Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Studio=A Sanctuary of Joy

I enjoy reading Robert Genn's newsletter.  Sometimes the posts resonate with me
in a more profound way.  A recent post was one of them.  I love knowing about
other people's studios.  I am, quite frankly, much more interested in seeing a
studio space while in-use.  In other words, while beautiful, pristine studios are a
type of eye candy, I really want to understand how the artist uses his or her
space, neat or beyond messy.  I think that is why the following post appealed
 to me.  Read on...

Studio dynamics

On Sunday, I happened to stumble on some photos of Francis
Bacon's studio.  He was really messy:

a combination of never picking up, mental chaos, and compulsive

 hoarding. His canvases on their easels, where you could find them,
were paragons of calm.

Through the Jungian (or perhaps familial) collective unconscious,
 my daughter, Sara, who has just arrived here from New York for
the holidays, has been building her own photo collection of artists'
studios. We've put a link to her collection at the bottom of the
current clickback. Bacon's mess is in there and so is mine.

I've always figured that a studio, as well as being an efficient
workroom, can be a menagerie of life's objects, reference, media
and ideas-in-waiting. When checking out other artists' studios,
I've noticed that the filing of material can be either spatial or alphabetical/numerical. I'm of the spatial persuasion. I know
the "general area" where things can be found. I was not present
in school the day they covered alpha/numeric.

Somewhere over there on the bench, for example, I have a two-
pronged tool for tightening the distributor cap on the 1926
Locomobile I once owned. The Loco was sold 35 years ago.
I bump into the tool every so often and consider throwing it
out, but the thought of using it for something someday holds
me back. In a studio, you never know.

I've been in some studios that are as spit-and-polish as a Marine
barracks. Pristine, virginal spaces make me realize my personal
dysfunction and how I could have been a much better person.

Once, I entered a lady's particularly magnificent, high-ceilinged,
north-lit space, lovingly created by her third husband in the
blush of their new marriage. She assured me that work went 
on in there. Only one problem--I noted the calendar had not 
been flipped for three months.

Modest or stupendous, tidy or messy, the studio is a sanctuary
of joy and love--a place where a unique person can do unique
things. In an age of co-operation and consensus, of office cubicles
and water-cooler gossip, the studio is the throne room of latter-day
kings and queens. The only bad studio is the unused one.

Best regards,


PS: "This is the place of creative incubation. At first, you may
find nothing happens there. But, if you have a sacred place and
use it, take advantage of it, something will happen." (Joseph Campbell

Esoterica: The currently popular field of "Chaos Theory" has
applications in many disciplines. The theory states that "initial
conditions" can yield widely diverging, desirable and often
unpredictable outcomes. A good way to understand chaos theory
is what psychologists call "the butterfly effect." From an unlikely
chrysalis a magnificent butterfly emerges. The all-too-common
human instinct to tame chaos may also be key to creative flight.
The messy artist puts her need for order into her art. Beauty,
uniqueness, and personal joy are the result.


In the spirit of this post I decided to show you a few shots of my
recently "excavated" & reorganized studio.  I'm still not finished
with the closet area but the studio is functioning much better.
I know where things are, and because most things are on lockable
wheels (with a few exceptions) it has become much more versatile.
This is the north window in my studio.  From L-R:  a serious bank 
of lights, pointed upward, is what that weird black box-thingy is.  
Behind it, my Horn sewing table.  Between the table and to the left
 of the window is a shelf that houses all my hand-dyed silks & 
cottons, african batiks, MistyFuse, stabilizers, freezer paper, parchment, 
and iron-cleaning supplies.  Next to it is a set of shallow drawers that 
contain all my thread.
To the right of the window:  two industrial metal carts on lockable 
wheels.  The smaller one holds my laser printer, thermofax machine, 
ink-jet printer, and cordless land-line.  The bigger shelves hold fabric 
sorted into plastic binds that stand on end.  Behind the bins I have 
placed rolls of PFD cloth, bolts of felt, rolls of canvas, etc.
I have 4 sheets of felt-wrapped 4x8 RMax, 3 of which are suspended 
from large picture hooks and inverted paper binders (stabilized with 
some of that non-skid stuff inside the clasp so they don't slip off).

My new, adjustable height table.  Eventually I'll have the second one 
built, which is a straight sided table.  This will eventually be on the
 other side of the studio and will function mostly for mixed media 
painting work. So, this photo is about 90 degrees from the first one.

Turning another 45 degrees (you can see the edge of the design wall 
on the left) is my studio couch.  It is also a very comfortable, memory 
foam, queen sized bed.  This is the best sleeper bed on the planet!  
We have two of them in the house.  Solid under the mattress, you 
really are on a real bed.  Amazing, but enough about the damn bed.  
This is where I think, write, and look at books.
Which is why I decided to get these vertical bookshelves.  
Best. Idea. Ever.  I love that the books take up less real estate 
in my studio and are positioned close to where I actually read 
them!  Yay!
The orange and aluminum cube stack houses printer paper, battery 
chargers, cords, my extra glasses that I keep in here, a drop file with 
all my workshop and other professional paperwork.  I have some 
relatively current magazines in the lower cube.  
Can you see Bizzi on the sofa?  She is my constant companion in 
the studio.
I have some artwork from my kids, friends, and a little photographic 
shrine of my late sister (and another bank of lights in the corner).

Turning to the west windows and 90 degrees to the right of the sofa 
is an old gateleg table that will soon be drop-kicked out of here!  
Yikes I hate that table!  The new table will move here and a second 
one will be where it was.  I have another tall set of industrial shelves 
on casters, this one holds silkscreens, medium, paint, paper ephemera,
 a paper cutter, and an enormous collection of markers and pens.  
The television/dvr is also on a rolling cart and has all sorts of toys 
& weird oddities hanging off it.  I store postcards, business cards, 
and moo-created stickers on the bottom shelf.  You can barely see it
 in this pic but there is another set of white shelves between the tall 
cart and the tv and it serves as a sort of flat file for watercolors, stencils, 
 beads and bead thread in the bottom two drawers.
Sitting in front of my gate leg table you can see a box of studio lighting,
 which augments the existing full-spectrum light banks in here.  These 
are set up when I'm photographing quilts and other large pieces of work 
so I don't have any "dark holes" in the lighting.
They are relatively cheap, set up easily, and I drag them out when I need 
them.  They haven't been put back in the closet yet!

Thanks for visiting my studio.  I'll continue to post images of my 
progress in re-organizing.  I am so glad I took the time to sort
all my "stuff", cull it, and find storage that works for the way I use the studio.  

Let me hear from you!


  1. I love peeking into other artists' studios. I'm in awe of your large design wall and window. You must get wonderful natural light. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I'm very fortunate to have such a large dedicated space inside my home. I get fabulous north light in the early part of the day. Light from the west windows gets a bit intense during the summer, but it is well-controlled with shades. I, too, love peeking into other artist-studios. Glad you stopped by!


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