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Creating a Mental Studio

Creating a Mental Studio

Posted by Elle Harris on Jan 25th 2022

We're thrilled to welcome special guest, Elle Harris to Somerset Place to share a beautiful piece about creating inspiration around you. Featured photo by Marian Parsons; In Her Studio Spring 2019.

“I’m going to make everything around me beautiful – that will be my life.” -Elsie de Wolfe

A few years ago, I was at an event at The Field Museum in Chicago, listening to a speech from a leading landscape architect. He was discussing the way it was important to the institution that their outside space reflect their inside space. He went on to share that whether you were inside of museum looking out a window, or outside looking into a window, you should feel the same aesthetic. Brilliant. In that moment, I felt a paradigm shift in my own life. I asked myself if my physical creative space reflected my internal mood, and tone. I found that they did not … and that readily affected my work.

As strong as my imagination was, I found that where I was, what I listened to, and what surrounded me impacted the way I created. If there was external clutter, there was internal clutter. If there was physical distraction, there was mental distraction. So, I tried to make my working spaces beautiful, and ethereal, and enchanting. I have lamps and twinkle lights and beautiful antique books stacked just-so. I have a brass mirror and a copper bell and original, hand-painted watercolors from artists I adore. I have plush pillows to fall into, tacked, typewritten quotes to inspire me, and tiny glass bottles and boxes filled with glittering stars and miniature pressed leaves. My office … my studio … they reflected the state I wanted my mind to be in and then?

I traveled.

But I was still expected to write … to create! And suddenly, all that work of, “perfect placement,” unraveled like a snagged sweater string as I took in my hotel surroundings. I would never have chosen that cool, modern decor. Nothing was cozy or familiar or inspiring. Where were the comforts that sparked my creativity? What could I do?

As important as it was (and still is) for me to surround myself with lovely bits and pieces, I quickly discovered that it is more important to build a mental studio … to create an internal space for creative ideas to flow. As Philosopher David Hume once said, “Beauty in things exists in the mind which contemplates them.” And so, as of late, I’ve done a great deal of renovation on my personal study (or rather, the study inside of my person) … cataloging and curating places and spaces that I can draw upon the moment I close my eyes. The wonderful reality is that unlike my home or hotel, the room for expansion is endless, and no one has the ability to step in and make a mess of things!

Below are a few ideas you can take toward stepping into and creating your own beguiling mental studio, interwoven with some renovation questions that just might spark the foundation of your new portable headquarters. Whether it’s an elaborate library with calligraphy book plates, or a treehouse she-shed complete with a rope ladder … this place is your own dream made real. Welcome to your imagination. It’s time to break ground! Starting Points

Close your eyes and let your mind wander past your plans, past your commitments, past the to do lists and chaos of your day and into an empty room with endless space and possibility. Imagine a light-filled, clean base that is entirely your own. Now drift and build. What are the walls made of? The floors? Are their windows? What do they face? Are they on all sides of the room? Is there a door? A staircase? A walk-in closet? An adjoining room? A hidden passage way? Stretch and pull and push and question until the space reveals itself to you. Knock on each door and wait as it shifts into being. Then, take a slow walk around to study the dimensions of your new workplace.

Now that you’ve settled into the layout of your space, it’s time to unfold the ambiance. Let the colors, the textures, and the tones present themselves to you. Is there a fireplace? A window seat? Bookshelves? Are the walls covered in wallpaper, neutral paint, or is there an accent wall? What does the ceiling look like? Is there a large breezy fan or a crystal chandelier? Are fairy lights strung about or is the lighting more subtle and functional? Are there framed photos? Mirrors? Plants? Is there a chaise lounge? A drafting table? An antique chest with a hundred drawers just waiting to be filled? What time of day is it in your imagination? Does it change?

What does it sound like in your studio? Is there a grandfather clock or the punctuating keys of a typewriter keeping you in rhythmic time or is it silent? Is there a breeze? A storm? Birdsong? Are the sounds of nearby waves teasing the shore? Is there a snapping fire? A tea kettle whistling? The clink of a spoon stirring coffee? Imagine the auditory space filling with only the sounds that soothe and inspire you. What are the details you need to make it all come to life? Is there a particular scent that greets you? The feel of a special chair? What photograph will be on your desk because it just wouldn’t be “your desk” without it? Looking at your shelves, can you see them filled with the products of your creativity? Your art? Your words? Your cards and crafts and creations? This space is not only your studio, but a testimony to all that you have yet to imagine and produce.

Dearest creative … what fantastic possibility you have before you! What a divine place in which to bring it all to life. 

Elle Harris is a believer of impossible things. She is a lover of words, wonder, and the whimsical delights of everyday living. Caught in the creative place between reality and imagination is her favorite place to be. Please join Elle in pursuing life with intention, and grand conversation on her blog Find Elle on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @ElleHarris82.