Monday, January 15, 2007

A Room of My Own

WARNING! Whiny rant ahead:

Virginia Woolf said that all a woman needs is a room of her own.

For the past 17 years, we have lived in a 1,000 square foot townhouse. I have raised 3 kids, 4 cats, and a variety of guinea pigs and goldfish in this tiny space. I have created a garden paradise in what was once a flat stretch of dead grass. And I have worked as a knitter and artist out of this wee home.

It has been challenging, with my skills and interests expanding to need more equipment and space. Compared to many fibre folk, my collection of tools and equipment is as miniscule as my home, but it's still a lot of stuff to cram into a household this size. My "studio" consists of a 12 square foot corner of the living room. I work where I can find space--the kitchen table, the basement, the couch. And for the most part, my family gives me the space I need and lives with the skeins hanging all over the place and the constant threat of sitting on a casually placed knitting needle.

Unfortunately, this doesn't always work. Last week, a careless gesture by a daughter resulted in the virtual destruction of my Schacht kate, leading me to a full-blown artistic temprament meltdown. My daughter did nothing intentional, there was no malice intended, but losing major components to a piece of equipment is quite a blow. The parts can be replaced, but that takes time. And money.

The reason for the meltdown was not the damage to the kate--there are plenty of ways around that problem. The real reason was the age-old balancing act that creative women have always had to perform. Creativity of any type, be it visual art, writing, performing, is hugely demanding. There are times that one requires quiet, solitude, focus. And raising a family, meeting the needs of a spouse and household, even in this enlightened age of shared gender roles, seem to eat more into a woman's life than into a man's. My husband does not have to clear the kids' breakfast dishes off his desk before he can start work. The girls can leave their school books or art project laying around their bedroom and just close the door. I have to put everything away at the end of a workday, then clean the room, pull the work and tools out and reset the workspace before I can do anything. Then I have to spend half-an-hour hunting for scissors. And because I work in the home, at my own pace, I can drop everything to give rides, run for groceries, make meals and help with homework.

I know that my creativity and productivity is being limited by the constant disruptions. I also know that I am as guilty as anyone else in pushing my artistic priorities to the back burner-- my family is more important to me. But I would dearly love to have a little room that I can go into and lock the door and say "I'll come out when I'm done". At least for today.

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