Shared Studios - Why sharing a creative space can be great!

Post by Cecily Vessey
When your business gets too big to be kept in your spare room anymore, what's the next step? Perhaps you move into a shared studio. I  work from a studio on my own and love it, however there are times when I wonder, what if there was someone else here to bounce the odd idea off or have a cuppa with. I visited the studios of two pairs of Crafty Fox traders to find out how it works for them.

The first pair that I visited; Kangan Arora and Jonna Saarinen, rent a space at Bainbridge Print Studios in West Norwood. A print studio that has facilities such as an exposure unit and facilities to wash screens (running water, surprisingly not that common!).

'Kangan and Jonna'

Kangan and Jonna first met when they were studying Textile Design at Central Saint Martins. Kangan is originally from India, she moved to London in 2005. Since then she has created collections for Heals, designed rugs for Floor Story and is currently working on a collection for Urban Outfitters. Jonna grew up on the Finnish Archipelago moving to London to do her degree and then her MA at the Royal College. This year she is exhibiting at Berlin Design Week, London Design Festival and tutors at the RCA. From time to time they collaborate under Jonna X Kangan when they 'print what they like and make super happy colourful stuff, just for fun!'

'Jonna's work in progress'

Kangan and Jonna moved into the studio together in 2012, knowing that they got on so well from university it was a natural fit for them to share. Anyone who has seen you go through creating your final year collection at uni and still wants to work with you makes for a very good friend!

When I walked into Kangan and Jonna's space the first thing that struck me was how light and bright it is. There are fabric swatches pinned to the wall and products samples waiting to be discussed.

'Kangan's print samples for her new collection'

'Jonna's screen printing inks'

They have recently doubled their space size, allowing room for both their 4 metre print table and a desk for each of them.  Jonna says 'Before we extended our studio I didn't get to see Kangan as much as I wanted to, as our print table took up most of the space - this was a massive negative! Now with the new 'office wing' that we have just added I can't wait to see her more!'

I see from their studio partnership that they motivate and push one another in a great way. As Kangan was showing me her designs for a new collaboration Jonna looked on proudly and when Jonna was telling my about her upcoming exhibition in Berlin, Kangan was the same. It would be easy to think that two people working in similar mediums would clash, but here it works and has made for productive, nurturing partnership.

'Jonna's Cork Pot Stand'

Kangan's Cushions

You can have a nosey around Kangan and Jonna's studio during the Dulwich Festival's Artists Open House on 9th-10th May & 16th-17th May, Bainbridge Studios, 1 Sydenham Place, West Norwood SE27 0AP.  They will be having a sample sale and leading screen printing workshops.

The second pair; Anna Wiscombe and Georgia Bosson, share a studio in South Bermondsey. Their space is also shared with food stylist Olivia Bennett. Anna is from Dorset and creates decorative wooden interiors products that are stocked all over the UK and internationally. She is gearing up for the trade show Pulse at the moment. Georgia creates screen printed fabrics and interiors products. She has just got back from Milan Design week and is preparing for her second solo pop up shop at the end of May.

In the space is Georgia's print area, Anna's wood workshop and the three have their own desk spaces. Anna's is always pristine, Georgia's I like to call 'organised untidiness!', a very similar vibe to my mum's workshop. Whenever I visit this studio there is always a tasty treat being offered round. This time it was chocolate twists provided by Anna!

'Georgia at her print table'

'Anna and Georgia at Anna's desk'

Anna and Georgia met through friends on the designer/maker craft scene. Anna was moving out of her not so pleasant 'freezing cold in the winter/boiling hot in the summer' studio and Georgia was looking for someone to fill a recently vacated space. They have now been sharing for 18 months. I think the key to this studio combination working so well is Anna is very thoughtful, not only is she biscuit queen but when I asked her about negatives of sharing the space her answer was, 'the only thing that is tricky for me in sharing a space it that my practice can be noisy. I often have to really schedule my days and weeks work around the others, and at busy times this can be a real challenge.' When looking to move into a new space it is worth taking a look at your practice and think how that might effect others around you.

'Anna's birds on the wall by her (very tidy) desk!'

'Georgia's Desk'

Georgia's best quality is her positive attitude, no task is impossible. Having a bad day? We can talk through the bad stuff but what's the positive angle? Anna and Georgia are in the studio together most days and they have managed to work out when to and when not to interact with one another. Both said separately to me how much they enjoy each others company and how great the other is in a crisis.

'Anna's Set of Three Swallow Walls Birds'

In complete contrast to Jonna and Kangan, there is no risk of Georgia and Anna's work overlapping or competing. Georgia said of Anna 'She makes work that is the polar opposite of mine which works brilliantly as we are never in competition. We can freely share ideas and contacts without any fear of creating similar work.' I think it could be tempting to share with someone who works in the same materials and processes as you, especially if it means that you can share expensive equipment. If you do make that decision, I think boundaries need to be set. The last thing you want is studio politics upsetting an otherwise happy friendship. 

'Georgia's Confetti Print Napkins'

You can find Georgia next at the Craft Central Corner Shop at the end of May and Design Junction in September. Anna will be at the Outlaw Craft Market, Bristol (2nd & 3rd May) and they will both be at the City Showcase Summer Embankment Market in June.

There is studio space available at Bainbridge Print Studios  and a desk space with Anna and Georgia. Feel free to get in touch with them to find out more information.