This research report will investigate the topic; “Does the size of a space effect creativity?”
This will be in the format of an extended essay and will consist of 5,000 words.
There are people who live in vans by choice. For some people, living in a portable home/studio allows people to travel the world. For others, it allows them to save money to pursue a passion for building your own business within the creative industry.
Yet other people are just drawn to living in a portable home because they want to maintain a lifestyle of minimalism and self-reliance.
These reasons are what makes small space living so interesting.
During this research report, it will look at the subject of living in a small space as a creative and what the benefits and negatives can be.
The dream for some post-graduate students and artists is that they can own a van/small studio which they can use for travelling around the world whilst also using it as a transportable shop for a career.
This report will find out whether living in small spaces is to either enable travelling for creative inspiration and how successful it can be to have a career as a designer whilst being on the move.
Many people are interested in small space living because living in a small space is cheaper for travel, home living, materialistic items and it can be enriching for the minds space for freedom.
The report will use qualitative research through interviewing and looking at imagery towards a variety of people who work within the creative industries which adopt a similar lifestyle to the van living.
Whether it be within a van, car, caravan or even a pack away studio this report will outline the essence of what could make working in a small space successful and why.
The primary methodology is focused on first-hand research with creatives that have adopted this lifestyle and why it hasn’t worked and also the counter opposite of businesses doing the opposite and how this may differ.
The research themes for chapter 1 will be; the creative and personal politics on small spaces, the social politics on small space living, environmental and creative solutions on small space living.
Chapter 2 is focusing on case studies and qualitative research.
Analysing photographs and interviews as a collective will develop the research into statistics and will help form a strong argument.
The research themes of chapter 2 will have context on my own experience of building a stall which is mobile for my business and using it as a platform to work at craft fairs and festivals.
From this experience at these events, there have been contacts made with wonderful people who have really inspired the journey of small life living.
This community of artists, designers and traders who travel/live with their stock in a small space will help to further investigate whether the size and transportability of a space effects creativity.
Through conducting qualitative research by writing 10 carefully curated questions these will inform how this adventure has or hasn’t worked for numerous people and by doing so It will outline whether this is or isn’t feasible and what tips can be encountered for career goals.
The questions asked will give a clear understanding of the mental restraints as artists and also how different people are affected by the environment that they are in whilst making.
This report will also look at larger scale companies who use interiors and clever storage solutions to encourage this nomad way of life.
Google, for example, uses incredible interior solutions their small offices to make them into little havens for inspiration.
“Does the size of a space effect creativity?” will also cover the demographic’s of people who are creating in small spaces.
For instance, Fine Cell work are an organisation who use inmates in prison to embroider and weave beautiful tapestries and by doing so the inmates learn key skills to take with them into the future.
I would like to understand how this way of living and creating in a restricted environment can affect the creative outcome.
Researching into what I believe is creativity will feature in the first chapter. In order to understand how creativity can happen in a transportable space first, we must understand what creativity can be for artists and designers on the move.
Living in a small space whilst constantly moving around must be confusing for consumers. This is why I will research how artists and designers are keeping their audience/customers up to date on their business via social media and the constraints against this whilst travelling i.e. Wi-Fi/signal and how these people are living off the grid.
In order to understand how creativity can happen with a small space, we need to understand what creativity can look like for certain people and how they will encounter tasks through small space living.
Modern creativity research compiles three waves of research.
The first wave of research was through the personality approach, then the cognitive approach and lastly the sociocultural approach.
Why explain creativity?
The scientific study of creativity can make some people nervous. For example, practicing artists may worry, isn’t creativity a mysterious force that will forever resist scientific explanation?” Some artists worry that if they become too analytic, it could interfere with their muse.
Explaining creativity can help us all to be better problem solvers. We each face problems in our everyday lives that require creative responses.
These creative responses and ideas are where small and transportable space homes and studios came from.
Creativity is being able to feel free whilst making something yourself. It could be making a soup, writing a birthday card, sewing an outfit or even creating new music.
Whatever creativity can be for certain people I believe that the common factors for doing something creative are using your imagination, passion and your mental freedom to create something whether it physical or not.
Creative solutions find routes to escape modern day society and the normality’s that we are expected to follow and use these solutions for career choices to become creative nomads.
Living in transportable spaces are becoming increasingly popular as people are becoming more aware that we are all working harder and working longer – and earning more money as a result – but it’s becoming increasingly obvious that money can’t buy you happiness.
People are also starting to realise that identity is not shaped by what you own or consume but by who you are and how you live.
The personal politics of living in a transportable home/studio is that by doing so you’re not living to the status quo and that by doing so you become an outsider to society.
The social politics of living in a transportable home/studio is questions like where do you finally park your home at the end of a long day? Who is pleased that there is someone living on their street for that night without a permit?
How are you viewed by society?
The environmental and creatives solutions to living in a transportable home could be that you have decreased your carbon footprint. By living in a small space which you can pick up and take with you wherever can be really positive by not being as materialistic with what you buy and what you need.
The creative solutions to living in a small space are down to storage and how this effects the creative process, some people find it easier to work within a messy environment and some find a clean space creates and clean mind for the creative process to happen.
The economic side of living in a transportable home/ studio is described by priceonomics.
If you wish to become someone who lives in a van you’ll need your initial investment or savings to start up the new lifestyle. This isn’t feasible for people with financial strains unless you spend roughly 4 years saving depending on your ingoing’s and outer goings.
A Westfalia Campervan can cost approximately £10,000. There are plenty of other campervans for much lower costs however, you’ll eventually need to put additional costs into making the van sleep-suitable and livable. Some people sharing online blog posts about the costs of the van life have proven that you can have your budget to £2000 for creating the changes to the living situation for the van.
Essentials can be a generator, a heater windows which are tinted and an economical solution for toileting.
By choosing to live in a vehicle there are always the risks that the van will break down and money will be spent on repairs. This is why it can be a lot better economically and environmentally to buy a van which is more expensive which will need no additional work doing to it.
There are many questions towards people who live in vans. By researching through forums of van life, YouTube videos and van blogs from websites and Instagram.
Majority of people ask how feasible it is to go to the toilet and the solution being is that a lot of males use a bottle and last case a chemical toilet (80% showed that they were not for chemical toilets unless in an emergency) and the main answer was either public toilets or within nature like a woodland.
Showering is also an issue that van dwellers embark on. Once you have decided to live in a van then the chance of a daily shower is extremely rare. People either use a gym (if they are permanently living in an area in their van to be able to have a membership) or wet wipes are the main go-to choice.
Living off the grid is an exciting and also terrifying concept. The thought of not being contactable or even finding it difficult to communicate to the rest of the world whilst being on the go could be rather scary. The most common answers are using free internet in places such as libraries, coffee shops, and bars. The most uncommon solution which I personally think would be the easiest is using your phones personal Hotspot to connect to your laptop with. The only downfall to using the hotspot is that you’ll need to have signal on your phone for this to work.
Living in a van away from society and the normal towards socially constructed behavior can be liberating at times, yet there are also moments where the van life has been abandoned. This is because of this lifestyle goes against laws put in place.
Yes paying to park within campervan sites is completely legal but this can become expensive after a long time doing so.
Most people that live in vans park on roads, carparks or parks and depending on the city the majority of these places are illegal to live on.
People living in vans can find themselves being moved at certain hours, they may feel paranoid a lot of the time wondering when they’ll see the next police officer which will pull them over.
Many people who live in vans try to be inconspicuous and whether this is easy or not is another thing.
There are a variety of people who are successfully living in a transportable home whilst also being creative within their careers, the facts of some people who are living in a small transportable home are;
2003 Dodge Ram Van 1500
Owners: Eva and Victor
Careers: Painter and illustrator and competitive ultra-runner
Paid: $3,700, car was previously owned by a carpet cleaning company
Home Base: Europe
After a year and a half living in San Francisco Eva and Victor said they felt too crammed in the city, just working every day from the same office and doing the same things every day.
“One of the reasons we wanted to leave was because we were tired of the San Francisco culture. The startup world is only about working, earning money and growing within a company.
We felt like it was not for us, so we decided to try another kind of life—one where we could be the boss of our lives.” – Eva.
From doing so Eva and Victor have discovered how to live comfortably within a small transportable space that they can call their home instead of living a life which held to the constraints of today society where you work a 9-5 job and find yourself in a routine that shares no happiness.
Delivery van of unknown make
Owners: Raphael and Mark
Home base: Canada
Mark and Raphael are nomadic Canadians working seasonally in the remote northern wilderness planting trees and being a bush mechanic.
After planting trees for 9 summers, they have planted over 2.3 million trees! Mark and Raphael have lived out of the van off and on for the past 4 years, taking it on many adventures from Montreal to the North West Territories to Vancouver Island.
They have gutted it, insulated it and turned it into a tiny home on wheels. A quarter of the van is dedicated to Mark’s mechanic workshop, making it convenient to create visions, fix things and build ideas.
“We moved into our van to facilitate our business called Boreal Folk. Living in the van facilitates life in wild places, where we do our best work. We sustainably wild harvested botanicals from the Canadian Boreal forest and infuse them into natural skincare products made in my workshop (which is also in the van). We spend our days walking in the wilderness, selecting plants for their cosmetic or medicinal properties and infuse them into our growing line of skincare products.”
1992 Dodge B350 Conversion Van
Owners: Shelby and Simon
Career: Professional wedding photographers
Home base: Canada
Shelby and Simon were living in downtown Ottawa (Canada) in an apartment, and they really loved our life there.
Simon and Shelby have travelled to New York City, Texas, Florida, France, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland together before moving into their van. Shelby and Simon were keen as they saw people who were traveling around affordably in vans and that photographers had better accessibility to places they had never been to before.
“We realized that we needed to leave Ottawa in order to grow as artists and people.”
Shelby and Simon say that it was a really good exercise in seriously looking at the amount of stuff they had accumulated and what they need to function and be happy day-to-day.
By practicing the meaning of their possession they had found breakthroughs and positives into becoming people who live in small transportable homes. They realized this when they mentioned;
“At first, it was really hard getting rid of stuff, but then it became addictive to think about how much lighter our life would be without possessions. The majority of what we kept in storage was cameras, artwork, winter clothes (in case we decided to live in Ontario again) and books.”
Shelby and Simon work together and when they are in the “off-season” of shooting for weddings, they are constantly on social media promoting their business and emailing with clients. Shelby and Simon choose to work in coffee shops as this gives them a reliable source of internet.
Shelby mentions that by not having any internet in the van helps the tow of them grow together as this gives them time to dedicate when they are working and relaxing with one another when they are out adventuring or staying in the van. On the top of their van they have a Wi-Fi antenna, which Simon uses for when he uploads YouTube videos to promote their business, only one person can use their internet at a time making it an event which isn’t consuming their time together.
Model: 2008 Pleasure Way motorhome Owners: Ariel and Ronald
More than a year ago, Ariel & Ronald bought a 2008 Pleasure Way motorhome and set out to break away from societal constraints. Their goal was to redefine success from gaining more possessions and promotions.
In their travels, they collect stories on nomadic and sustainable living to normalize the way they live. They are finding out what it’s like to be living without society’s version of home and instead one that rolls down an open road.
The word “homeless” can be rather scary for people to hear. It makes you think of losing something whether it be possessions, money or loved ones. It also strikes an image of being cold and hungry with nowhere to go on a cold and dark night.
Ariel says that the word homeless used to be scary for her, a word that she thought would never describe her life.
“Yet, here I am. Homeless in Seattle.”
Everything that Ariel and Ronald own fits into their 21-foot camper. Most mornings they leave the van and head to the gym. Once they have worked out in the gym it gives them access to have a shower and then they walk back to their van which is parked in a carpark.
When they are working they gather all of their essentials from the van such as laptops, notepads and books and head to a coffee shop, library or an office where they can spend the day working. When Ariel and Ronald aren’t parking in carparks they leave there van on the side of roads, Airbnb’s or even RV parks, depending on where the day takes them.
Being homeless no longer holds the weight it once did. There’s can be clarity with owning less material items and having less of a dependence on permanence with living.
Moving to a new home is as simple as putting a new place into Google Maps.
Having this lifestyle isn’t as similar as being homeless as it hasn’t happened from unfortunate events, it’s been chosen which is why their story is not synonymous with the greater majority of the homeless population.
They have however met like-minded people who share the same ethos of simplicity and people looking at the redefinition of societal norms.
Make, Model, Year: Volkswagen, Type 2 Riviera Top, 1978
Some of the questions asked when changing lifestyles to moving into a van is how to afford to travel.
Kim and Nash mention that they are broke all the time because all the money they make goes straight to buying the next airfare to an unknown destination. By living in a bus they also don’t have any fixed expenses. Sometimes they eat only once a day cause that’s really all they can afford. Once they do run out of money they can choose to return home to work random jobs or we are lucky and their birthdays rolls around just in time to keep them on the road a little bit longer.
Kim and Nash also mention that unfortunately;
“We don’t have the key to traveling 365 days a year and making money at the same time. There are so many people out there who seemed to have mastered it, but we are still as lost as everyone else.”
Owners: Shelly and Issay
Model: ex-Hertfordshire council Welfare Bus
From: Hertfordshire, Bishops Stortford
In June 2016 Shelly and Issey began their journey of transforming a council Welfare bus into a home.
In life, our journeys are rarely linear and there is no doubt you’ll come up against obstacles, even in a labour of love. The first challenge for Shelly and Issay when converting their dream home –”we discovered some rust when we were ripping up the floor. A big selling point of the bus was that the body of the bus is aluminum, which doesn’t rust; however we didn’t know at the time but the front bit of the bus is steel, which rusts. Rust can cause big issues, especially in a vehicle.”
Nonetheless, if God wills it (“inshallah”) then solutions can be found which often make something ‘bad’ good. Issay says her sister once told her; “remember to breathe”. Alas, the rust was conveniently placed at the point where the passenger seat was going to be fixed so they called upon a family friend and got a plate welded over the rust and the last remaining seat fitted.
The journey that Shelly and Issay have overcome to turn their dreams into a reality has been emotional, inspiring and uplifting. Mabey the whole ideas of living in a portable home is not so bad?
“I hope this ‘blog’ inspires you to go and pursue your dreams, do that thing you’ve always wanted to do, change jobs, take a sabbatical, experience what you’ve always desired, face the fear of uncertainty, beat the challenges and take action, spend that well-earned cash. To do what makes you tick. It’s never too late to go for it.”- Issay and Shelly
Theo is a professional filmmaker/photographer and Bee is an animal conservationist. Back in 2014, they were traveling Europe in their converted VW T4 LWB van. They lived this way for two years before moving onto a floating cabin.
Having more space on a boat compared to a van has made room for more luxuries like showering, craft making, and a bigger library. They can’t imagine living in a “normal” home again.
Square Feet: 180
Currently Living: United Kingdom
They currently live in the canal network of the United Kingdom, and at the moment in the Midlands. They experience the wonderful pleasures to witness all the seasons from the view of the water: ducklings in the spring and frost in the winter.
Some of the challenges that Theo and Bee have faced is not having any water on the boat. During the colder months, their water pipes freeze over, meaning that they have to wait until they can have running water once it becomes warmer outside. This can have a financial strain when living on the boat.
Theo and Bee have mentioned they decided to live this way because they noticed what should really matter materialistically. They donated/sold 70% of their belongings to live a self-sufficient life. Bee says her personal items (not including essentials) are her books and Theo’s is his camera gear which apparently takes up a fair amount of space.
Their mail is delivered to their parents’ home who live roughly an hour away. However, they mention that they are “pretty much paperless” and all they need to deliver for is for packages of things they have ordered.
The post office also let you use via Poste restante which is a service that the post office give so that you can have your items on hold until you can get there on a set date to collect. Theo and Bee have used this service many times in England and Europe.
The internet is a new modern day dilemma with living in a van, this was one of Theo and Bee’s biggest worry when moving into the boat.
“It’s not like in our van, where we could park outside a McDonald’s and pick up their Wi-Fi; here we are completely remote.”
The solution is that they have both upgraded their mobile contracts meaning they have unlimited amounts of internet a month so that they can hotspot their phones to their laptops or use their phones whenever.
From moving to a boat when they have originally lived in a van apparently, it was easier than imagined and this was in terms of buying, moving and living.
With narrowboats, there is no real registered owner—which is a bit crazy—which meant all they had needed to do was change the yearly license over to their names once they had paid for the boat and they owned it. Theo and Bee had bought Bertha (the boat) from a man who practiced Buddhism full-time and lived on the boat for five years. He was moving to a small homestead in Romania to create a Buddhist retreat and had to let go of Bertha which meant that they were lucky to find the boat to purchase.
The main reason Theo and Bee have decided to live their lives mobile whether this is in a van or a boat is that they were becoming the depressed standard 9-to-5 lifestyle and didn’t feel they were enjoying or fulfilling their lives to their full potential.
“The possibility to escape whilst we literally had nothing holding us back was enticing. So, we sold pretty much all our belongings and hit the road.”
Travelling was their solutions to when they needed a break from life and a small ‘holiday’ yet now they have the opportunity to escapes whenever makes their lives feel fuller, more surreal and exciting.