I started Studio 42, a creative studio where art & speaking English go hand in hand



Shelley Gutknecht
From New York, USA
4,5 years in Hamburg
Owner of Studio 42

You quit your job, and now you’re managing your very own art space in Altona. How did that happen?!

I don’t know how far to go back, but let me start with this: I moved to Germany 4,5 years ago to be with my German husband. So, yes, I moved here for love. The week after I arrived I got a job teaching English at a Waldorf School about 45 km away. I quickly found out that teaching large classes of hormone-raging 11-17 year olds was exhausting and not as rewarding as I thought it would be. Year after year, I planned to leave as soon as something else opened up, but that just never happened. After more than 4 years I just couldn’t take it anymore, and I decided to quit. I didn’t have any plans, maybe just to blow through my savings and travel (maybe sing in South Africa!). I felt immediate relief after I sent in my resignation and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face, yet I was still clueless about my future. Two weeks later, on my way home, I noticed a “for rent” sign on a commercial space in our building and I lit up. I had been eyeing the space for years with the dream of someday opening an arts & crafts studio in it. I called the landlord, and the rest is history.


What kind of space do you want Studio 42 to be? What kind of people should come, and what sort of activities will take place?

Being a middle child, I have always had the desire to bring people together and to create community so people don’t feel so alone. And during my studies for my Masters degree in Art Therapy, I quickly saw the connection between being creative and feeling good! My dream is that Studio 42 becomes an English-speaking community center for expats and Germans alike to find support and to stimulate creativity and personal growth. I personally am no master artist, but I thrive in group settings where people can inspire and learn from each other. I try to have a wide range of materials in the studio to spark people’s imagination, so you don’t have to be experienced at all to make something you are proud of. Right now, there is a lot of painting and drawing happening, but in the future, felting, basket weaving, knitting, sewing, collage-making and scrapbooking will take place, as well as workshops and events like Movie Night, Happy Hour, and holiday parties.


How can art and English be combined?

For expats whose main language is English and who still struggle with German, Studio 42 is the perfect place to be. They can socialize and let loose here in their native language, which can feel like a huge relief. Germans who want to improve their English in real-life situations and in a less formal environment will find this the best place to do it. The idea is to learn the language in a non-stressful and fun way. Most language schools focus on left-brain (academic) acquisition, like studying grammatical rules and memorizing vocabulary. The reality is that in order to really live into another language, you really need to use both sides of the brain. Right-brained (artistic) activities help the left-side access the information faster and more fluidly, which is what we really want when we speak a new language. So ideally, at Studio 42, you can improve your skills in a more rounded and practical way. German class for non-native speakers is beginning now too and is being taught in the same way.

Shelley’s city tips 

Where in Hamburg do you go when you’re homesick?

Honestly, I turn to American TV when I am homesick. Those who know me know that I have a huge list of shows that I’ve (binge)-watched and can recommend. I’ll publish that list soon… Starbucks is the next best thing. I can’t pass a Starbucks (“4 bucks”) without stopping in.

Best place to spot new art in Hamburg?

I love all the graffiti around Hamburg and am often inspired by that. Right now there is some great graffiti work made by a refugee group near the Große Elbstraße in Altona.

Looking for more city tips? Check them out here!

Excited about Shelley’s art/community space in Altona?

Pay her a visit at Schmarjestraße 42, or visit www.studio42hh.com.

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