Sitting Pretty (and Painless): Craft Studio Ergonomics

You may remember how my daughter and I are planning to share our creative space? Well, Meredith's got our home studio all figured out. For one of her classes, she had to sketch her ideal workspace, and she made the drawing you see here.

sewing craft room sketch by meredith prato
My daughter Meredith's sketch for how to
outfit the perfect studio.

Meredith has designed the kinds of furniture she wants and how her (ahem, our) supplies will be organized. Just one thing is missing: ergonomics.

Ergonomics is the science of fitting workplace conditions to the physical capabilities of the workers. In other words (in this art studio scenario), how to choose the height and placement of the furniture to avoid back and neck pain, eyestrain, and so on.

Now, I can see where someone who is 16 might not be as concerned about ergonomics as someone who is . . . her mother. But before we start outfitting the space, I plan to review the basics with Meredith. If you're setting up a new studio-or wonder why you need to call the chiropractor after an hour at the sewing machine-take note. (Tips courtesy of the Occupational Safety & Health Administration.)

Furniture height. The standard for counters (where you'll be cutting fabric, making monoprints, etc.) is 36"; the standard desk height (where you may be sewing) is 30". However, you may not be standard height. So adjust the height of counters so that you don't need to bend over too far or stand on tiptoe to reach everything you need. And if you're sharing the craft studio with someone else or do many different kinds of tasks at your workstation, consider getting adjustable chairs and tables.

Lighting. Adjustable task lighting is key to avoiding eyestrain and to prevent you from hunching over to see detail work. If you can, choose lighting that simulates daylight; it's easier on the eyes and colors look more true under these lamps.

art studio design illus by evelyn hernandez
A bird's-eye view of Moorea Hoffman's vision of an
art studio she calls 'Cottage Bliss.'

Illustration by Evelyn Hernandez.

Posture. Setting your furniture at a comfortable height can help you keep the correct posture, but at the end of the day, you have to do a little work yourself. If you're sitting, sit up straight with your forearms level with your work surface. Your knee angle and seat angle should be between 90 and 110 degrees. If you do most of your work standing, you can reduce tension in your lower back by putting one foot on a low stool or investing in a stand stool.

Break time. Even if you have a state-of-the-art ergonomically designed art studio, you should still take frequent breaks. Stand up and stretch, rest your eyes for a few minutes (dream of how great your project is going to be when finished), take a short walk, and drink some water.

Ergonomics, furniture, organization, and design are all addressed in Moorea Hoffman's article on art studio plans, Perfectly Personalized, in the Spring 2013 issue Studios magazine. Moorea is a kitchen designer as well as a crafter, so she has great advice and lots of options for how to make a home studio work for you. Check out her design and those of 20 other artists in Studios. You'll be sitting pretty in no time.

P.S. Do you have an ergonomic craft studio solution you'd like to share? Leave a comment below.




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