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How to Set Up a Home Art Studio
1. Install a killer sound system (or sound-proofing wall panels): From your neighbors’ perspective, there’s nothing better to drown out the sound of a screaming plunge-router or rattling air compressor like (insert genre) music blasting at top volume. My neighbors have told me that the sound of my table saw doesn’t bother them so much if I have John Mayer playing loudly while I am working. Works sort of like a decoy duck, I suppose. (This serves a dual purpose: if your neighbors are anything like mine, your stereo system and power tools will do very little to abate the sounds of hate and utter marital breakdown issuing forth from shared walls. Install sheets of homasote, which is relatively inexpensive: these will keep noise at bay, and will also allow you to easily tack up works in progress, as the homasote is similar to corkboard.)
2. Secure roof or courtyard access: To the greatest extent possible, perform hazardous and dust- or fume-producing activities outdoors. Your neighbors may not be so happy about you using a pneumatic chisel above their ceiling, or with the dust wafting in their open window after you’ve sanded down an entire series of paintings in the courtyard. Unless these are the violent neighbors from step #1, understand and respect their complaints—you cannot win this battle. Also, your most valuable tool may become the 100ft extension cord that allows you to get electricity five floors down in the courtyard, or up on the roof where there are no outlets.
3. Set clear boundaries with pets: There are very few things worse than a purebred cat walking across a table full of wet oil paint. Except cleaning the cat.
4. Go professional: Working at home has hobbyist, amateur-type associations that you may wish to avoid: Dad working on counted cross-stitch projects in the basement, or Mom crafting replica train systems in the attic. You, however, are a professional. As a reminder, keep a stack of all of your grant, residency and exhibition rejection letters somewhere in plain sight. The challenge is to make the stack as high as possible—not by intentionally getting rejected, but by making lots of work and applying to everything.
5. Be generous: By working out of your home, you will be saving lots of $$$. Use some of this extra money to invite fellow artists over for dinner or drinks at your place. This is a good way to get people to look at work in progress, and to avoid isolating yourself in your affordable neighborhood.
Josh Willis lives and works in a rent-controlled apartment in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. He teaches art at Brooklyn College and Purchase College, and his work is represented by Centotto in Bushwick. www.jwillisstudio.com