Those of us in the “neurodiverse” category know all too well that existing in spaces designed for neurotypical brains (read: just about everywhere) can often feel like swimming against a current. Meet Spoonflower Artist Katie Hayes. She’s a printmaker and surface pattern designer based in Hillsborough, North Carolina. In early childhood, Katie was diagnosed with hyperactive-type ADHD. Knowing the unique way her creative, curious brain works, Katie did something amazing—she applied the strategies she uses to manage her ADHD to design an artist studio that works with her brain instead of against it.

Whether you also have ADHD or just need some advice on how to level up your organization, read on to learn Katie’s tips for how to design an artist studio or workspace that’s perfectly suited to your needs.

Katie Hayes sitting in a few feet away from one of her work stations. Out of focus is an L-shaped work desk. Materials and utensils hang form a pegboard in front of one of the desks. Prints hanging from clothespins against a wall face the other desk.
Katie Hayes turned a room over her home’s garage into her functional studio.

Katie: I’m obsessed with the biodiversity of my region, my handsome bearded husband, and my two brilliantly creative children. I have a dog, a small business, and 10 acres full of wild, rambling woods, so basically it’s the best life you can imagine. I also have ADHD. 

Katie as a child, in a white t-shirt. She’s smiling with her eyes closed, and a small lizard on her face.
“This picture pretty much sums up the kind of awesome little weirdo I was as a kid.”
Katie finds inspiration for her prints by stepping outside and embracing her environment.
Katie finds inspiration for her prints by stepping outside and embracing her environment.

If you have ADHD yourself, you’ll probably understand what I mean when I say that growing up, I was constantly occupying spaces and systems that weren’t meant for brains like mine. Grade school was torture for wriggly little kids like me, college was full of hurdles, and Corporate America was—let’s just say expense reports were not my thing. I learned to function the best I could in those spaces, but I never really thrived.  

Katie standing in the doorframe of her office studio. A small “New South Pattern House” hangs in the top right corner. A plant sits on a rod iron table underneath it.
Welcome to Katie’s Studio: New South Pattern House.

A Space For Katie

I didn’t thrive, that is, until a few years ago, when I found my niche pulling block prints and designing wallpaper patterns that tapped into my hyper-focus, naturalist-inspired work that showcases my region (think William Morris, plus possums and native plants and you’re on the right track.)

I started as many creatives do—carving block prints on my kitchen table, and making patterns on my laptop after my kids went to bed. Over the next few years, my work went from hobby to side hustle, to full-time gig and the kitchen table wasn’t cutting it anymore. Neither was the combination craft room/office/kids toy room that I had colonized as my business demands expanded.  

Katie sitting on the edge of a stool behind a wooden top workstation. Prints of birds are hanging on the wall. To the right are drying racks sitting on another wooden desk.
Katie’s office is split into a space for administrative tasks and creative work, allowing her to “hack her hyper-focus” and create a prolific amount of work for her printmaking business, New South Pattern House.

I needed to build out a studio, and for the first time in my life, I got to build a space that was meant for me. I designed my studio with my ADHD in mind, and today Spoonflower has asked me to show you around my space and share with you some tips for other neurodivergent creatives who want to do the same. 

A Tour of Katie’s Studio 

Katie’s desktop Mac is sitting on a wooden desk in front of a keyboard and mouse. Her notebook lays open in front of a jar holding writing utencils and a lamp. A strip of Katie’s “Eno River State Park” design hangs on the wall behind the desk with white Christmas lights outlining it.
Katie digitizes her block prints into repeating surface patterns in her “administrative zone.” The design shown here is Great Blue Heron, and is available on fabric, wallpaper and home decor on Spoonflower. See the entire collection.

As you walk into my studio—a converted room over a free-standing garage—you’ll notice I’ve got good light coming in on one end of the space, and that’s where I decided to locate my two main creative work zones.

The Administrative Station

On one side of the room, you’ll see a computer with a large monitor and an L-shaped desk with several printers for proofing designs, storage for office supplies, and a file cabinet all within arms reach. This is where I make my surface patterns, do my bookkeeping, write my newsletter, and complete other administrative tasks for my business.  

Katie working on a block print at her creative workstation. We see her leaning over a standing desk, carving into a block. Her utensils  are handing up on a peg board facing her work station. Racks with supplies are a few feet away.
With some tasks requiring leaning over, Katie has adjustable height desks at her creative station to keep her workflow physically comfortable. 

“I needed to build out a studio, and for the first time in my life, I got to build a space that was meant for me. I designed my studio with my ADHD in mind.”

The Creative Workspace

On the opposite wall, you’ll see an L-shaped workstation with labeled racks of carved blocks, flat storage for blank paper, and two adjustable height workbenches, topped with pegboards full of rollers and NC-made inks. This is where I create my block prints.

As we walk through the studio, you’ll notice my entire space is set up with a zone for each function of my business, and everything I need to complete those tasks is exactly where I need them, usually prominently displayed on a pegboard, shelf, or other easy-to-access surface. Trash/recycling cans sit near every station where it’s needed. There are task lights at each spot, and chairs already in place. All I need to do is walk up and get to work. Let me tell y’all.  My brain loves it here. 

From an angle rollers are hung up on a peg board. An L-shaped wooden desk is out of focus with prints hanging from the wall above it.
Have what you need within arm’s reach (or close) with a pegboard.
Two notebooks lay on a wooden top desk. The first notebook is opened, exposing notes with a bookmark and pen keeping it on that page. The othe notebook has a blue cover and is closed. Out of focus is the rest of the workspace with a pegboard supporting rollers and other tools.
Katie swears by her trusty bullet journal to help keep her business and creative goals on track.

The Fine, Functional Details  

As we go deeper into each workstation, you’ll notice other little details: the bullet journal I have always at the ready in my studio corner, or the cell phone charger near my printmaking set up so I can record process videos even if I forgot to charge my phone earlier. I keep a little iPad holder at my print packing station so I can watch Skillshare videos or listen to podcasts as I get orders prepared—because I’ll stay on task longer if I’m not getting bored. I think of these as my “ADHD productivity boosters.” They may seem small, but these strategies, when coupled with my physical space setup, have made an enormous difference in my productivity and decreased my stress exponentially. 

Katie standing over a desk where one of her prints is resting. She’s aiming a phone to take a phoot of the print. Two lighting umbrellas supply additional brightness in the corners.
Katie gets all the right angles of her prints at her photography station.  
A print with orange and yellow butterflies on pink flowers and green leaves, rests on a white surface. Katie’s phone and two other tools are also on the surface.
We wanted a closer look at this beautiful print, too!

All I need to do is walk up and get to work. Let me tell y’all.  My brain loves it here.

A paper with different color samples hangs from a wall with the help of clothespins. A print of a bird hangs beside it. A pegboard suppporting supplies meets the wall hanging the color samples.

Tips for Personally Organizing Your Studio

My space is exactly what I need, but I know each person with ADHD has a different experience, so your ideal studio will inevitably look different from mine.  I’ve put together some tips for you to utilize (with bullet points, because I know all you ADHD-ers are just scanning this post anyway.) I’ll also share how each of these helped me as I was going through this process, and hopefully support you as you think through what a studio space built for your brain would look like.  

Katie’s Tips for the Studio of your ADHD dreams:  

  1. The three questions you need to answer first 
  1. List out your zones by function 
  1. Stop to purge 
  1. Build out your work stations 
  1. Anticipate imposter syndrome 
  1. Tweak your systems 

1. There are three questions you need to answer before you start this process and they are;  

  • What function do you need this space to fill?  
  • What are your ADHD Strengths?  
  • What are your ADHD Obstacles?  

What function do you need this space to fill? 

This is maybe the most important question for you to answer as you get started.  For me, I’ve often had a craft room, but this is my first ever studio. My craft rooms were always mostly storage spaces—mausoleums of past creative hobbies with maybe a work table and, because space was limited, a guest bed or office. But here’s the thing, I was giving prime real estate to my yarn hoard, or my soap-making supplies, or my oil paints, and not really utilizing my space for my current projects.  

For an ADHD-friendly studio, I needed to narrow down the function first so I could build systems for my brain. In my case, I chose to design a space that functioned for printmaking, surface pattern design and met my studio-admin needs.  

What are your ADHD Strengths, and what are your ADHD Obstacles?  

 My next step was to self-reflect on how my ADHD affects me—both the good and the bad.  On the positive side, I know that my ADHD allows me to generate prolific amounts of art especially when I’m getting dopamine hits and getting into my hyper-focus. On the negative side of things, I get off track easily—especially if a task is already boring me, or I’ll put off a task if there are too many slight obstacles. A few examples of this from my business were delaying taking product photos because I only had one table and I already had it set up for inking my prints, or going into my closet where my shipping boxes were stored, and coming out 30 minutes later with an armload of laundry instead.  

An Ipad along with other items designed by Katie sit on a wood and metal desk. A pegboard with shipping supplies sits facing it. A metal rack is above the pegboard with cardboard.
The print packing station is where Katie preps her work to be sent to her customers.

2. List out your zones by functions

Once I understood my ADHD obstacles, I set out to design a space that would make my most frequent tasks as easy as possible. I started with a gigantic list in my bullet journal of regularly occurring tasks.  For example: Pulling prints, packing orders, uploading patterns to Spoonflower, carving blocks, writing my newsletter, product photography, etc. From there I grouped these tasks into “zones” based on what supplies I needed in order to accomplish them. So for example, I grouped all the tasks involved with prepping prints (signing the editions, matboard and backing board, clear protective sleeves, etc.) into a single “Print Packing” station. Once I had my zones, I was almost ready to build out my space but first I had to do something super hard—stop to purge.  

3. Stop to Purge

I KNOW. This is a hard one. It was SUPER hard for me—especially if you’ve invested money and time into tooling up for a creative hobby and don’t want to let go of your lifelong dream of being a (pick one) lamp maker/knitting pattern creator/oil painter/professional Christmas ornament decorator. But, I want you to refer back to the first question: What function do you need this space to fill? 

You’re creating a workspace—not a storage closet—and your brain needs this space to function. So if you have art supplies that don’t align with the function you’ve identified in question one, it’s time to either find a different space to store them or let them go. Trust me, I know from experience, that some lady in your local Buy Nothing group is going to be stoked to get all your old lamp-making supplies.  

A close up of a paperrack holds different printmaking paper. Small sticknotes hang on the edges indicating which types of paper are within each rack.

4.Build out your work stations

Okay now comes the fun part—designing your space! You’ll need a dedicated workstation for each of your zones. Think about what you need in each space and don’t forget to utilize vertical space. Your goal here is that everything you need for each of your major tasks should be within arms reach (or close), and that everything should have a place. Don’t strive for a space that’s constantly clean, that’s not realistic. Instead, strive for a space that’s easy to clean up.  

You’re probably going to need some furniture. Of course, a lot of this will also depend on your budget. In my space, I dedicated most of my budget to a couple of adjustable-height workbenches with sliding drawers for flat storage. Because printmaking involves so much bending over, this felt important to invest in the long-term health of my back. I was able to thrift several great desks and storage units and also discovered that peg boards attached to metal utility racks with zip ties made for great room partitions that I could easily move if my needs changed. One bit of advice here, is to build in some flex space if you can. I like to leave a few shelves empty to accommodate incoming supply shipments, etc.  

Celebrate your achievements—and combat imposter syndrome—by hanging up your awards and recognition.
Celebrate your achievements—and combat imposter syndrome—by hanging up your awards and recognition.

5. Anticipate imposter syndrome

Oh, Imposter syndrome. As artists, most of us know it well. As folks with ADHD, many of us are especially sensitive to rejection. I have several visual reminders placed throughout my studio that I am a real artist. When I start to feel discouraged, these always give me a boost. For you, these can be artwork you made that you feel proud of, swatches of your designs, press clippings, awards, supportive cards from your best friend, or anything that will give you a visual pep-talk when imposter syndrome rears its ugly head.  

Two black storage racks filled with supplies create an aisle where Katie’s artwork hangs on a vertical drying rack. A framed article about Katie’s work hangs from the wall above the rack.

6. Tweak your systems

The last step is the one I’m in now, and this will be a life-long process.  Once you’ve been in your space for a while, evaluate how it’s going.  As your interests change, your space will, too. Is there anything you thought you needed that actually needs to go into storage? What functions are you finding yourself doing that you need to add a zone for? Do you need more trashcans? Do you need some lamp-making supplies?

Above all, remember that you deserve to be in a space that is built for you, where the wriggly little kid of your childhood can finally be the powerhouse that you were meant to be, where you can create and hyper-focus and—maybe for the first time ever—really thrive.

Art supplies and utensils hang from a pegboard in front of a wooden desk. Paint samples on a piece of paper hang from clothespins on a wall to the left.

Above all, remember that you deserve to be in a space that is built for you, where the wriggly little kid of your childhood can finally be the powerhouse that you were meant to be, where you can create and hyperfocus and—maybe for the first time ever—really thrive.

Katie standing in front of one of her work stations. The wooden table top of the desk and prints hanging on a wall are out of focus.

Shop best selling designs by katie_hayes

Want To Know More About Katie Hayes?

We’ve taken a peek of her studio space, but there’s even more to know about Katie Hayes! Learn about how she got connected with Spoonflower, her secrets to building a strong collection and why she suggests new Spoonflower Artists should participate in the Weekly Design Challenges
Meet Katie Hayes