Notes on a two-week residency: what, who, where, when, how, why, and my experience of the LPP Residency in the 1240 Minnesota Street studio building.
I just wrapped up Little Paper Planes’ LPP+ residency in San Francisco.
The residency offers access for two to four weeks to:
- A private studio in 1240 Minnesota Street, Minnesota Street Project‘s Artist Studio Program.
- Support and promotion for a public event (artist’s talk or reading).
- Access to the resources at 1240: a kiln, woodshop, digital media lab, and Adobe resources.
In return, artists-in-residence are asked to present at the public event, and make a ‘zine or print multiple (usually a small edition of 20-25) related to their residency for sale in the shop to help offset the cost.
STUDIO. The studio is probably about 8’-9’ wide by about 16’ deep. It is located in 1240’s second story, off the digital media lab. The second floor also has a small kitchenette and a restroom. It gets a little bit of natural light from a nearby skylight, and there is a large worktable (4×8’ sheet on sawhorses), a drafting table, and a folding chair.
PUBLIC EVENT. I had a talk inside a white cube studio/gallery in the middle of the complex. It was pretty low-key and DIY. Kelly lent a projector and I set up stools and got cups and snacks.
Electric Kiln. The kiln is huge and programmable. My ceramics knowledge is limited, and that’s all I can say confidently about the kiln. AIRs should bring their own (cone 5) clay, (cone 5) glazes, and clay tools. Note that while I was able to purchase clay at Douglas and Sturgess in SF, I had to go to Clay People in Richmond for glazes. Thinking ahead and ordering your supplies to be delivered is advisable. Note that there’s no wheel; I hand-built all my ceramic objects. Kelly helped me load and program the kiln for both of my firings.
The woodshop is beautifully organized and maintained by Jesse Schlesinger. There’s a fancy saw-stop-outfitted table saw with a 48”+ outfeed table, a sheet saw, and sliding compound miter saw with a lot of possible angles. These are all attached to dust collection systems or vacuums, and there’s air filtration system too! There’s also a planer, an orbital sanders (and a handheld belt sander if I remember correctly?), a jigsaw, and a reciprocating saw. There are a variety of hand tools including two sets of Makita drills and impact drivers. There is also an impressive clamp cart. Minor expendables like sandpaper and personal protective equipment like goggles and ear protection are also available. It was easy to schedule an orientation early in my residency with Jesse, who is very meticulous about safety and cleanliness. He was flexible in letting people get approved to use some machines and not others according to their comfort level.
There’s a digital media lab with a large (44 or 48”?) inkjet printer. Residents should get an orientation from Sean McFarland and bring their own paper. You pay for ink by self-reporting on a clipboard. There are also two scanners—one flatbed ~12×18”, one smaller flatbed for film. There are at least three iMacs too. There’s also a color laser printer that accepts up to 11×17” paper (75¢ per US Letter per side). I used that to print my postcards, which had really vibrant colors. I got my paper at Kelly Paper, one of the great weird chain stores of the Bay Area, where you can purchase papers by the sheet. I cut the postcards down on a really nice rotary trimmer that studio member Miguel Arzabe made available for shared use.
There’s also an Adobe studio, as in Adobe the software company, on premises. I had my clay work cut out for me so I declined learning more about those resources. During my stint they had a screen-printing workshop, though you have to have screens burned by an offsite service provider.
There are also other resources at 1240: a full kitchen, a patio area with picnic benches that are a great place to work on sunny days, bountiful carts for moving things, lots of brooms, dustpans and work sinks, and rolls of brown butcher paper available. One of the studio artists is also setting up a darkroom. I was really impressed with the amount of space and the quality of the resources. It’s clear that the vision for 1240 is to make it nice and keep it nice! Many artist studio buildings exhibit a scarcity mentality (I’m thinking of some warehouses in NYC; some don’t supply toilet paper, and others are just fluorescent-lit hallways of closed doors where you rarely meet neighbors.) 1240 feels very deliberately abundant and supportive.
There’s also a free area where I found useful wood for my slab rolling, and some great rulers and stencils. There’s another area with extra furniture, where I found two wire racks and a pair of sawhorses for drying my clay pieces. Being able to scrounge and find good stuff, and to leave behind stuff to share is so great for traveling AIRs.
In addition to these resources and staff support, the community at 1240 was really great.
Little Paper Planes is a store featuring goods by artists. It was founded by artist Kelly Lynn Jones in 2004, and has had a storefront in the Mission District in San Francisco since 2013. Kelly and I were classmates in the MFA Fine Arts program at the California College of Arts in San Francisco. I was happy to be allied with an independent, woman-owned, artist-owned business in San Francisco, especially one with accessible price points.
Kelly is really chill. She was very easygoing about everything. She didn’t have any paperwork for me aside from 1240’s contract. I initially proposed to make ceramics for activity kits and games. Two weeks is quite short to make ceramics, so I switched to making pottery (which for me is more intuitive), and Kelly seemed totally cool with it. I also wasn’t sure what the outcomes from the residency would be, and how many objects she would want for the shop. She was really easygoing and didn’t want to take too many objects, which worked out great since my glaze technique can use improvement. She also mentioned making a ‘zine that reflects the residency, and was very open-ended about the format and the time line. I wanted to finish it before I left, so I made postcards (not a zine!) and she was totally cool with it.
1240 Minnesota Street has a healthy staff of artists. In addition to Jesse and Sean, there’s Brion Nuda Rosch, the director. Michael Rubel is in charge of facilities and is really friendly and helpful in receiving shipments.
Furthermore, the 30 or so studio artists at 1240 seem really dedicated to creating a friendly community. My residency happened to overlap with a BBQ/potluck, and it was really nice to meet folks. I am fortunate in that I lived and practiced in the Bay Area for a long time, so I already had met Jesse and Sean before, and was friendly with studio artists like Dana Hemenway and Richard T. Walker. I really got the feeling that studio artists have a sense of ownership in 1240 and feel responsible for contributing positively to the shared resources, whether with knowledge (such as helping to run the kiln), labor (helping set up the BBQ), or good will (sharing food and welcoming new artists). The value of being part of 1240 extends far beyond the square footage of a private studio.
1240 Minnesota is across the street from the Minnesota Street Project, on—of course—Minnesota Street in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco. A huge Philz Coffee is next door. There are more restaurants about two blocks away. Center Hardware is also nearby.
I have family in the area, I had access to a car and accommodations. By car, 1240 is really convenient off of the 280, though parking can be tough. I didn’t have to take public transportation but the Third Street light rail is two blocks away.
I opted for a two-week residency. Kelly gave me option of staying four weeks, but with no stipend, I would have been financially overstretched. Also, a shorter time frame was better back-to-back with another residency. I am new to clay, so I didn’t have to foresight to realize that two weeks is very short for ceramics. It took about four or five days for wet clay to get bone dry for bisque firing. Then each firing took about 36 hours. I really had to jam the first seven days to get the studio up and running, get all my supplies, and hand build my 50 pounds of clay. I was also able to get a three-day extension, as the next artist wasn’t moving in for another week.
I applied via the Open Call. [See the Art Competition Odds.]
I can envision a wide variety of artists enjoying the resources at 1240: photographers, woodworkers, clay (hand-builders), and drawers/painters. Those resources are plenty of reasons to apply for the residency.
I was also really attracted to learning more about Minnesota Street. Minnesota Street Project opened a few years ago, when many SF galleries were closing. I think it has brought a lot of fresh energy and optimism to artists and gallerists in San Francisco. My residency overlapped with the San Francisco Art Book Fair at MSP. Kelly was kind enough to invite me to be a featured artist at her booth, so I contributed ‘zines and letterpress prints from my Working Together series. I enjoyed SFABF as a visitor, too—it was great to see so many local and out-of-town artists and publishers in one really buzzy, exciting place.
I really had a great time being part of the 1240 community and accessing the resources there. When I realized I needed to make some molds, I scrounged in the free area, found some wood, chopped it up, and had three molds within an hour or so. Back in NYC, accessing a woodshop is much more complicated for me. When I glazed my bisque pieces, I worked on a large table in a communal space near the kiln. A roll-up door was up, letting in sunlight and a light breeze. It was just so pleasant.
The residency aims to provide opportunities for artists to experiment. Having not done ceramics since high school, I took a hand-building class at La Mano Pottery (an independent, women-owned business in NYC) this spring. The instructor (and La Mano co-owner) Julie Hadley was very encouraging. It is so nice to feel unafraid to mess up, especially when you are learning new techniques and trying to get comfortable in a shared space with clear rules and etiquette established among members. In five classes, I learned enough to figure out what kinds of tools I liked and needed, and was able to hand-build pieces that remained intact in the kiln! I had shipped out the linoleum blocks from Working Together (only realizing in hindsight how much money I would have saved in shipping if I unmounted the blocks in NYC). I used the linoleum like stamps, imprinting them in the wet clay.
I only dip glazed two pieces at La Mano, however. So when it came time to glaze my LPP pottery, I was treading on thin ice. I bought four quarts of glaze and hadn’t tried any of them before. I suppose an experienced ceramicist would have insisted on making some test tiles. Quarts are very small quantities for dipping, so I applied by brushing. The instructions suggested 2-3 coats, which I suspected to be too heavy, and indeed, the results were often unsatisfactory. Though it was disappointing that many pieces didn’t come out as I’d hoped, I have the perspective to see that perfect outcomes would have taken a lot of dumb luck, given my minimal skills and experience in ceramics. I learned a lot and had fun. I gained some confidence in my hand-building and valuable lessons in glazing. I am so grateful that the residency aim is experimentation.
I am also happy with the print multiple I made. At first, I sketched illustrations of pottery, but it felt like someone else’s work, or like a Bay Area motif. I realized that just plain calligraphy, like the Working Together book cover, would be true to me. I took full advantage of the chance to print on weird papers, and use lots of colors that would be quite laborious to print on letterpress.
The set of 8 postcards is called MOODS & MODES. Some reflect the ideas in Working Together (“Thank you for listening” inspired by “Listening”). Others are inspired by the pottery inspired by Working Together (“Cool down” came from the trivet, which was inspired by “Dropping the Ball and Picking Up the Pieces;” “Let’s grow together” relates to the double plant pot inspired by “Shared Growth”).
MOODS & MODES will be available at Little Paper Planes, which is currently renovating and will re-open with a studio for art classes next week. You can support LPP’s Kickstarter to offer classes.
Huge thanks to Little Paper Planes, Kelly, 1240 Minnesota Street, Brion, Jesse, Sean, Michael; Dana, Miguel, Beth, Liz, Sandra, Henna, Richard, and all the kind and welcoming studio artists; Genevieve and Elizabeth; and Michael, Angela, and Sophia.