Durable Contemporary Leathergoods Handcrafted in Philadelphia, PA

Elements of an Inspirational Workspace

Not too long ago, I moved into a new apartment, one with an extra room just for leatherwork.  While the idea of having all that space thrilled me, I was left feeling unsure about how to decorate.  Because it is primarily a workspace, I focused first on function and organization. Once I had shelves, drawers and folders, I realized that my space, while functional, lacked inspiration.  I had a lovely workbench with side-shelves.  I had boxes for my rolls of leather.  I had a separate table for my computer and paperwork. But I didn’t walk into the room and feel an overwhelming need to create. I contemplated what an inspirational and functional workspace would look like. It needs (in no particular order):

  • Lighting

No, my studio does not look like this.  In fact, my studio has disappointingly small windows and an ugly center light fixture.  In order to improve on the situation, I had my brother hang a new light fixture with three movable bulbs so that I can redirect the light as I need.  It hangs from the ceiling from leather straps.  A large mirror reflects light around the room.  Lighting is certainly a necessary element to a successful workspace, and certainly something I am constantly trying to improve.

Dream Lighting

  • A Centrally Located Workbench

At first I had my workbench pushed against the wall under the windows.  I thought the view and the natural light would be lovely.  And I thought the wall might help me to contain the messes I make. Now I realize that my workbench in the most important part of my business.  It is there that I spend most of my time.  It is there that I hone my trade, designing, constructing and perfecting.  I must remember to focus on the craft and not get drowned by the marketing, the emails, and the taxes, and having my workbench in the center of the room created that mindset.  The desk for my computer and paperwork is now pushed to the side.  The arrangement of the room symbolizes and encourages the balance I seek between creating leather goods and running a business.

  • Displayed Success

My products were originally stored in a cabinet in a closet.  They were safe from accidental ruin there. But there were also hidden.  When people came over and wanted to see what I make, I could only show them this strange cabinet filled with disorganized product.  It went against everything I know about in-store merchandising but since this space in not a store, I hadn’t thought to display my products. Today, I made two shelves that hang from leather scraps like the DIY shelf below.  Just as I have done in the stores I’ve managed, I artfully arranged my work.  Now when I sit at my bench I can see what I have made and be inspired to continue working.  And when guests come over, they can admire my work too.

Leather and Wood Shelves

  • A Small Collection of Aesthetically Appealing and Sentimental Objects

I will admit that I am a bit of a hoarder.  I like to keep things that make me feel good. This can be a good thing when I am adding an element of comfort to a room.  I have boxes of old postcards, collections of pinned insects,  and strange relics. In order to not impede on the function of the workroom, I had to exercise moderation.  I selected a handful of images and objects to add to the room.  A collection of cicadas in a shadow box, five succulents in colorful pots, a print of a melancholy woman that I’ve had since I was a child, a deer pelvis I found in the woods, and a few books.

  • Chaotic Organization of Tools

I would like to think that I am the sort of person who works well in a clean and meticulously organized area.  But I am not.  I like a semi-structured mess.  I have a few old cigar boxes that hold some tools.  Small containers keep my rivets and buckles separate. Mostly, the workbench inspires the most when its a jungle of bits of leather, doodles on scraps of paper, unwashed brushes, and stray tools.

  • A Mixture of Texture

I work with leather, an incredibly tactile material.  Its soft and warm.  In order to make the leather stand out rather than overwhelm the studio, I added a few contrasting textures.  Exposed metal pipes along the ceiling provide some much needed edge.  A copper cabinet (a great thrift store find) adds organization, a little color, and some harshness. My desk is glass and black metal.  While I love the combination of wood and leather, I think that a studio filled with similar textures would be dull and boring. A delicate balance of texture creates stimulation.


With some work, my spare room is transformed into an atelier.

For more images of great art studios follow me on Pinterest



2 responses

  1. great post Mia, I
    can’t wait to see your atelier one day!

    May 3, 2013 at 9:29 am

    • I cant wait for you to see it too! I would like to tempt you further to come visit my studio with an ever-present plate of cookies and an adorable cat.

      May 3, 2013 at 11:53 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s