Adam J. Kurtz's first creative space was a DIY table made from a piece of wood and IKEA legs. "I had to choose between that or a dresser," he says, "so my clothes were just kind of stacked up inside the closet." The graphic designer and author, better known to his thousands of followers as ADAMJK, has since stopped stacking his clothes in the closet and made a full-fledged career out of his designs and drawings with a new stationery collection, two books, and a capsule collection with home goods store Fishs Eddy. Hey, you can't go wrong with Daria-esque musings printed on saturated colors.
A creative space to call your own is vital, as Oprah would say, to living your best life. Not only is there a romance to an artist's studio, there's also a real practicality to it. Kurtz graduated into a two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, New York, that he shares with his boyfriend. (And a two-bedroom by New York City standards means there is one normal-sized bedroom and a second one that can squeeze in twin-sized bed and not much else.) The second bedroom became their home office of sorts, one that allows Kurtz to work freely and that he considers a creative space. "I need to get in the right mindset for a proper workday," he says. "For me, that means leaving the apartment for coffee or the post office, then coming back home again. That's my commute, and then I'm at the office, and it's time to work." By that definition, a creative space is about the harmony it inspires in your mindset and vice-versa, how they balance one another out.
Of course, it would be fabulous to have those sun-soaked, exposed white brick Hollywood indie artist studios, but how boring life would be if we all created in similar spaces because really, "a creative space is about what [you] can accomplish," as Kurtz says. "It's about feeling empowered to walk in, sit down, and know that [you] have what [you] need."
Here, in his own words, is Kurtz on how to find a true creative space of your own.
What defines your creative space?
As a graphic designer, a desktop computer or monitor is always going to be the central focus, but I also need my favorite pencils, notepads, sticky notes, and my scanner. Everything I make is drawn by hand, with a real-ass pencil, on real-ass paper. I think that intentionality matters.
"From there, I can think about the general vibe, which, for me, is white walls, as much sunlight as I can get, constant music, and a long desk which I sometimes share with my boyfriend. The plants are his, but I'm very happy to hang out with them all day."
Did you consider the future of your creative space and where it would be when you looked for your apartment?
I like having my studio setup at home because it means I can just never stop working! But honestly, I was just like, "Okay, well, what if we combine what we would have to spend and find a better apartment instead?" There's always that second bedroom in the "2BR" that's barely a bedroom—aka my perfect studio. The space definitely does define a lot of what I can do. I stopped doing apparel because I was just like, "... nope." I don't really do big pieces. I'm not super messy. If I was a sculptor or a painter, this would be a totally different conversation.
Adam J. Kurtz What I Am Trying to Say to You: 30 Cards to Post and Share by Adam J. Kurtz, $11.67, available at Amazon.
Adam J. Kurtz, FEELINGS Combo Pack, $15, available at Adam J. Kurtz.
If given more space, what would your dream creative nook look like?
I want the full-on, aspirational, Pinterest wet dream studio: super-high ceilings, a ton of sunlight, brick walls painted white, dedicated space for product and fulfillment, a sitting area to have guests, built-in bookshelves, a bunch of plants that somebody else takes care of, exposed beams, some space to mess around with a Riso printer, and access to a freight elevator.
"Basically, I want an L.A. studio, but I want it in New York."
Is a creative space, in your opinion, more of a mentality or physical?
We all process, feel, and make differently, so creative spaces are all about finding what you need. It's up to each of us to determine what feels right, and appreciate that it will change as you and your practice grow. If you write best while cross-legged on your bed, then that's your place. Your place might also not be your own—I drew most of my first book in a back booth at the Bowery Diner (RIP).
Adam J. Kurtz, SORRY I AM SUCH AN ASSHOLE Balloon, $15, available at Adam J. Kurtz.
1 Page at a Time: A Daily Creative Companion by Adam J. Kurtz, $10.47, available at Amazon.
How does your new stationery collection complement and encourage creativity?
Everything I do is all about helping people make space for themselves to write, draw, feel, and breathe. It's not that I'm the expert, it's more like I create these relatable tools, or coping mechanisms, for myself and then share them.
"I'm trying to encourage people to dig into their heads and figure out what makes them tick, whether it's guided "okay, cut the shit" creative exercises like Pick Me Up journal or a weekly agenda that kicks your ass a little bit. I definitely am a paper nerd, and I was really excited to make a bunch of weird and special stuff."
"Ultimately it's not about having some expensive fancy shit that's so perfect you're afraid to draw in it. I'm just standing here like, "Hey! No pressure. My shit is fucked up, too, but you gotta start somewhere."
How can one begin to make a creative space of their own regardless of how much actual square footage they have?
Figure out what you're trying to make first and then determine what you need second. Your creative space might be a specific chair that you sit in with your laptop, and every time you sit there, you're in work mode. Your drawing space can be your kitchen table, but you put down a specific table cloth. I know two street artists who share a studio apartment and have to choose if the kitchen is for eating or printmaking on any given day.
Don't create unnecessary obstacles for yourself. Do your best with what you have right now. If that means saving that massive projects for later, so be it. People get so bogged down with buying the "right" supplies and finding the "perfect" space that they never fucking do anything.
If all else fails, buy a candle?