Objects Tell Us How to Behave

As humans, we surround ourselves with objects and each holds a story. Silverware and plates tell us to eat. Couches coax us into relaxing. Pens, pencils and paintbrushes lure us into creating.

Social Scientist Per Johansson says that the things we surround ourselves with are a mirror to our inner selves. They hold power over us and influence our behavior. Sure, there are some Orwellian undertones there. But we can use the power of objects to shift the course of our day-to-day life.

Art Supplies Want to Be Used

Think about the purpose of an art brush or a gummy eraser. What about a typewriter or word processor? These objects beg to be put to use. We don’t need to spend heaps of money on the most illustrious art supplies either. Even a basic ballpoint pen and a pad of paper can yield exciting results.

The trick is to make sure you surround yourself with the tools of your particular artistic trade. One thing is certain, you will get exactly zero creative work done if you don’t have a place to write, draw or compose. 

The goal is to make the objects more accessible at any given moment. Not all of us can afford studio space or have the luxury of waiting for inspiration to strike. We have to make do with the environment around us. There are two different methods for carving out a place to work creatively — Create a space at home or build a mobile workspace.

Claim Your Space at Home

It is possible to construct a small artistic workspace at home. The goal is to fill this space with objects that excite our inner muse. If you build your space, the creativity will come. 

1) Carve Out Your Space

You can divide a more communal room into a small studio space. Shelves or a screen can provide a physical barrier and also hide your artistic clutter from the rest of the house. 

A spare closet or corner can also be converted into a personal space. Shelving and baskets can hold your supplies. Alternately, if you are lucky enough to have a garage, attic or basement, you can convert that space (provided you have adequate heating and cooling in place).

2) Use and Art Cart

If the area you use at home is very small or in a high traffic area, you might consider a portable art cart. Something you can easily move and set up in a few minutes. I tend to station myself on the dining room table in the mornings when everyone else is asleep. My family bought me a trunk which now resides next to the table. Everything I need to create is stored there, but can easily be stowed away after I’m done. 

The setup takes only the time for my morning coffee. When I sit down to work, I’m surrounded by pens, paper, an iPad for typing and other items to stoke the creative flame. 

Build a Mobile Workspace

The other alternative is to have a portable workspace you can tote from one location to another. I have a canvas bag in the car that is filled with notes, paper, pens and a sketchbook. When I have fifteen minutes of wait time at Panera, I can jump in the car and get a little work done. 

1) Make It Portable

Use a canvas bag or backpack to hold your mobile workstation. It should be something you can easily sling over one shoulder, but also something you can toss around and not worry about it getting dirty. 

2) Pack It With the Tools of Your Trade

Artists might need a container of pens and pencils along with a sketchbook or two. Even a small watercolor kit can be used at a cafe table or park bench. 

Writers might want a pen and pad for notes and possibly a slim typing device (Tablet or small laptop). Even a phone can work for typing with a Bluetooth keyboard. I also find that sticky notes and paper clips are essential. 

Collect Inspirationals Objects

Not everything needs to be functional. Sometimes the right object can act as a spark plug and jolt you into action.

Earbuds for music (and blocking out the world) can be essential for artists either at home or on the go. Books related to whatever project your working on can serve as a jumping off point. 

Home workspaces might benefit from plants, candles, or incense. I have a tiny juniper bonsai I move inside during morning writes and then it lives the rest of the day outside. 

We are always surrounded by things, each one calling to use them. The TV and the couch already have a loud voice. So too, the bed and fridge. With so many distractions around, we need a place to block them out. Fight objects with objects. Make sure your creative space has things that inspire you. 

Objects have power. Let’s surround ourselves with the right objects. 

Tim Kane

Monthly Mental Kitchen

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