I made my first mosaic crouched on my brother’s old twin bed in his childhood room after he’d gone off to culinary school. My next few mosaics were made on my living room floor. Then I upgraded to a little nook in our kitchen, then a table (and shelf!) in our entryway. With each new apartment came a slightly better work space. Never a room to myself, but always at least a small corner to call my own. None of these spaces were ours for keeps—we always knew we’d move on in a few years—so I never wanted to invest (either money or soul) in making my work space a sacred space. It was functional and that was pretty much all.
With this recent move from Ottawa to Kitchener, I feel like I’ve won the lottery in terms of work space (regardless of the fact that the bar is set pretty low). We bought our first house and we’re here to stay. Finally, we can put down roots and I feel like I can get attached to my studio and make it my own. The previous owner of our house was a handyman, so there was already a small workshop in the basement. It has four walls, a door, and a small window, which all seems like such a luxury after years spent camped out on floors and in nooks and hallways.
My new studio is a patchwork of items of various origins, many of which come with their own backstory. Although I did haul a lot of what was there before off to the dump, some of it was salvageable. I kept the pegboard and the unsightly wood panelling, as well as one set of shelves, although I spruced all of this up with a few coats of fresh paint. I like that keeping these items maintains a link to the space’s past.
My dad, handyman extraordinaire, played a huge role in shaping my studio. My beautiful work tables—the heart of the room—are a product of his talent (and his predilection for salvaging things “just in case” they could be useful…I truly come by my foraging ways honestly). They’re made completely out of salvaged wood from three different sources:
- Tops: pine from old window frames from my parents’ house. (Some are from my childhood bedroom and have the remnants of gold paint on them—a relic of my sun and moon phase. Those of you who came of age in the 90s will understand.)
- Bases: cedar from the deck that was at my aunt and uncle’s cottage when they bought it. They ripped it out and it was all destined for the dump until my dad decided to save the pieces that were still good and store them in his garage for the next 15 to 20 years, “just in case”.
- Bottom shelves: cabinets from my parents’ kitchen, which my dad originally made, then salvaged, then brilliantly repurposed for my studio.
When I varnished the table tops, I didn’t erase the pencil marks my dad had left while he was making them. They’re a testament to the love and skill that went into making these tables.
There are other bits of history in this room, which I adore. The clock on the wall was in my maternal grandma’s kitchen when my mom was growing up, and the green stool was in my paternal grandma’s kitchen when my dad was growing up. The tool holder was (again) courtesy of my dad. I asked him if he had any PVC pipe “in stock” (which is code for “squirrelled away in the garage”) and he came back with something even better. The pictures tacked up on the naked ceiling beams and the back of the shelf once adorned my office cube walls, and were originally pages from a homemade calendar. The tea tins holding the plants on my windowsill are from a lovely day spent with friends at a community garage sale outside of Ottawa. There are also words of encouragement from colleagues, fun tokens of affection from fellow mosaicists, and, of course, the mosaic I made in the class that changed my life, there as a reminder of where I started and how far I’ve come. Oh, and there’s a big empty space on the pegboard for all the hammers I have yet to acquire.
My new space might be small, and my studio mate might be a water heater, but it is all mine. It is filled with love, with history, and with good energy, and I grin ear to ear every time I open the door. It is a sanctuary and it already feels sacred to me. I am very excited to make meaningful art in this space. I will do good things here. I promise.