After working with my temporary standing work area for about
5 months, I was ready to commit. I had worked out some kinks, figured out what
I liked (everything) and what I didn’t (nothing) and had gained experience
getting comfortable with the thought of standing for most of the day.
Last month, due to some construction in my studio, I was
forced to remove everything…EVERYTHING. This provided a wonderful opportunity
to recreate my workspace in a more permanent and yes, attractive way.
I kept the same basic ideas and reworked them to be
functional and pretty. A place I would enjoy creating in everyday. While I grew
to LOVE my standing digital work area, I didn’t like how slap-dash and messy it
I had an armoire that I used for books but decided to
convert it to my standing work area. It was in my son’s room when he was a baby
so it also has wonderful memories attached to it. I took the doors off and
removed the existing shelves. I cut down the wood shelves I had used in my
rigged version and attached them to the inside of the upper unit to create the
two levels for my keyboard and drawing tablet. I adjusted the heights with some
extra wood scraps. I had some leftover fabric so I covered the inside walls
using a staple gun. The armoire was set up to hold a TV so it had plugs built
Everything fit and it ended up being a cozy place to work. It
also looks neat and clean because everything is contained.
Right next to that is my seated desk making it seamless for
me to transition between both throughout the day.
I am so grateful to work from my home studio and want to be
able to create for a long time. Hopefully these steps will help make that a
possibility. We only get one body. I am acutely aware of how important it is to
take care of it.
Please feel free to share any of your own tips and ideas on
how you set up your creative workspace.
You can read my earlier post below about the birth of my
standing work area and see details on the process of creating a back healthy
In all of my research, I did come across other ergonomic and
healthy work area suggestions. Please see some that I implemented below.
While my back loved that I was standing, my feet were sore
from being on them for so long. Plus I like to work barefoot and that was hard
on my soles. New research! I hunted for the best anti-fatigue mat I could
afford. After reading many posts and reviews I decided to go with the CUMULUSPRO COMMERCIAL GRADE- 24
in. x 36 in. x 3/4 in, (SKU 9100) for around $100. I purchased it online at
Imprint Mats. What a difference! It’s amazing. No tired feet, no backache, good
with or without shoes. I believe it is an integral part to the whole standing
workspace. It had a slight odor when I opened it but that left quickly.
Many years ago, when I started to show signs of wrist and
hand fatigue, I switched to a rollerball mouse (Logitech Marble Mouse) and have
never looked back! I know people have a hard time with these at first but you
CAN get used to it. I believe that this, along with the other steps I have
taken, have helped me stay healthy with the amount of work I do, my age and my
personal body issues.
In my opinion, this is one of the most important things to
consider for a healthy workstation. When
I draw, paint, make jewelry, etc…I am totally in love with my Ott light. From
their website “OttLite table and desk lamps bring natural daylight illumination
to help you see details clearly and colors accurately so you can do what you
I have the “13w Slimline Task Lamp” and purchased mine at a
national fabric and craft store during a sale. It folds down and out of the way
when not in use. I think it is normally around $50 but they have lights in a
wide range of price points and styles. I also have a couple of the portable “Ottlite
LED Mini Flip Lights”. They are good for travel and clip onto your sketchbook.
In my next post I will share my new updated standing work
area and studio changes.
I would love to know if any of these work for you!
I am a grateful artist and designer and after spending the majority of my career (so far) painting murals, home accessories and furniture, I needed to rethink my back breaking work process for the health of my body. Now that my focus is on surface design and creating art for licensing on products and textiles, I might have gone the other extreme and could have become more sedentary.
About 6 months ago, I was in a slight panic. I knew I was
going to be working from my home studio again (which I was thrilled about) but
I also knew that the type of work I was going to be doing could destroy my
back, neck and shoulders if I wasn’t smart about my workplace setup. With a
history of chronic back issues from my years of painting murals, I have become hyper
vigilant about making decisions that support my body.
My first thought was that maybe I needed a new chair. I
began researching ergonomic chairs and even put some feelers out for good
referrals. There were some very helpful recommendations but all were way out of
my price range and some didn’t seem much better than what I already had. I
looked into some accessories that you can use with your existing chair and they
seemed like a nice entry-level option but there was something that was
nagging me. It was the thought of sitting for hours, even in a special chair or
with using a back-saving prop. My intuition told me there must be another way.
I switched my focus to investigating “alternative seating”
options. This included large inflated balls, knee rest models and saddle chairs.
The inflated ball had really helped when I was pregnant but didn’t work so well
with the back issues I had years later.
We also have two cats that thought it was their toy. The knee rest model
seemed like it might end up causing pressure issues in other areas and were
also expensive for the better models. The saddle chair peaked my interest and I
could see ending up with one at some point but it still didn’t seem like the
right option for now as it would still be sitting.
Hmm, no solution. Then, I listened to my intuition.
For my back and neck issues, sitting for long periods
is bad news. Really the worst thing I can do.
Standing and movement throughout the day are good. The other thought I
had was, maybe it’s not so black and white. Maybe I need a combination of
standing AND sitting in my workday. Since I had the sitting part pretty well
covered, I moved on to new research for a standing workspace.
In my situation, I found that the most time I spent doing
something was working on my computer. I also found that I had the worst seated
posture while working on my computer…double whammy. That was what I chose to
focus on for my standing work area.
In my early searching I got a bit discouraged because most
of the pre-made standing desks were expensive and not very attractive. They
also didn’t provide enough surface space for the tools of my trade. I did find several
options for a contraption that would go on top of your existing desk to convert
it to a standing desk, which I thought was kind of brilliant. The drawback was
that without knowing if using a standing workspace would work for me, I didn’t
want to shell out $500-$600.
I thought, “I’m crafty and resourceful, maybe I can rig
something temporary to see if I like the setup”...and that’s what I did.
This is my first configuration, using some scrap wood and
closet storage shelves on top of my existing desk. Not pretty but functional
enough for me to get an idea.
I researched the suggested measurements for ergonomic levels
for each electronic item and tweaked them a bit to fit my needs. If you Google
“measurements for a standing desk” a bunch of diagrams will come up with
suggestions on monitor distance and angle, keyboard height, etc… I found that
those were a great base to begin with and then I was able to make changes that
suited me personally.
One of the challenges I found for setting up this kind of
workspace for an artist was that I needed a space for my drawing tablet along
with my keyboard and mouse. How would I fit everything and be able to use it
all without having to move it each time or reach too far and cause strain. I found by having two levels I could
store the tablet on the bottom level when I was primarily using the keyboard.
Then when I brought the tablet up to draw, the keyboard slid back behind it on
the same level and was still usable. Another option I thought of was to get a
smaller keyboard and a different mouse but I really like the two that I have,
so this set up has worked for me.
How I used this first generation set-up.
For artwork done by hand, sketching, drawing, etc…I sit at
my desk. If I feel I need to, I set a timer to get up and move every 45 minutes
because if I am into something, hours and hours can go by in the blink of an
eye. My back is not happy when that happens and it shows me how unhappy it is
when I go to stand up!
For digital artwork, editing photos, using Photoshop,
posting to sites, etc…I use the standing desk area. It did take a little
getting used to at first. Drawing on my tablet felt awkward while standing but
that quickly changed. Now it feels like what I have always done. I feel
stronger and like my posture has gone back to what it was pre-computer slouch.
I also move more in general. If I have music playing, I find myself dancing or swaying. Sometimes I inadvertently stand in "tree" pose while I draw. I stretch and bend while I wait for pages to load. I hydrate more!I might have even lost some weight because of it. I appreciate sitting more too. Now it is like a welcome respite instead of an anchor. It feels like my body has developed a rhythm. It just sort of flows between the two stations.
There are other changes I made and accessories I have added
to my work arsenal and I will share them in the next post. As well as my current, updated set-up.
Let me know about your work set-up in the comments!
This is a picture I took on a recent trip to California.
While the flower itself is so pretty…it was the contrast of light and dark and the simple color pallet that drew me to this particular photo.
I think the feeling of this could translate into beautiful jewelry.
The rose…creamy and ivory set against the deep black reminds me of a more romantic time. It makes me think of some kind of light focal piece framed by onyx, jet black or midnight bluestone.
In a necklace that could mean a beautiful light pendant dangling from a strand of dark beads. For a bracelet it could be multiple strands of dark stones secured with a light clasp. For earrings it could be a dark bead with a waterfall of light strands flowing from beneath.
Mostly it is about the contrast of dark to light and a simple color pallet…
classic…in shades of two colors.
Color combinations don’t have to be complicated…play with the intensity of just a few colors and see what magic can happen.
This photo is a broken shard of a section of glass from an old lighthouse we visited in Nova Scotia. In person it wasn’t too exciting but as usual I was snapping away and I was surprised to see this shot.
It kind of reminds me of when you break open a piece of an aloe plant. On the bottom edge of the triangle shaped cut it almost looks like a small drip.
It looks kind of icy and I like the movement in the picture too.
I guess the lesson is...with digital cameras, no film and a delete button there is no reason to edit yourself when taking pictures.
Buy the largest memory card your camera will hold, charge up your battery and start shooting! You never know what you will end up with.
I think I came out that way. It has always been a part of who I am...as much as my brown eyes or dark hair.
It is part of everything I do, everything I see...my daily decisions...how I live my life.
Sometimes, when I was younger, I didn't like being different in that creative way. It made me feel self-conscience but at the same time provided a great outlet for my youthful emotions.
There have been periods in my life when I have needed to take a creative respite but it never completely leaves. It will come out in my clothing decisions, my home decor, my cooking...it is always there.
Archive post from 2009 Creative influences can come from anywhere. I happen to have two creative parents...each different but artistic in their own way.
My dad's talent is more obvious. His profession as a singer pretty much highlights his creative gift...and what a gift it is! Amazing. ( Click here to learn about Jerry Vale ) My mom's talent is more subtle but was still a huge influence on me. She is innately creative on a daily basis...doing anything from decorating their home, to setting the table, to tending her garden (the rose above), to choosing her wardrobe. I have been incredibly blessed to have extremely creative role models and unlimited support for my art to grow!
Archive post from June 2009 I periodically go through creative bursts of energy where my website is concerned... I am currently having one such burst. I am feeling the need to edit, update, add, etc...
Above is the project I was working on today. It is a new banner template to give my web pages (actually separate blogs) a more uniform look. When I originally constructed them several years ago there was so much work to do just compiling content and images that I didn't have much brain energy left over for the details and finesse of the site.
Now I am starting to look at the details.
It has been fun discovering the new applications, upgrades and tools Blogger has added since my last surge of web updating. Some are unfamiliar to me so there will be a bit of a learning curve.
I have let this whole web creation process unfold and move at it's own pace. I believe that I will be given the skills as I need them. Sometimes I feel "behind" everyone as far as technology but then I remember that there are no accidents. I am right where I am supposed to be and that brings me a bit of peace.
When I had to design a piece of jewelry that represented my dad (who was a singer) I was stumped. I didn't want the obvious but I wanted to design something someone could wear even if they didn't know who he was. A design that would stand on it's own. Above is some marketing material for the finished piece.
I loved how the necklace turned out. The design was inspired by the 45 records my dad recorded and the paper sleeves they slid into. Each sterling silver and 14K gold piece incorporates my dad's fingerprint as the pattern on the record.
It took some finesse in the construction but was well worth it.
I bought this dress a while ago. I wore it a couple of times but didn’t really feel great in it. Then one day when I was cleaning out my closet I took it out and threw it in a box we keep items we want to donate in. It was between seasons and it took a wile for the box to get filled…mostly with clothes my son outgrows.
Not long ago I went into the donation box to bag up the stuff to drop off…and there was this dress. Summer was coming and I thought maybe I had been too hasty getting rid of it. After trying it on, I had an observation and an idea…
It wasn’t really the dress I didn’t like…it was the thick (rather unattractive) black straps.
I thought, what do I have to loose…I was getting rid of it anyway. So I snipped off the straps. I went to a fabric store, bought some trim and sewed new straps….voila!
It was like having a brand new dress. The trim was light and interesting and all it took was a needle and thread.
Look at your wardrobe and see what you might have that could be given new life with a tiny bit of trim or an embellishment.
Awww.... this post was 6 1/2 years ago and I feel the same way! Today is my 11th wedding anniversary! Yea! I just wanted to take a moment to thank my spectacular husband for all of the creative juice he gives me. It makes a huge difference for me to have the unconditional love and support of my partner.
He allows me to explore and experiment with whatever my current whim is and never crushes an idea...no matter how weird it might seem. (and I have tested that)
He provides a safe environment for me to flourish and grow as an artist.
My art comes from a place of love and he is a big reason why.
Take a deep breath, have a cup of tea, light a candle...
Archive Post... Often I can find myself rushing through projects with my sights set on the next thing on my list instead of being present to what is actually in my hands.
Sometimes that is ok...sometimes I need to just plow through several things sort of like cleaning out my engine or when you have to turn the can of spray paint over to clear the nozzle.
But generally I believe that it is better to be more deliberate and in tune with the present moment, especially creatively.
There are those times where I am totally aware of everything around me... the way things feel, look, smell and that's when I feel a connection between my art and my self.
This picture makes me smile whenever I see it. Our dog, Nilak, runs so fast she is like a blur. I don't want to power through my life like that. I want to experience my life.
This was a really interesting job I did back when I lived in Scottsdale.
From my Archives:
The ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) created a designer showhouse at a historic Scottsdale, Arizona hotel...transforming the individual casista into one of a kind showplaces. Designers bid for the opportunity to create a special space.
Three designers that I worked with on a regular basis were chosen to participate and so my handi-work was sprinkled throughout this project.
This was a section of one casita I did some decorative painting in. For the walls, I aged and washed them with color. I hand cut custom stencils inspired by the fabric choices and used them around the bed room room and in the bath room. Then I painted a mural on wood planks which was used as a headboard.
I also gave the ceiling a splash of color in a cobalt blue and aged the wood beams.
With recent snow storms here in New England...this looks like a cozy place to snuggle up.