As someone who runs a full-time, creative-based business from home, I'm always interested in hearing about others who are doing the same. There are many positive aspects to being at home, but there can also be drawbacks. On one hand it's so great to work in your pj's and on the other hand it's not so great to work in your pj's!
My fourth interview is with the lovely and talented artist, Stephanie Levy. Working from her home studio in Munich, Germany, Stephanie creates beautiful works inspired by her travels, places she'd like to visit, well-designed interiors and still life. She was kind enough to answer a few questions about her experiences...
1. First, please introduce yourself. What keeps you busy during the day?
Hi, I'm Stephanie, an artist/illustrator and mother of two little girls, aged 4 and 2. I'm American, but I've been living in Germany for the past 14 years. Between my family, making art, and keeping up with my online business - I am busier now than ever before in my life!
2. Please describe your art; what is your creative process and what inspires you.
I create mixed media collage artwork of things that delight and inspire me. I love to travel and visit new places, I adore beautiful interiors and interesting design, and I also enjoy baking and cooking delicious treats. All of these themes appear fairly often as subject matter in my artwork - sometimes simultaneously. I create ink drawings and layer these with different types of papers and paint. My collages are usually quite colorful and full of pattern.
3. What is a typical day for you? Do you keep to a strict routine or is your day fairly fluid?
7 am: I wake up, get my children ready for preschool, eat a quick breakfast, and walk them down the street to their school.
8:30 am: Afterwards, I try to get in at least an hour of walking outside - especially now that it is summer - to get some exercise and fresh air before I start to work. Sometimes I can combine this with running errands like grocery shopping or going to the post office.
10 am: I'm back at home, and when it's a "good day" and I don't have any terribly urgent deadlines to meet dealing with some sort of bureaucracy, I can actually create new artwork in my home studio for anywhere between 3-5 hours. Other days, I must spend at least part of this time tending to email, paperwork, bills, taxes, etc.
Optimally, I try not to turn on the computer before at least noon, and then I take care of updating my blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr. During these hours the time flies by so quickly, it is amazing.
3 pm: I look at the clock and I am usually shocked to see that it is already time to go pick up my children from preschool. We all go for an ice cream or to the playground or do something else fun together.
4:30 pm: My husband comes home from work. We have some tea together and attempt to exchange a few sentences with one other (which is usually impossible because the kids are hopping around and want to tell Papa all about their day too!) Then, either my husband or I make dinner.
6:30 pm: We all have dinner, and afterwards we start getting the kids ready for bed - and depending on how quickly they go to sleep after reading bedtime stories, we may or may not have time to spend together as a couple before we go to sleep. Sometimes I get back online and try to answer email, relist artwork in my shop, and take care of the “business” side of things.
Before my children were in preschool, I would often start a complete second work shift and work on my collages and/or on the computer until the very wee hours of the night. I basically went around like a zombie for a couple of years, with only 3-4 hours of sleep each night. I did get a new website built and opened my online shop, but the negative result was that I developed a little thyroid problem last summer, and since then I have been trying my best to eliminate all-nighters. I only do it when I have a deadline that I can't otherwise meet.
It is sometimes frustrating to have so little time during the day for my artwork, but it is also important for me to spend time with my children and my husband. I often think there are simply not enough hours in the day to do all of the things I want to do! But having daycare for my children now definitely helps, and I am getting more sleep these days. And my thyroid is fine now :)
4. How do you avoid distraction (ie laundry, house keeping, errands, non work related phone calls, etc)? Or do you tend to give in?
Oh, that is a big problem for me! Often when I come home after my morning walk, I look at my apartment, see all of the housework that needs to be done, and feel a bit overwhelmed by it all. Sometimes I give myself a time limit - like 30 minutes to 1 hour - to get as much housework done as possible, and then I force myself to stop. Most days I just throw a load of laundry in the machine, and unload/load the dishwasher, forget about the rest, and get busy doing the work I actually enjoy :)
5. Does working from home affect your art in any way?
I probably work in a smaller scale because I don't have very much workspace at home. I would love to have a large studio where I could really spread out and create some big scale artwork too.
6. How do you transition from "work" to "home"? Are you able to close your studio door and walk away for the evening? Is it easy for you to do?
I don't. I wish I could. I do try to turn off the computer at a reasonable time in the evenings and resist working too much on weekends. It seems like I never have my personal "to-do" list under control, that there is always more to do than I can possibly accomplish during my limited hours during the day. My dream would be to have a large, separate studio one day – perhaps in a large studio collective with other artists. While I’m dreaming, I’d also like an accountant, and some household help.
7. Working from home can sometimes be lonely, do you miss working with other people such as in an office environment? Or do you usually interact with people (in person) during your day? Is this even an issue for you?
I don’t mind working alone so much, because most of the remaining hours of my day are filled with my family. However, I do miss having “real life” contacts with other artists. In my dream studio collective situation, I would have artist “neighbors” that I could go over and visit, get inspiration, share a cup of coffee. I do have to say that I have made some wonderful contacts with other artists through the Internet, and their encouragement and help has made a world of difference for me! I couldn’t have accomplished all of the things I’ve done during the past 2 years without the support of so many online artists friends. (Thank you!)
8. Please describe your studio space (is it a spare room in your home, in your garage, etc.)? Is it an inspiring space? What would you change?
My “studio space” has basically taken over our former living room. The computer, my worktable and all of my supplies, as well as the children’s art table and supplies all share this room. The only thing that perhaps still qualifies the space as a “living room” is the sofa and our tiny TV – which we hardly ever watch anyway – no time! It’s not an ideal situation, and it is one we want to change, but rent prices are incredible in Munich, it’s like living in NYC, so we improvise for now. But we do have big plans for the future.
9. In a nutshell, do you enjoy working from home? What has been your overall experience?
It has its advantages, and I am glad that I can do the laundry at the same time that I work! But eventually, I would like to have a much larger, and perhaps separate studio. We shall see what the future brings!
10. And the million dollar question...do you work in your pj's, shower and get dressed or something in between?
Since I have to get up every day to bring the kids to preschool, I’m showered and dressed by 8 am. But – I am sure that if I didn’t have that responsibility, you’d catch me occasionally in my pajamas ;)
Thank you so much Stephanie!
Please do visit her Etsy shop where you can purchase her original work as well as prints. She shares her travels, creative process, new artwork and the occasional recipe on her fabulous blog!