even birthright to a life of personal expression has been left invalidated, certainly at the time by an unsupportive society, and often still by a lack of financial freedom – freedom that would otherwise give us the opportunity to find or make or build one room – just one – to call our own, where no further need or expectation exists than to let our own wheels spin as we cultivate our singular creative vision.
Woolf’s assertions ring true for me. I have for a long time nurtured a daydream of having the domestic largesse to devote one entire room of my house to setting up an art studio/writer’s loft. Or just as well, having the disposable income to rent a studio space, a dedicated and sacrosanct place where expressive practices are my only aim. No competing demands in the form of piles of laundry, dirty dishes, to-do lists or TV. Ideally, this space would have high windows filled with dappled sunlight coming through the oak trees, as well as dusty shelves full of my favorite books, comfy old over-stuffed chairs, and a clean, uncluttered desk. Jo March’s attic in Little Women always comes fully to mind.
But let’s face it, for me right now and probably for many of us, procuring an idyllic art studio space – at home or out in the world – is not a realistic goal. At least at the moment. And Virginia Woolf knew this – knew that affording a literal, physical space would be a practical limitation for many who would otherwise not only relish the opportunity, but make great use of it. Accordingly, she rightly and perhaps even more enthusiastically expounds on the need for a figurative room of one’s own.
And so out of necessity, and with the ardent goal of deepening my Expressive Arts practice, I’ve explored my options for creating consistent, easy access to my own figurative art studio. I’ve asked myself – what is it about this fantasy room of mine that feels so inspiring? On reflection, is it really the room itself? Or is it the contained, relaxed yet focused feeling that I can so easily imagine? Or, perhaps more importantly, is it that in this room I feel I could confidently, unshakingly stake my claim to the territory of myself? That I could relish uninterrupted in the development of my flawed but full identity?
So, along with these questions, I’ve experimented and discovered a few things about my need for a room of my own: my little back porch is a fine place for personal art practice, as long as I’ve lit a candle and turned my ringer off. I enjoy it most when I’ve cleaned and straightened up a bit, but even that’s not necessary. Arranging some simple art supplies beforehand seems to bring a certain sense of hallowed stillness and expectation. Also, I must spend a few quiet moments before I begin, meditating in an informal way and taking some deep breaths. Stretching to relax my body helps too. These are the few activities that bring me all the way into the present moment, and even my porch itself does start to feel transformed, and completely set apart from its typical daily uses. With just a few adjustments, and for a couple of hours, it resembles and functions as my dream studio would, in all the most important ways.
Creative Prompt #1 – Consider what you want a creative room of your own to feel and be like. Spend a few minutes jotting down ideas and quickly drawing some of your favorite features.
Creative Prompt #2 – Make up a grab bag or box of just a few items that can help you quickly and easily transform an area of your home into your temporary studio, including, if possible one favorite feature from prompt #1. Include whatever feels most likely to help you establish a calm, reflective state of mind. The possibilities are endless, but a few ideas are – a favorite rock or knickknack, some seashells, a candle and matches, an inspiring book. I often put on music for mood and atmosphere and pair a small plant or vase of flowers with my objects. Voila! Easy to set up, easy to take down.
Creative Prompt #3 – Spend a few minutes reflecting in writing on what it means to you to have a figural room of your own? How does it help you explore who you are, and go out into the world with more confidence? How might it promote not only your well-being but your personal development and sense of independence?
Creative Prompt #4 – Find community support for building or enhancing your regular art practice – check out Integrative Counsel’s virtual Expressive Arts Groups, first Thursday of every month!
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Laura Hensley, Counselor, LMHC. Through Expressive Arts therapy and personal practice, I find and make meaning, develop my own personal mythology, and gain confidence and connection to myself and others. I offer this same opportunity to Integrative Counsel clients by way of multimodal creative exploration of your intentions, goals, and heartfelt desires!