Place is so important. 

The space to be


I love this photo  (I will talk about photos later in detail later) .   I took this from the outside looking in.  Through the window.  As a visual, it opens up the idea of gallery and  gives me a sense of my work  and what I might leave behind  as some sort of passing season.  Looking at it helps me accept that.

I just wanted to give you an idea about the space I work in. It changes a lot with the weather and there are no walls left unmarked by tacks.  It's only since I started blogging that I called my space a studio.  Before that it was just my favorite room.  A place to feel safe, relaxed, with space, room enough to think.

The picture to the right, is me, taken in the same chair, in the same place, one month before I began the Spirit Cloth blog.  September 2006.  I'm not wearing glasses because, back then, as silly as it sounds now,  I thought it made me look better.

Oh Ha!



It's nice to have a place, a big space, a studio, an official artistic environment.  But really,  you can also use your mind.

When I did the drawing that I used for the What If blog, I was studying children's book illustration and I had no studio.   It was to illustrate a verse of a poem. And it was about Thought Catching.

The Brain is wider than the Sky
For put them side by side
The one the other will contain
With ease and you beside

By Emily Dickinson

My Dad had a massive stroke right before I began blogging.  He passed away while I was working on the Lion Quilt, the cloth I was working on in that old picture above.  I used that cloth as a thought catcher while visiting him over the years he spent trying to recover. The best piece of advice he ever  gave me was "Use your Head".  It's a loose thought, that  I have carried with me to patch many holes. It has never failed me.

Your Mind.  It's a safe place with a lot of room.


  1. Thank you for the little tour and your thoughts on this, Jude. Hits so close to home for me. My best work done sitting outside, I think. And you, carrying back and forth, holding, and stitching on the Lion Quilt to and from and with your dad. I’d imagine that quilt is capable of a sort of softened time travel.

    I’m here and working my way through to catch up.

    • jude

      it’s nice to know that we can sort of time travel here as well, wander in and out…
      That lion quilt was such a teacher for me.

      • Irene Stoss

        I love that you spoke about space and making excuses for not doing something. I sometimes find myself in that predicament. At times I find that stitching in public spaces (like in airports) is easier than at home. There seems to be less distractions even being surrounded by so many people.

  2. I absolutely love your studio, it is you! and love that photo, the reflections hold a promise……
    I do a lot of rearranging and know full well it’s often an excuse to not work, however, it also allows me to reacquaint myself with stuff I have and had forgotten about, and during that process some of my best ideas have popped up in my head;
    I too own a studio and it is one of my favourite spaces, as is the garden, but I also do a lot of my sewing on the settee in the living room sat next to my beloved husband in the evenings
    this is just one of the things I love about the sewing……I can do it almost anywhere

  3. Minka

    Your recording on studio space is quite profound. If I get nothing else out of this course, it was already worth it.

    Years ago I had a blog, Minka’s Studio (which I have since closed). One day, a friend visited from out of state. One step over my threshold, she asked, “Where’s your studio?” I told her, “There is no studio.” But then I turned around and looked at my two bedroom apartment; every spot had something related to my creative activities.

    My apartment remains my studio. It just needs a little decluttering. The clutter has gotten in the way. It’s been a massive project but already things feel lighter.

  4. I raised four kids here and had no space so I sewed quilts on my cheap little machine on my bedroom floor. We all had quilts and that was enough. Now I have lots of rooms with lots of stuff and that is ok too. I paint or draw or knit or sew and stretch out and my house ss full of my stuff. My friend wants me to make a documentary of it. wip. Now sometimes, I feel guilty for having too much stuff but through all of the years that I worked I felt like it was always for others and not enought time or space for me. So I am trying to relax into it. I am grateful for my former self who saw ahead to the time when I could play with all of my stuff.

  5. I love the top photo of your gallery wall superimposed with the trees – magnificent! While we were traveling, I started photographing my work outside and I really love that. So nice to see an overview of your workspace – probably why those Studio Magazines sell so well. We are all intrigued with artists’ studios. I have a new one since we have settled down again. Has taken me quite awhile to make sense of all of it but hasn’t stopped me from working, thankfully, but I think it might have years ago. I can’t even count how many times I attempted to set up a studio and then we were on the move again. When I rediscovered stitching as an art form – I wished I had had that throughout all the moves. So much more convenient to carry around or stick in your pocket than many art mediums. Glad to finally be along in one of your classes after having lurked in your blog for years! Your generosity of sharing thoughts and techniques is appreciated here.

  6. Lou

    Its so interesting to see your workplace and the little scrolls of fabric that I want to carefully take out and explore! I have a little wooden place at the veg patch in my garden, its cosy and when its warm i can open the doors for more light. I am grateful for the space as when i disappear down a creative hole a chaos of fabric quickly appears! I find the minute I step into this space a mental shift occurs, time slows and im ready. But getting myself down there isnt always easy, mental barriers of unnecessary chores or other “reasons” but really sometimes its because i dont always feel able to let the reins off and take some creative risks. I need to see it more like you do, what if’s with no end goal other than exploration or right or wrong… how do you do that?! Those barriers are there whatever space im in actualy. My favourite space is outside among the birdsong.

  7. This is such a great beginning, going back and forward…love this. Ans so timely, what with moving, downsizing and all that.
    Plus, I was just thinking about that whole glasses thing and how my mom went through a phase where she insited on taking her glasses off in photos. xo

  8. Joanne

    I gave up my studio when we did renovations–it had to be our bedroom for 9 months but at the end is now a guest room. I have the sewing machine and the ironing board and the cutting table in the small office room. I work on the carpeted floor. I pin cloth to the wall above the ironing board. My fabric is in the Attic or a small amount in the closet (but never what I need). It is all very difficult. I can see (from your video and the comments) that I need to reclaim my own space.

  9. Jean

    Thank you for sharing your wise words. 3 years ago we moved from a busy urban environment to a quiet area with trees and dramatic skies. I now have a little room with natural light where I have a small table and a few shelves. The ability to see my fabrics and access my supplies has expanded my world and my heart. I feel that storing my things in boxes and in closets for so many years did not acknowledge the value they have for me. My wish for everyone with a creative spirit is to have a little space to let those ideas be free. Thank you Jude!

  10. I have a desk built into the recess in my spare bedroom which is no longer a bedroom, but a place to do a bit of crafting, or stretching, or just listen to music. It is strange, I live alone, (well I have a little tabby cat called Lexi with me) and therefore I have free range throughout my home, but there is something special about my spare room. I think it is just my favourite.

  11. Jacqui

    I love listening to that great, deep sense of wisdom in your voice and see the kindness and generosity that shows in your face. Thank you for inviting us all into your beautiful home.

  12. Brinda Callahan

    So much good food for thought here…great energy…moving. Thank you Ragmates! I’ve started arranging / rearranging my studio (in what we call our multi purpose room because it also has our movie set up, my cross trainer and stuff for the grandchildren when they’re here.) Some big things shifted for me in the last 6 months through a really tough situation in my family in the US (very heartbreaking and difficult to process but the end result has been good for my growth, faith in life’s lessons and putting things in perspective.) I’ve realized I cannot save a desperate situation and have been depleting myself trying to. Suddenly my energy is free to finish up, make new, focus on the essential…..one being loving my creative self and all the « stuff » and messes that go along with it. I have a postcard from an expo in Paris, « Pas d’art sans chaos », « No art without chaos ». That card sits on one of my piles of fabric as a reminding factor. I used to be a very organized person and sometimes wonder where that person went off to!!

  13. In my room in our apartment there is the big dining table. We only use it when family or friends come for diner. The rest of the room is full of my stash and a desk. I mostly work on the big dining table. And I´m always a bit frustated because it is so messy when I´m working. When we invite friends or family for diner I always have to spend a lot of time to clean up. Some weeks ago I sat there looked at my creative chaos and I realised that studio was a too big word for me – only artists have studios. Somebody like me works on the dining table and don´t take up to much space. So why not change my view: I can try to call it studio. So now (for a test) it is my studio in first place not a dining room. So I invite my guests in my studio for diner. That means I have to clean it up a bit but my creative process can be visible too. Nothing to hide.

    • grace

      Hey!, Doris….as i read, pictures appear from your words and i can just see this.
      “so i invite my guests in my studio for dinner” Nothing to hide.
      no longer hiding Self. What Self wants.
      This is Great!

    • Lynda Merry

      Hi Doris-
      I was reading through everyone’s comments about “their work space” and when I read your description, it sounded just like my space! We downsized to a very small condo/apartment a couple years ago, and before we moved in, I claimed the closet adjacent to our dining room. I call it my “closet studio”. All my supplies are stored in the closet, and the walls are filled with my work, like a tiny gallery. You have to go inside the closet and close the door to see everything. We never use the dining table for our meals except when we have guests. All week, my projects are spread across the table. I think it’s perfect. I’ve had rooms or bigger space, but this has turned out the best for me. Thank you for describing your space!

  14. Karen

    So far your thoughts today are my favorite. I loved that you observed your son preparing to play, and realized he never got around to playing. Although I think there is value in preparing, I am just impressed that you though about it and encourage him to play. I was just too overwhelm with my three kids, four and under, to even think that much. I did realize that it seemed a waste of time to pick up that much, because it would be undone in ten minutes of their play.

  15. I am living in a community of “older persons”. Recently, I noticed my Great Room (aka: “living room”) was not so much being used for “living”;
    all of my creative parts and pieces that were stuffed and huddled (even “hidden”) in the extra bedroom were pulled out of the nooks and crannies, AND, with a compelling desire for change, I became encouraged to relocate it all into the Great Room.
    Yes, indeed, it appeared as a huge mess and chaos. When my pals saw what I was doing, they expressed concern by asking, “Are you sure you want to do this?”

    In the relocating process, I felt a need for more open flat table surfaces, so I began culling the thrift stores.
    I gleaned a huge-mongous (and ugly) dining room table. At the checkout stand, with a little fist pump, I exclaimed, “Thrift Store Score”. As soon as the table moved in, I excitedly began re-creating it. It was sanded and covered with chalk paint and fabric decoupage. I built cinderblock bookcases and gathering small thrift store tables.

    The Great Room has been morphed into my great good creative space. Now, I am living here…truly.

  16. Pam S.

    Studio for me is whatever room has space on the floor and a sofa with a good light! Ha …it’s worked for me over 35yrs. of hand quilting.

  17. Eva

    Love your studio space! My stitching- chair is covered by the wonderful Spirit Cloth made under your guidance over 2 years! I don‘t have a studio….never had, never will have…BUT I am happy as a clam at high tide each ande every day and sketch and stitch in my tiny space!

  18. Oh this made me laugh, and cry. I know it is the clutter in my head that keeps me from just making things, but I waste a lot of precious time blaming the external space.

  19. Susan Noel

    Your talking about spending time arranging and “setting up” one’s space speaks directly to me. I believe in sacred space (not using sacred in religious sense here) and in the ritual(s) of creating and caring for that space. BUT you are so right about how it can take over and become all one does and keeps one from really “doing” the creating. I struggle to find the balance between both and haven’t found it yet. However I do notice myself being stuck doing only the ritual caring for and avoiding the doing. Perhaps this is a step towards finding a better balance.

  20. In 1992 I started a biennial art studio tour for eight artists (I owned an art gallery then with my now ex-husband) and had been on a studio tour in Berkeley CA and thought it was a great idea to bring back to my little Sierra foothill town. Four years later my marriage ended and I was ousted from the gallery and I ended up with the house and the studio tour’s survival was dangling out there after two successful incarnations. I didn’t want to abandon it and I also wanted to be a part of it, so I had to suddenly describe myself as an artist and the messy room where I had been creating this and that for already 15 as an actual studio. I became an artist on the tour while I still organized it. The studio tour grew to twenty-eight artists and brought in hundreds of visitors. One year we sold $40,000 worth of art. The best part of that studio tour for me was the “pre-tour” we had about two months before the studio tour itself. We took one long day and went to all the studios of the artists who showed up that day. Only artists themselves (no spouses or friends) were allowed on that tour. We listened to each of us talk about our work and our process and we asked questions and shared ideas. I thought then, and still do now, that was the best part of the studio tour. We talked in a private circle and I miss it now.

    A few years ago, I ended up merging the small town’s tour with a larger one for the county because I was getting older and more tired and it was hard to produce that tour mostly on my own (I am a year older than you, Jude). This new studio tour is run by an organization and has had some major hiccups in how it has worked. It almost died completely. The county is so large geographically that the studio tour is divided in half. My studio will be open on it next March. So this this year I cleaned it, organized it, like I did every time for the old studio tour. The studio tour became like a cattle prod to get me to finally do something in the studio and about the studio. I did the gleaning, cleaning this year so that next year I won’t be pressured that way.

    I once had a special friend stand in the room (that is now known as “my studio”) and I was bemoaning the mess and the volume of stuff and the way I worked with so many different projects and mediums. (The mess was not a positive issue for my ex.) She listened to me carefully and finally said to me, paraphrased here because this conversation happened about twenty-five years ago…this is your value, like a dowry, and millions of woman have been killed for gathering treasures like this. Don’t insult it, don’t feel bad about it. Honor it just as it is. So as I organized it this year, almost touching everything in it (well not exactly each and every magazine scrap I cut out for a future collage), I felt intense love for it and my life as a creative person.

    Since finding you, Jude, and your spirit cloth blog, which I read in its entirety (over two weeks) when I found it, going back to your very first post, I am now collaging with cloth using my digital mandala work. I have a new stash of stuff, pieces of some of my old clothes and lots of colored threads, and the “studio” has found itself into another part of the house and is morphing and blending into my daily life more and more.

    When I first started the original studio tour, I found creative people in town who made things. One person was a jewelry maker. She did not have a studio and worked on a kitchen table. I got her to agree to be on the studio tour and show her work being made on that table. I wanted people to see that they could start and work anywhere.

    Thank you for this tour of your “studio”, Jude, and for your generosity of sharing in all that you do. You are a living spirit cloth and we all get to be a part of that living cloth in this circle. I am so grateful to be a part of your so-called last class.

    PS Today I am going to a wrap-up committee meeting (as an advisor more than a worker) for the larger studio tour which just happend two weeks ago. I went as a visitor to it and found myself unable to stop wearing the organizer hat and seeing things that could be fixed to make it better. You have reminded me again of the intrinsic value of a “studio” that shows up for each person just the way it is. I am going to this meeting today, again as a defender of the value of sharing space, ideas, ways of working as the art itself. Without it, there is no art.

      • Susan Noel

        (She listened to me carefully and finally said to me, paraphrased here because this conversation happened about twenty-five years ago…this is your value, like a dowry, and millions of woman have been killed for gathering treasures like this. Don’t insult it, don’t feel bad about it. Honor it just as it is. )
        Thank you so much for sharing this woman’s wisdom–it was exactly what I needed to hear today (and most days). So often I am told (and not infrequently by my own voice) “oh you have so much stuff”. And yes I do and yes I “dabble” in lots of techniques and materials and it is in that thinking and dabbling that lots of my best ideas pop up. Permission to honor and celebrate who we are and how we work in our own unique ways is encouraging.

  21. Cheryl

    I am a collector. A collector of thoughts, ideas, books, fabrics – anything to use as an excuse not to create something. I finally realized no matter how big or small my collection, or the number of how-to books I had, I would never do anything as long as I thought I needed the next best thing. “If only I have this…then I can do this…” Or, “I can’t work on that until I have a studio…” I’m sure you get the idea. Finally, I am moving away from the collecting – giving things away – and starting to do the work I know I am meant to do.
    Thank you for sharing your space – a lot of good energy there.

    • jude

      and the internet makes it even worse, too much to see and compare with. I love it a a resource but really it is important to create that safe place in your mind where what you have is enough and your thoughts flow freely.

    • Cheryl Fillion

      This grabbed my attention – My name, too, is Cheryl, and I could have written these exact words. Now each time another pile of “stuff” goes out the door to a friend or a classroom or to Goodwill, I am lighter and more energized to focus on the work that is bubbling up from my heart.

    • ‘Finally, I am moving away from the collecting – giving things away – and starting to do the work I know I am meant to do’.

      ‘it is important to create that safe place in your mind where what you have is enough and your thoughts flow freely’

      These thoughts speak to me around that sense of ‘enoughness’ – the feelings of both having enough and being enough when it comes to creative work, and also when it comes to living a life – a theme that accompanies me through a lot of reflecting.
      Thanks for opening this space to go deeper and slower.

  22. JennAnn

    Safe places. There was a time when it felt like there were no safe places, no havens – especially my own mind. When I found you, years ago, I began to use stitching as a safe place…a place to quiet my mind and be safe. The cloth, the thread. I have a number of pieces that have hundreds of stitches and the word “Safe” embroidered on them. The cloth has become my haven.

    • jude

      the word safe of course was a thought you caught. On cloth, I can imagine what a beautiful blanket might be constructed of loose patches with the word safe all stitched together. Would that be fine or what? Maybe a baby blanket even. Your thoughts have spurred my thoughts. Thank you.

  23. grace

    i have a lot of thoughts about space. I have so little, since coming to live in a travel trailer for just over a year
    now. If you NEED to make Cloth, anything is space enough, really, but what i found i missed most was my
    Wall. I guess it’s called a design wall. To just place things on…, for looking. For living with while looking. But
    that can happen too if you NEED to look. The pvc pipe, hanging from the high cabinet doors on heavy string,
    a large piece of canvas that i can pin things to.

  24. Cornelia Bayley

    Thanks for sharing your story on your space. I have a “studio” space, but find I still bring what I need in baskets and sit in a big, oversized chair in my living room, to be with my dogs and have a view outside. So, I think your concept of one’s mind as a studio is very true. Lots of room to spread out…

  25. so true. I don’t have a studio, just my lounge room, which is an open plan room, and a mess. I did have an external studio space for a while, shared space in a warehouse some friends manage, but it was very small and closed in by curtains and I didn’t like working in it (no light too) – I realised I love working at home. so we dropped the studio, and got a storage place next door instead, so at least we can move things to it (declutter home – still a work in progress), and it’s easier/quicker to go get things if I want them for a project.

    the idea of having to spend all the time setting up instead of playing – I resonated with this for another part of my life. in the late 80s/90s/early 2000s I had this problem working with windows computers (I’m in a technical/IT role for work; try to play with art/craft in spare time along with other things) – spent all the time fixing it or installing things to prepare to be able to do something creative, but by then I was too tired or had moved onto another idea. the process was great for work as I learned a lot. but not good for home projects. then once I moved to mac I didn’t have to have this setup time any more – I had a great home projects creative spurt, and still learned things along the way. so for me, both ways were good when I weigh up work & play, but my fav was the play. (and I’m sticking to the mac now! ha) long post, oops.

  26. Jen NyBlom

    “Creative minds are rarely tidy” (my mantra, haha!)…periodically, I tidy my spaces and then, as soon as I start creating~~ Chaos! And, you are SO right: the “scene”, the “market”, the HYPE.(mentally rolling my eyes) Finally, in my mid-50s, I am freeing myself to not care & and to just CREATE. It makes me so happy 😀 Thank you for your thoughts, your words, your stitches, your sharing, Jude!!! <3

  27. Sri

    Thank you for this tour through your creative environment, Jude. I love the fact that what you make weaves its way through the non-studio rooms. I have no designated studio so I share my bedroom/dining room with a floor loom, art materials and boxes of cloth and the living room I share with a table loom and lots of yarn. I have recently taken to painting and drawing in my tiny kitchen as the work surface is just the right height. So my work is uncontained but contained by the boundary of my apartment. and my mind can roam freely.

  28. debgorr

    Very wise words about space and organization. My whole house has become space to create. I couldn’t and can’t keep it contained. I even moved my bed into my living room thinking I would create a studio apartment type space so that I could keep the clutter down in the living room but it all just spread out more. Oh well… 🙂

    • jude

      I’m thinking that the studio thing might simply grow by default, out of need, rather than needing it up front. Moving things around has become art of the process too, like you, it is almost part of composing. And more of a lifestyle…

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