It's time to get a little nosy and pull back the curtain on another maker's studio! Today we are checking out the Seattle studio of #ahasmember Shelley Engstrom of Story Handmade Designs, a shop of thoughtful necklaces and needle-felted and macrame goods. Get to know her backstory a bit and check out her space! I especially love her sunny window. :)
Q: Please, introduce yourself.
A: I'm Shelley, an artist, writer, and teacher, living with my husband and two Boston terriers in the greater Seattle area. I'm originally from San Diego but have moved all over since college - northern California, Ohio, and now the Pacific Northwest. My formal education focuses on literary arts, so I teach college writing part time. But I've always had what I call an insatiable creative energy, so in 2014 I started my creative business, Story Handmade, selling necklaces on Etsy.
I began my business with a strong desire to develop my creative energy in a way consistent with my values of simplicity, thrift, and transparency, so I crafted nature-inspired necklaces with secondhand materials, and I wrote about the stories of inspiration and materials behind each necklace I made. I found that sharing these stories helped me connect my formal training to my creative work, so that's why I called my business Story.
I now also make macrame wall hangings as well as needle-felted ornaments, garland, and mobiles, but I still use secondhand materials whenever I can; I still find inspiration in my environment and location; and I still practice transparency by sharing about my materials and creative process. My hope is that each of my creations invites others to consider stories and to celebrate the beauty that surrounds us daily.
Q: What sort of work space set up do you have now and has it changed at all since you started?
A: My current studio is in a spare bedroom in our home, and it's the first time I've had a room of my own, dedicated solely to my creative work. I have always had various craft supplies shoved in boxes under the bed or stashed in a guest room closet, and I would haul them all out to work at the dining room table or on the floor, depending on my need for space.
Now I have a large desk area, a closet, and nice room with a view. I spent a lot of time trying to make this space comfortable and usable for my work, and I finally am at that point. But I had to dedicate a lot of energy into arranging the space so that it inspires me but doesn't overpower or dictate the design of my projects.
Q: What is your favorite thing about your work space? Your least favorite?
A: My favorite thing about my work space is that I can fill it with things that inspire me. My husband and I have pretty similar styles, but I mourn the fact we don't share a love of mid-century floral furniture. But in my studio, I can have this (in the form of framed fabric samples for now, but maybe something larger scale in the future).
Even more than vintage florals, I am inspired by the other items on the gallery wall, items that remind me of the women who have inspired and influenced me (my grandmothers and mother, former art students, friends). Having these pieces in this space brings me warmth and reminds me that my story is connected to the stories of others. This always makes me feel inspired.
My least favorite thing about my space may be a tie between the shiny cherry wood desk and the fact that my beads are disorganized. The desk was a Craigslist purchase years ago, and while it serves a purpose, I despise the finish. It feels too formal, and for a long time it was a reminder to me that the furniture in this room was mostly leftovers that I didn't want in any other room of the house.
The beads I will get to. Marie Kondo would say that the entire space will continue to feel cluttered until I fix this and purge all the beads that I don't love. But I don't have a solid plan for that, and it doesn't sound like a very enjoyable task, so I've kept putting it off, though they do tug at the back of my mind. The neat freak in me hates this but is grateful I can at least just close the closet doors.
Q: What makes you feel the most productive in your workspace?
A: Everything having a place helps me keep a clear mind. If my desk is cluttered or if my space is drab or uninspiring, it's really hard for me to focus. And ambiance is important for me, whether it's good lighting or embracing coziness. When the sun is shining early in the morning or turning golden in the late afternoon, I feel lighthearted and free, like the hours are full of anticipation, and I feel inspired to work more. And when the skies are grey with rain or white with snow, lighting candles and listening to New Orleans jazz creates a sense of comfort and warmth and helps me settle in and focus for long periods of time.