Annie Dornan Smith - behind the scenes blog posts

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My Studio Space Through The Ages


Something I think we should do less of : Comparing ourselves to others, (especially your beginning to their middle.)

Something I think we should do more of: Reflecting back on our past selves, and recognising how far we've come.


So today I thought it'd be healthy for us all to take a little look back at my studio spaces through the years - from the desks-in-bedrooms to my current little home studio. I am so so lucky to have a dedicated workspace for my business in my home but it wasn't always that way. I wanted to show anyone who's ever felt that sting of comparison that I've had many a cluttered bedroom desk, and show myself that actually, I'm doing pretty great. Hopefully it will be an interesting little look behind the scenes at the many different spots that I've built my business from so far. 

Prepare yourself for clutter, eyewateringly bad photography and even worse photo editing - We're taking a dip into the archives.

#1 - Studentville, Population : Clutter

Annie's First "Studio Space" - a cluttered desk in the corner of my uni bedroom  

note: the very first, very terrible illustration attempts I made; the wannabe pinterest design decisions and the HUGE PILE OF ART SUPPLIES because I had no idea what medium I wanted to work in yet. 

Man, it's been so long since I lived in this space that I'd kind of forgotten what it even looked like. It wasn't my first uni room, but the less said about Halls, the better. Throughout the course of the two years I lived in this attic room, that desk at some point occupied just about every wall, at every conceivable angle. This desk became where I would figure out I wanted to illustrate, where House Jungle was born and where I created the portfolio of projects that would snag me a 1st Class Honours in Graphic Design. You can see the kind of vestiges of the Pinterest dream desperately trying to creep in (the sheepskin over the chair, the awful DIY'ed waste paper bin) but let's all agree, it's got a distinctly "student version" air about it!

When I moved out, that desk and chair remained, and I can only imagine what kind of state it's in now. 

#2 - The Childhood Bedroom

Annie's bedroom studio space "back home" - white desk with trestle legs and a vintage chair

note: the complete lack of 1000s of boxes of envelopes under the desk, which I moved to take this picture, the trestle leg functioning as both a storage space and my bedside table, and a complete lack of work/life balance. 

As seems to be a right of passage in this day and age, after I departed my uni bedroom I had to take up residence in my parents house whilst I figured out what on earth I was going to do next. Leaving behind my last desk, I had big (literally) dreams about the workspace I'd have, so I invested in  2 METER LONG desk, and these fetching trestle legs which I'd pined after for years. Sadly, my actual childhood bedroom didn't get the "big dreams" memo, so I lived out a happy 6 month period squished into this room with the world's largest desk, all of my shop stock, the guest futon for a bed, and also the parent's winter coats, old books and other things that seem to accumulate into your room whilst you're away at uni.

22-year-old Annie hanging out in front of a desk with white trestle legs, with fairy lights behind

#3 - The Tiny London Flat

Shots of Annie's 1 bedroom london flat - with a huge desk and 2 chairs fit into the living room!

note: the ever-present cardboard box mountain under the desk, the ugly boy chair (sorry Martin) I now had to incorporate into my life and the lack of any kind of wall decor. 

Ok, If we're getting technical here, we live in Watford and not London, but I assure you that the living spaces are just as small, and the prices just as high here in Zone 9. If I thought working from my bedroom was a squeeze, nothing prepared me for this! At uni I'd had dreams of breaking free, standing on our own two feet and finally be able to be a real illustrator with a studio, who didn't eat my meals at my desk. Reality hits you hard bro.

After viewing flats so small there wasn't even room to open the bedroom door, we leapt at this flat where there was at least room to put a desk with arms wide open. That ridiculously large desk I bought became a shared desk, my packing desk, our Netflix viewing station, our dining table, the ironing board and a myriad of other things. It's a lifestyle that I think we could have lived with,  had we been more of your average "young professional couple" - but cramming an entire product based business and a tech/gaming nerd into a tiny space proved ridiculous, and at times I still marvel that we managed it for an entire year. 

For reference, just beyond the rug at the corner of the photo above is the opposite wall, and just to the right was the kitchen area. It was essentially a big box where we did everything except sleep and use the bathroom.  

# 4 The Studio of Dreams

Annie's home office workspace - a long desk along the wall with open shelving for printing labels


Annie's home office studio - console for storing packing supplies

note: the distinct LACK of cardboard box mountain, the actual storage space and the REAL LIFE DOOR that you can shut at the end of the working day. 

Finally! After a year of living out of a teeny flat, we decided it was time to bite the bullet and find somewhere with another room to become my studio. Just having a dedicated space to keep all of my stock (and the enormous desk, obvs) has made such a difference to my work-life balance, my general sanity and, let's be honest, the whole aesthetic side of things. Things are definitely not perfect - there's an entire side of our house that we can't so much as bang a nail into - but it has been freeing to be able to have somewhere keep all the mess, so I'm not tripping over boxes of envelopes whilst I'm trying to eat my bolognese. Not only that, but It's nice to be able to inject some personality into my workspace and take nice photos without cropping out the clothes airer, the hoover and the cardboard boxes lurking in the corner.

Shots of my home office/studio - a prettily stled desk shot of prints on a wire grid display, and a shot of a bookcase overflowing with stock 

An absolute dream studio would have a dedicated packing space, some more storage (I'm limited to what I have right now in order to squeeze a air matress in here for guests) and a big space for product photos, but looking back, I can't believe how different things are. I'm feeling especially grateful right now that I'm able to make some kind of living from my business, working away in the kind of home studio my beans-on-toast eating, podcast bingeing, uni-going past self dreamed of. And, for anyone who's ever seen a picture perfect workspace and felt badly, comfort yourself with thoughts of me - at 22 years of age, lying 10cm away from the floor of my childhood bedroom, trying not to bang my head on my over-ambitious trestle legs, and remember that nearly everyone has been there, too!