An Artist’s Home

A wooden drawer of different yarns

For many years, my weaving studio was the spare room, or the dining room or even a corner of the living room. It was always a messy, cluttered and uninspiring, temporary space. I didn’t feel that I could call myself an artist or take my art seriously as I didn’t have an artist’s studio.  Sound familiar?

A few years ago, I found myself living on a narrowboat. I had bought it with the idea of converting it to a weaving/textile studio. I busied myself taking down partitions, painted the sauna-esque walls white with chalk paint, added quirky lighting and eventually moved my weaving loom, yarns, vintage textile collection, and art books onto the boat. However, my plans soon changed and I decided to move to living full-time on the boat. At first it was fine, living in my floating studio, but gradually the boat became cluttered with the debris of day to day living, and I was feeling overwhelmed. My creativity stifled.

Collage of blue narrow boat on the water in a marina

A solution was to rent a storage unit nearby, where I could keep most of my yarns and other weaving equipment. I also hired a hall regularly for teaching, meetings and for my own projects, warping, machining etc.

This all worked well until lockdown, which had me confined to the boat. The village hall was closed indefinitely. But, I was so much luckier than many, as despite missing family, friends and my teaching, I was able to hunker down on my boat with the natural world as my solace. All around me, people started taking up new creative hobbies and I was desperate to work on some of my own projects, so major reorganisation of my boat was required.

The kitchen sideboard became an art cupboard,  I nailed old coffee tins to the walls to hold pens, brushes, and scissors. The sewing machine now hides under my one all-purpose table. I repurposed baskets and boxes to house textiles, yarns, sketchbooks, weavings and weaving equipment. An old eleven-drawer chest, gifted to me by another boater, became the perfect storage for ribbons, buttons, and other treasures found in various places around the boat. Steps up to the hatch proved the perfect size for my yarn cones. An old rack, screwed to the wall was perfect for hanging weaving shuttles, skeins of yarn and embroidery hoops. I painted old Ikea file boxes and lined them up in an old television cabinet to make a new office area.

After a few weeks of utter chaos, everything began to come together. Now I have the perfect creative space between my sofa and my galley kitchen, with all my treasures close at hand. My beautiful SAORI WX60 weaving loom has pride of place, but folds up neatly when not in use. I even have space e to unroll my yoga mat, should I feel the urge…!

My narrowboat has been a beautiful, peaceful space for creativity during a time of uncertainty. I have learned that with a bit of sorting, repurposing and organisation, even the tiniest spaces can become an artist’s studio.

Blog post by Amanda Edney.