The Atelier Dream
Struggling with unemployment is unreal as a creative person. One minute you're a graduate with a Bachelor's Degree, next minute you're sitting at home figuring out what to do next. There's only so much out there you can do.
I knew I always wanted to work with children and so I got a job working as a Studio Assistant and Studio Co-Ordinator in childcare. It was definitely an amazing experience but extremely tiring and when COVID hit, it hit big. I needed an outlet to de-stress and I dabbled with polymer clay here and there and started making earrings.
Suddenly, I found myself quitting my full-time job and spent my day making earrings at home in my pyjamas. It was all great until I realised how much I missed human interactions. I had friends who were encouraging me to run workshops and I bit the bullet and went for it. It's extremely scary putting yourself out there and then I realised how much fun I had teaching and facilitating these workshops.
That was when I started to consider if having my own studio space would be a good idea. I left it in the back of my mind and it stayed as a dream to one day achieve. I started writing up random ideas I had whenever I could just to fuel that dream of mine and it was called The Atelier Dream.
For 3 years, I would check out rental prices for commercial properties and then go, "Nah, it's too much to deal with" or I would get so close to contacting an agent and then not follow through because it was too daunting. Finally, I sat down and did a full break down of what it will look like to run my own studio.
These were all the things I had to consider:-
- Rental Average Per Year
- How much is rent per month?
- How many workshops do I need to do a month?
- What is the minimum price for a workshop?
- Who is my target market?
- What area do I want to open my studio at?
- What other ways can I make income other than running workshops?
- Insurance, taxes, admin
- Opening hours, staffing
Overwhelming? There's more.
- Deposit for lease
- Budget for furniture
- Tables, chairs, cabinets, desks, shelving
- Storage space
- Displays for products and materials
The list goes on but I knew I had to take one step at a time. I told myself that when the right location pops up, it's go time. Another year goes by, life goes on, and suddenly an opening for a cute little space came up.
I psyched myself up, contacted the agent, viewed the property and within a few weeks I was holding keys in my hand and I had my own studio.
It's Go Time!
Alright, now that we have the space it's time to get down and dirty. Before any of this happened, I told myself that a huge chunk of money is going out the window. It's what's going to happen if I have to get my dream going. Without even getting the keys yet, there was already so many big chunks of payment that needed to be sorted.
I now had to be smart when it came down to spending. Instead of buying everything brand new, I decided to shift my perspective a little and take the thrifting route. I started by making a list of important things I needed in the space.
- Storage containers
- Signage out front
These are the things I needed to get that first workshop up and running. All my other materials and supplies I already have so I just needed the basics. The only thing I bought brand new were the tables as I wanted them to have adjustable legs so it was suitable for children and adults.
Facebook Marketplace is going to be your best friend.
Half of my time was scrolling through marketplace trying to find the right chairs or the right shelving. Then it was the issue of trying to fit things into my car! I was lucky to have amazing friends who supported me throughout this whole process and it was definitely an adventure trying to squeeze humans and furniture into my Honda CRV.
I also have the most amazing friends who got me plenty of gifts for the studio like towels, plants, chairs, etc.
I saved a ton of money just buy thrifting supplies and even got a membership at REmida, a creative reuse centre, for any other additional supplies needed for workshops.
Signage was one of those things I was definitely not familiar with. I searched everywhere for something that was reasonably priced and couldn't find a single thing in my budget. I had a friend who was kind enough to lend me her Cricut machine and before you know it, I had the signage up on the front window.
The Not-So Fun Bit
I've had all sorts of advice and wonderful suggestions thrown at me throughout this time and it was extremely overwhelming. Learning how to say no was something I had to learn. I had to sacrifice a lot of things and be wise with how I spent my time.
One advice that really resonated with me was from one of the staff members at the bank. He said that I was no longer just a creative. I now had to be a business woman and it's just another medium I had to pick up and learn.
We needed to get a website set up and luckily I had experience setting one up for my Polymer Clay Earrings business. When I'm not at the studio building furniture, I'm at home working on the website and coming up with a marketing plan.
It was a good transition for me as I was already running workshops for my other business and I could drive traffic from my other account to this new business.
The admin work, insurances, taxes, payments, and all that good stuff. I had to find ways to organise my thoughts, organise my time, and still maintain a life outside of all this. Not the easiest thing but it's what it takes to get this dream going.
LAYOUT & DESIGN
I had a very specific layout I had in mind seeing as the place is very small. I wanted it to feel big, open and comfortable. The goal was to have a cozy, creative space.
One side of the wall was going to have products for sale. I gathered a few of my friends who were creatives and had items for sale and worked on a commission basis with them. All the shelving and display items we got from Facebook Marketplace or Op Shops.
The other side of the wall was going to be supplies for the workshops and a little drinks/refreshments station for customers.
Living The Dream
Once the basics were done, it was time to start running workshops. I couldn't wait to start welcoming people into the space. I decided to bring some other creatives on board to facilitate workshops with me and it has been an amazing ride so far.
I wanted to offer a variety of workshops which is why I brought on other creatives who worked with different mediums. With all the workshops, we wanted people to walk away feeling proud of what they've done.
Creativity is pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, it's trialing, experimenting and figuring out what works for you.
Every week, we're thinking of new ideas and new workshop offerings. We find ways on how we can improve our workshop delivery.
I like that the things I freak out over is what glaze to use for our air dried clay creations. It's figuring out how we can make our Hocus Pocus Potions workshop more whimsical and magical for the kids. I find myself at home wishing I was at the studio and when I'm at the studio, I never want to leave.
The one thing I keep reminding myself is if I'm doing too many things at once, I'm not doing anything at all. Slow it down. Keep a checklist of all the things to get done and take it one step at a time.
Was I tired everyday? You bet. I still kept my other part time job while getting this place set up but it's so worth it and I cannot wait to watch this place grow into bigger and better things!