Visual artists Michael Bell and Claire Martin have separate studios in their Lambton backyard
Bell: I had a studio at the Lucky Country [hotel] for 18 years until it got condemned. It was really cheap - 30 bucks a week - and it was quite a messy, grungy, wild place. I was a bit worried about moving home to work. I wasn't sure how I'd go working and living on the same block.
In fact, I love it; it's better working here than at the Lucky. It's a brighter space and it's easier working at night; I don't have to drive into town. I couldn't do without my own space. I like to make a big mess, scrape things off and rework things.
I try to have a daily routine - clock on, clock off - rather than wait for inspiration. It's a job. I don't like working in complete silence so I'll have music playing - Nick Cave, Grinderman - and I let it get pretty noisy. It might be a carry-over from the pub days. I like the energy of loud music; sometimes you need it to get you working.
Martin: While Michael was at the Lucky Country, I had the space he now uses, which used to be a tradie's shed when we first bought the house. You couldn't move in there, it was so crowded with TVs and washing machines.
We built this studio 15 years ago and initially the boys [the couple have twin sons] lived in it until they left home. It's interesting because your studios can sometimes help you initiate work and they can also define your work. When I started working here, I had all this space and suddenly my work became enormous; all the paintings were two metres wide. I enjoy solitude when I'm working; sometimes I don't even like having the radio on because it becomes too engaging and that's OK when you're prepping, but not when you're in the zone and making work. My studio is filled with odds and sods you're attracted to, but you don't know if you'll ever use. I've got plastic from the beach, a bag of leaves.
It's a treasure trove in some ways, but you've got to keep it organised.
When we're both working, I can see Michael's light on and every now and then his silhouette and there's a quiet companionship; it's a nice feeling.
Barbara Nanshe, jewellery designer and sculptor, Hamilton home studio
We’ve been in the house for six years. Eventually, the washing machine will move out and the laundry will be completely mine.
I’ve always worked at home, generally in the lounge room. You can’t create work as an artist if you don’t have a space. When I’ve had rental houses and I haven’t really had enough space, I’ve worked from a small table at the edge of the lounge room or kitchen.
You need storage and also things around you for inspiration. I’ve got books in front of me and I look at them all the time; I make notes, plot ideas. I have to have a clean space to work and I pack away all the bits and pieces neatly. I always have a shrine in my space; this one I collected when I was in the UAE – it comes from Afghanistan. Lighting is also important and it’s nice to have windows. I can look out into the backyard and see the chooks running around. I also get air through the room, which is important for when I solder. I spend two days a week in here, but sometimes it’s up to three nights as well. When I work, the housework can go to hell.
Painter Sally Bourke, communal studio, Georgetown
There’s five of us here and we’ve all got our separate space. It’s a job the same as any other so we all decided to get a commercial space and pay the rent.
When we moved in it was an empty shed; we had to build the shelving and storage and we put in the gardens. It’s so important for me to have a space away from the house that I don’t think I would have kept making art if I had a home studio. It interferes with being a parent [Bourke has three children] when you work in the house. When I get up each morning, it’s with the full intention of getting the kids off to school and coming in here to work.
What I do is quite messy and three-quarters of the paint I use ends up on the floor so it’s impossible in a home environment. I have a certain mindset when I’m in here; I don’t know anyone engaged in art who isn’t thinking 95per cent of the day about what they’re making, or planning to make.
Sculptor Peter Tilley, home studio, Hamilton South
I’ve pretty much always had a home studio, except when I did my master’s and used a space at the University of Newcastle for two years.
This studio is about three years old. There’s no doubt I have to be separate to the house because of the saw table – the noise and dust. I’m in here every day I’m allowed to be. I like having a tidy place to work; I have to, otherwise it’s impossible to get things done because of all the tools and materials.
At the moment, because of the financial situation, work isn’t selling as often so I’m committed to a number of group shows and am submitting to sculpture prizes. I use all sorts of materials – graphite, which I got from BHP when it closed, wood and bronze, though not that much any more because of the cost. I’ve been working with cast iron, which is much cheaper and I get it done locally in Mayfield.
I also use found objects – bird bones, detailing from French wreaths, small glass bottles, porcelain. I collect all sorts of things, and people also give me things they’ve found. I store it all.