Meta-Practice

Home Studio 360

In a recent post, I urged working artists to value ourselves and our practices independent of commercial validation.

It’s easier to say than do. Here’s a case in point:

Because I have a hang-up that I might be perceived as a less serious artist since I work from home, I’ve never posted pics of my current studio.

Until now. 

Studio panorama. Pretty nice to have light and fresh air. The windows face out to a covered porch, where I've done a little bit of woodworking.

Studio panorama. Pretty nice to have light and fresh air. The windows face out to a covered porch, where I’ve done a little bit of woodworking.

I'm sewing the VIA signal flag project these days. I put up some ribbons on the walls so I can pin things up without constantly making new holes in the walls. Leftover insulation foam from a packing project has been turned into another pinboard for swatches (at left).

I’m sewing the VIA signal flag project these days. I put up some ribbons on the walls so I can pin things up without constantly making new holes in the walls. Leftover insulation foam from a packing project has been turned into another pinboard for swatches (at left).

I'm guessing this map is from the 1970s. It's fun to think about all the places I've yet to visit in this huge, amazing country.

I’m guessing this map is from the 1970s. It’s fun to think about all the places I’ve yet to visit in this huge, amazing country.

As far as I'm concerned, books, artist's tape, and colorful pens are non-negotiable.

Pegboard’s irresistible promise of organization.

As far as I'm concerned, books, artist's tape, and colorful pens are non-negotiable.

As far as I’m concerned, books, artist’s tape, and colorful pens are non-negotiable.

Though I would rather have a studio outside the home, I have to admit—the convenience of a home studio is a big plus. Working from home, I’ll never have to eat a Trader Joe’s MRI or bodega junk food. I’ll never have to commute just to get the dimensions of a work of art or pick up a ruler. Other artists’ dusts, fumes, music and garbage are non-issues. Late at night, I don’t have to get creeped out in an empty building or desolate neighborhood. I get to use a full kitchen and clean bathroom! I never suffer the consequences of leaving materials or references at “home,” and bringing a fan or air conditioner, or scarf or jacket, takes all of 30 seconds.

According to the W.A.G.E. survey, 45.8% of artist-respondents reported that they don’t rent studios outside of their own residences, either. So I’m far from alone in managing my resources this way. My fears were based on assumptions of what a serious artist should be doing. But as Creative Capital mentors have said,

Artists! Don’t should all over yourself.

I’d love a bigger, more flexible studio one day, but for now, my little home studio is not too bad—and now that I think about it, it’s pretty great. I’ll try to take my own advice and Be Here Now.

WF made me this awesome trophy.

W made me this awesome trophy. Be here now!

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Research

happiness is… research note #14

Complete overkill, but one can dream, right? Alvin 4x8' self-healing cutting mat.

Complete overkill, but one can dream, right? Alvin 4×8′ self-healing cutting mat.

Happiness is having the right tools for the job. 

I brought two small 12×18″ cutting mats to this residency. What I saved in shipping costs is lost in time and accuracy. I’m constantly re-positioning the mats and fabric, snipping threads in the gap between the mats, and can’t trust the mats’ printed grids to line up.

The uses and limitations of my sewing ruler is also clearer. It’s great for cutting seam allowances (always 5/8″ or 1/4″) and holds up very well to use and even dropping it! The density and hierarchy of information is just right (a principle that  anyone whose used a tape measure with too much info can attest).  But, while cutting ninety-six 6-7/8-inch squares for a checkerboard flag, I wished I had a square quilter’s ruler.

Source: google.com via Christine on Pinterest

 

As I learned from my Portland Sewing lesson, you don’t adjust the shape as you’re sewing; when you sew, trust your cuts. Accurate cuts and tools means I get closer to actualizing things as I envisioned them.

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Research

Happiness Is… Research Note #9

I have  a conceptual relationship to my work—I read, write, observe, and reflect to inform the art that I want to make. I do so much research sometimes, my recent studio practice has involved organizing information:

Studio view: notes from positive psychology books, organized in a large table.

Studio view: notes from positive psychology books, organized in a 6’x6′ newsprint table.

Though I employ conceptual strategies, I still make things. I like materials, and I like working with materials. I like the challenge of finding and trying different materials that will best convey the ideas, emotions, and experiences I have in mind.

Materials are indifferent, however. They age, warp, stain, fold, bend, puncture, and undergo countless other unintended transformations. Reality, too, resists—physically, culturally, economically; I can’t always get what I want, and I can’t always make what I envision. Art objects, conventionally, aspire to timelessness—an unnatural condition.

In a recent project, I used over:

  • 700 yards of thread
  • 200 yards of twill tape
  • 17 yards of unmounted vinyl
  • dozens of pieces of aluminum tubing and wooden dowels

I also shipped a sewing machine across the country for this project.

It took two to three long work days to finally get a feel for the materials: how they sew together, what patterns would be strong and functional but visually minimal, and how to adjust the tension of the thread just so. In that sense, working is learning, gaining expertise. Doing is simultaneously gathering and applying information; hence, making is a way of thinking.

Detail, work in progress. Supported by Lucas Artists Program at the Montalvo Arts Center.

And still, materials surprise me. As I conceptualize, plan, prepare and make, visual and optical qualities emerge. They call on me to look at what I’ve made with new eyes, to see things as they are. To be honest with myself about the degrees to which they are or aren’t what I intended, physically or conceptually.

I like the opportunities for flow made possibly by working with my hands. Some people can achieve flow in activities of the mind—mathematics, writing—but for me, flow arises in the challenges and satisfactions of physical art-making.

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