Cowbelly Studio/HQ behind-the-scenes

First, I *finally* updated the studio page of this blog! Go check it out and then come back here for some behind-the-scenes info.

This post is about 7 months overdue and for that I sincerely apologize. My assistant Christina and I (and Fergie of course) moved into our new office/studio space at the beginning of July last year, and I had yet to have time to photograph the space until now. I was always either running to or fro, or the space was a mess. I was also waiting to get my final canvas samples up before taking pictures. It seemed like it was never going to happen but I am finally (mostly) finished! Whoopee!

Before I get to the pics, here is a little backstory on the space. I knew in 2007 that I desperately needed an office outside of my home. My business had taken over my life, and with it, my apartment too. I needed an assistant, and the thought of working side-by-side with someone in my vintage (read: small) Seattle apartment left a lot to be desired. 

So early in 2008 when I was able to finally steal a little bit of time I started looking for space. At that time I saw an ad on craigslist for a photography studio share. It was right down the street from where I live (within easy walking distance), was in my price range and I knew it was an incredible space because I had been in it before. But not for photography. For a wedding. 

Let me explain.

The year I started my business, 2003, a friend of my dad’s got married on Halloween. She and her husband had what they called a ‘Hallowedding’. It took place at Studio 116 (where my biz is located now) because at that time, along with being a photography studio, they rented the space out for events. So the bride was there in her period renaissance dress, and her groom was a knight in handmade shining armor. It was at night, ON Halloween, all of the attendees were in costume, and they ended the ceremony by riding out of the roll-up doors on a white horse. It was one of the most magical events I have ever been to. 

That night I had the most bitchin catwoman costume, modeled after Michelle Pfeiffer in the movie. It was totally authentic down to the hand-sewn seams on the suit and the mask. It was insane. My dad, who was dressed as Batman, took turns with me photographing each other in front of the cyclorama wall and also in the uber cool dressing room. Little did I know that less than 5 years later I would have my own office in the space. Talk about a trip.

Back to 2008. It took several months for me to get together with the guys at the space because we were all so busy. Commercial work started picking up for me early in 2008, and by the time we finally started talking about getting me down there I was swamped (as were they). I had fully expected the space to be rented by the time I was done with a big project, and by that time it had been nearly 5 months since the first craigslist ad went up.

But as karmic splendor would have it, it worked out. I went and checked out the space, and after Christina talked me out a brief bout of cold feet we started painting and moved in. The office looked nothing then like it does now. I only wish I had taken more before and after photos. It was actually pretty disheartening when I first looked at it. 

Here is a ‘before’ shot. That wall behind Christina was baby-puke green before we painted it. Horrid.

And that wall on the other end of my office (seen on the right below) was barney purple. I’m not kidding.

It was a tremendous amount of work to get our office set up, and Fergie was exhausted just watching us.

The floors are all old (old) wood floors, original to the building. It has a very ‘loft-like’ feel. We picked up a couple of Ikea chairs for super cheap (slipcovered so we can wash the dog fur and dirt off), and a ginormous rug that only cost $115. That’s our canvas + print display wall on the right. That wall posed a challenge because it’s concrete. Not knowing how to hang on concrete I devised a simple solution: screw s-hooks into the wood above the wall and suspend the canvases from white grosgrain ribbon. Works perfectly.

My desk below where all of the magic happens, lol. Above the desk you see my client boards and order forms. I have a pipeline board and a current clients board for photography, then on the very right side of the shot you see the edge of my Decopaw commissions board. Someone asked me recently what I would do if those boards got accidentally wiped off. I didn’t even know what to say and faintly remember my jaw dropping with horror at the thought. FYI: the boards are hanging from a wood beam that bisects the space. Reason #1 for my initial cold feet (so glad I got over that! It’s a non-issue now). Also, for those of you who read my Q & A page, you’ll notice my macbook pro sitting to the left of my imac. 🙂

The space is long and narrow, but Christina and I each have our own areas where we can get work done without bothering each other. That’s Christina’s desk down there you see with the old emac. Poor girl, one of these days I’ll get her a new machine.

I put stick-on mirrors on the door side of the beam, hoping that it would reduce the chances it would get walked into. I still laugh at how ‘brilliant’ everyone seems to think that was. Ah well, at least we have a place to check our hair. I plan to hang another row above the one that is there. It’s on my list of 10,237 things to do.

Christina and I each have a calendar, but she also gets the uber-cool ilee letterpress calendar on her desk. Lucky girl. I dropped the ball and forgot to order a new one for this year, and she is all sold out. Sniff.

The aforementioned order forms and client boards. These shots were taken at the very end of December. You wonder what I have been busy with the past month? It’s all on those order forms right there, lol.

Do y’all remember when I posted the graffiti dogs shots and said that this one of Fergie was my favorite and said that I wanted a big canvas with her image? Well this is a 30×40, not the largest one I sell, but close. Love. it.

Epson printers (old SP 825 + R1800) with a great Ikea PS cabinet for printer paper and camera gear. My gear always remains under lock and key, even when I’m there. Always. Trust me when I say it would be awfully hard to drag that full cabinet down the stairs. Not that it matters all that much. My office locks, and the door to the upstairs locks, and the whole place is alarmed like a bank with motion sensors and all. 

I am a strong advocate of having little things around you that bring you happiness while you work. We have plenty of those around the office, including my drawing of my tree frog tattoo, and a cool bone found on the beach.

Ah, the lovely lights on my LaCie drives. 750GB each. One always lives locked up in the metal cabinet. My studio mate is encouraging me to take one home with me every day but I haven’t made it that far yet. Hey, I just barely have them mirrored. On the right is a gorgeous purple hand-blown glass candle holder I picked up at Goodwill for $2.

Christina would be lost without her notepad for taking notes on the things I need her to do. I would be lost without the two-drawer filing cabinet holding all of my forms, receipts and client contracts. Color-coded of course.

Ikea bookcase filled with Ikea organizers. Indispensable. These shots in this post make it look like I am super organized, and I am organized, but really I need to do all of these things because without them I would be a complete mess. I am close to a complete mess WITH them for God’s sake. On the right below you see the cute little Decopaw bookmarks we made. 

That’s it for our office. Now onto the studio.

The lovely studio space where one can get shots like these:

The studio is pretty amazing. It has a full kitchen, two bathrooms, a client meeting room, several storage areas and an awesome dressing room where a girlfriend of mine and I did our makeup and got ready and drank champagne one night before going out. Oh yes, the dressing room also contains the mannequin heads that scare the life out of the dog when you chase her around the studio with them.

No photography studio is complete without interesting details.

And that my friends, is the final image for this long (and long overdue) post! It’s Saturday night, I am still at the studio after spending the day cleaning it with ‘the guys’, I am hungry and ready to go home, I have a shoot early in the morning, and am ready for a good-nights sleep. But I didn’t feel it fair to make you all wait any longer. Hope the suspense was worth it! 

Have a terrific weekend! 🙂

21 thoughts on “Cowbelly Studio/HQ behind-the-scenes

  1. AHHH! LOVE this post, so glad I found this, I love seeing how you organize and I have many questions….be prepared to be hounded on how you organize, I may need to send a consulting fee once my questions are done~ HA! I promise my photos of my new space are coming soon….I totally connected with the shot of the “ikea putting together” angle at the beginning! HA! ~ sue

  2. wow, thanks everyone! It’s certainly the biggest office I have ever had- twice the size of any guest room or converted dining room I have ever used. Perfect for my growing photog biz needs. And even though I don’t do client shoots in the studio (except for Decopaw sittings), it’s nice to have access to a studio to be able to experiment, and Fergie loves to hang out in it. And Nick- I imagine, based on what you say about the cost of land in Singapore, that this studio would cost a fortune there- even in Seattle the monthly rent for the whole space is over $4,500!! I suppose out in the suburbs one could find more affordable land, but then you wouldn’t be able to find these cool loft-like spaces with the character and details that an old building offers. Everything is cookie-cutter new. Oh also, I forgot to mention, Christina and I aren’t done with the space yet. We need to cover the beam on the office side with fabric, and I have a fun corkboard design project in my head that will help me organize my order forms. We also need another storage unit for the ‘dog area’, and we need to hang more art on the blue wall near my desk. I need to get a round table to go between the chairs to set drinks on. Lastly, if we ever have time (yeah right) we will paint the ceiling (ugh). And Rebecca- I tried to buy Christina a comfy chair but she refused, saying she likes to sit on a hard chair! I was like “Huh??” ah well, she likes it I guess! Oh, and Janett, I did learn the hard way that permanent sharpie pen can come off the white board if you write over it with dry erase. All of the grids and column titles are in sharpie, and I noticed if I accidentally wrote over a line with the dry erase pen it would come off when we erased it, yikes! Now we have areas where there are jagged lines. Ah well, I’m getting better. And it really wouldn’t be a disaster if they got erased. I have everything in my mind anyway. Thanks so much for the tips! 🙂

  3. Wow, great looking space! Love the many angles you shot, great colors. Thanks for sharing it. Buy your assistant a comfy chair! Remember … “form ever follows function” – Louis Sullivan

  4. Hi Jamie- your studio looks fantastic! Congratulations on putting together such a fun, yet functional, space! I’m in the process of outfitting my own studio, so this post was especially inspiring.

  5. You guys did a great job working with that space. It has so much character and I love the way you decorated and organized! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  6. Wow that is an amazing studio!

    When I first saw how narrow it was and the cupboards going in I was thinking that looks small. But when I saw your large expanse of working space with infinity white wall – WOW!

  7. oh my goodness jamie!
    i love the things you have created for yourself. you are truly amazing and inspiring and i love your work space. it is a dream come true and you deserve it all!
    m & e

  8. AMAZING! Thanks so much for sharing! What an inspirational cozy-but-grand nook! I love the idea of sharing a space, including kitchen, meeting rooms, dressing rooms, etc. Congrats!

  9. You know – if you use “wet erase” markers on your white boards, you have a less likely chance that they will get wiped into oblivion. Also, you could probably get a sheet of plexy and throw it on top of the board to protect it’s valuable information. We use white boards like that at work that hang outside of our cubicles (it’s a “Lean Process” thing). Anyways, I hate that people use dry erase markers – those will always end up on my sleeves or become a mess by the end of the week. We actually pay someone to design these white boards – they take large sheets of transparancy paper and print this grid on them…then this guy meticulously cuts out holes in the transparancy for people to write inside of. Hmm…that’s my “Administrative” advice – not that you asked me…but I can understand the horror of having something so important wiped off the board. OH – and FYI – you could use a Sharpie on the board. It’s *not* as permanent as you think – all you have to do to erase it is use a DRY ERASE marker and wipe across the writing. It’ magically comes off. Can be a bit messy – but it’s much harder to wipe off 🙂

  10. Wow thanks for sharing! What a cozy, funky office you have, I love it. Ahhh to dream about being swamped with clients…

  11. Wow thats quite a tour of the place 🙂 Land is so expensive here.. it would cost a fortune to get a place like that :O

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