What are You Bringing to the Studio?

I studied Karate for two years when I lived in the Bay Area. Everything about the experience was great, but my favorite part, and this might sound weird, was the bowing. I used to really feel a connection to the Dojo itself when I would come in, take off my shoes and then bow into the room. I felt, in that moment, that I had crossed over into a sacred practice space. A simple symbolic gesture, sure, but also a moment to be mindful of how important my practice was and to be thankful that I had a space to practice in.

The effect was equally meaningful when I would bow to another student or to my Sensei. There was a lot of understanding contained in that bow; assurance of safety, even within combat, respect for the other person's skills, respect for the time we were spending together, learning, and the promise that we would leave our "other" lives at the door and fully focus on the lesson at hand. It's a beautiful gesture, the bow.

I think, for craftspeople, it may be time that the bow came out of the dojo. When we treat our muse as a mere "idea" that has popped, fully formed, into our heads and we treat our space as a mere "room", we are doing ourselves a disservice. We blithely bring our workday and our hang-ups and our fear right into, what should be, our sacred spaces. We often don't even bother to acknowledge how much these rooms mean to us in the present, how much they have given us in the past, and how much potential they contain for the future. To us, most times, a studio is just a big box with our supplies in it.

If you are creative at all, you've had the experience of an energy running through you. You've heard the call and then thrown everything aside to immerse yourself in a project. There is no other choice than to finish it. It's involuntary. The muse demands it of you and your only choice is to create. When it happens, it's almost like you are watching yourself as a spectator. Your hands already know what to do. The path is clear from beginning to end. For me, this usually happens when I let myself be empty. When I am not trying to push the boulder up the hill. When I relax. If I'm tense and my mind is busy doing back-flips, I may or may not create something that is of any lasting value. But if I am even-tempered and remember that my studio is a place of practice and acknowledge that I am not alone in the process of creating, I often make something really great.

More and more, I think of my studio as part church and part Dojo, a place of respect for the creative spirit and a place to practice being still, so the spirit can move through me and do it's thing. Creating can sometimes feel like a burden, especially if you do it for a living, but if you approach your studio with the reverence it deserves and are open to whatever happens inside, you might just end up creating something that you never even knew you were capable of. Even if this all seems too hippy-dippy to you, it couldn't hurt to clear your mind, bow before you cross the threshold, and see what happens.


  1. terrific post!
    i can really identify with what you said about it being involuntary - something that just must be done. this is why i'm sleep deprived! lol

    i've been really wanting to organize my space, and i think you've given me the motivation to do it! it should be a sacred space.

    i talked about you on one of my blogs -

  2. In all seriousness, I bow to you, Paul.

    I've always had my own weird way of honoring people and spaces. Even if it's just with thoughts. It's been an important part of carving my life out of the chaos around me. Little rituals I create myself to keep me on my daily path.

    I know it can seem funny to people to see your craft area (or bed, or favorite chair) as sacred, but this craft stuff is so important to me that I read craft blogs, write a craft blog, and, uh, craft in all my spare moments. It is a practice, not unlike meditation.

    Honoring my craft space, however humble it may be, reminds me of what feeds my inner me.

  3. Diane - Thanks for the comment. I totally agree about the organization thing. My house is often less than organized, but my studio is always ship shape. Makes a big difference and it's a good place to start. Oh, and thanks for the link! Your blog is cool!

    Alice - Thanks so much. I return the bow. And I totally agree about it being a meditation, it is. I think ritual is really important as well. How else are you going to remind yourself how important your practice is? Thanks again for all your great comments!

  4. I actually say hello out loud to my studio when I enter it - I say things like, "good morning, beautiful studio, what lovely light you have today". If I'm just passing through, I apologise to it for not staying longer.

  5. Kirsty - Awesome! I love it. Thanks for the comment.

  6. I get that - I've done Jitsu, Aikido, and others, and the rituals of starting and ending really allow you to focus on the task.

    Bowing really helps you focus on the task at hand.

  7. Renoir - Thanks for the comment. Totally agree.

  8. Very well said. I really liked this post, thanks.