Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Studio Tour

One of the best parts about getting together with other artists is that you get to see how they set up their studios. I'm always looking for better ideas to organize my workspace.

Unfortunately lately "organization" was not exactly a word one might use to describe my own studio. I think more accurate terms might have been "disaster area" or "simply frightening". Of course not being able to find the right tool is bad for productivity, but when dealing with ceramics neatness isn't just about that. Dust from the various clays and glazes contain silica, which are dangerous to inhale. The problem is common enough among those working in ceramics to have it's own name - Potter's Rot. Keeping the studio tidy helps to control the silica, which is good for the long-term health of my lungs.

Needless to say, watching my husband struggle with pneumonia these last few weeks has given me a renewed interest in taming the mess that has been my studio. And now that's it's clean, I can give a partial tour.

This is my main desk. It's where I do most of my detail work like scritching, erasing and handpainting. The big whiteboard behind the desk was an idea taken from my first visit to Sarah Minkiewicz-Breunig's studio. She kept a large board behind her workbench that she could use to hang references. I believe hers was actually corkboard, and that when I got home I could not find that material in a long enough length so I settled for a whiteboard. The advantage, obviously, was that I could leave myself notes. The writing in the upper lefthand of the board are the ratios to mix the plaster and various rubbers that I use. (You'd think after Vixen that I would have this all memorized!)

But this is the coolest part about using a whiteboard. I have a real problem with reversing images in my head. (Styling my own hair in a mirror is really beyond me.) With the whiteboard I have a long strip of adhesive-backed velcro along the top of the board. Then I print some of the more common references I use on clear acetate and slip them inside clear, heavyweight sheet protectors. Along the edge of the sheet protector (the area with the three holes punched for notebook) I've placed velcro dots. This way I can insert the image facing whichever direction I need, inside the sheet protector, and the white of the board makes it perfectly visible.

Usually I have copies of the Ellenberger plates, like the undersides of the hooves here, hanging up. I've also used it for some of the more symetrical patterns (like leopard appaloosas and dapple greys). I don't copy patterns verbatim, but use them to get a sense of the look I am after, so using the same image flipped over will usually give me two compatible sides on the finished piece.

This is my latest addition, also taken from Sarah's studio. I noticed that Sarah had these wonderful magnetic strips that ran along the wall next to her sculpting table, all to hold her tools. I am terrible for misplacing small tools like minarettes and hand drills, so I set about looking for something like this when I got back this time. At first I was disappointed that all I could find was this small metal tray. It was designed to attach (magnetically) inside a toolbox, not hang from the wall, but it was the only thing like this I could find. As it turned out, it fit perfectly on the side of the little dorm fridge that sits beneath my workbench. This arrangement actually puts the tools more conventiently in reach than if it did hang on the wall.

Oh, and I've shown the open fridge, too, just to show that it is not used to hold Frapaccinos! That's where I keep the moldy-oldy sculptures from years past. I learned the hard way with the Celtic Pony sculpture that the kilns heat the room enough to melt plastilene.

Another item I'm really fond of is my flat file cabinet. It has large, shallow drawers designed to hold flat artwork. For me it's the perfect depth to hold paint bottles. They are just one layer deep, so I can see everything I have at a glance. I keep some of the smaller kiln furniture in these drawers, too.

One of the other things that struck me about Sarah's workspace, the first time I visited it, was that every surface was covered with things friends had given her. There were cards and notes, as well as souvenirs and mementos. It made me realize that for all that much of my adult life has been spent in - and defined by - the model horse community, there was precious little of it displayed in my home (beyond the actual model horses themselves, that is). Since then I've been trying to bring more items into my workspace that remind me of my friends and colleagues. Flat surfaces are always at a premium in my too-small studio, but I've recently found these really short pedestal shelves that I can hang on the exposed sides of my cabinets.

I also hung a small bulletin board assembled from corkboard sheeting and an inexpensive picture frame, so I could pin up some of the smaller items like pins and pendants. (You can see it beside the whiteboard in the first picture.)

Since doing this, I've found the studio to be a warmer, more personal space. That keeps me bringing my work into the other areas of the house, which is a bad habit I've had in the past. (That's one of the reasons small metal tools go missing so often!)

One area that I didn't include here was the casting and mold-making table next to the sink. That area is still pretty scary! But it will wait. In the next few days I hope to post the comparisons between the old Vixen mold and the new one. I want to wait until the second set of molds are dry enough to cast, since it's easier to show how they work with a casting inside.

In the meantime, Joan posted a wonderful account of our time in Idaho on her blog. I'm going to include her picture of her buckskin Imp here, and encourage everyone to check out his other side, and her Taboos, in her post.

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