A while ago a painter friend (Brandon Smith at www.brandoncsmith.blogspot.com) asked me to participate with a small group of artists who all had blogs, asking each of them the same question, one a week. So, here is my first attempt to participate in the exercise, even though I must admit it might get sort of strange since I am the only potter in the group while the others are painters. The questions, all coming from the book "Inside the Painters Studio" by Joe Fig, are rather specific to painters. But hey, who knows, maybe I can twist it enough to make sense for those of us working in clay. We'll see. Here's the question of the week:
How long have you been in this studio? Did you have a plan for the layout of your studio or did it develop organically? Has the studio location influenced your work?
I have been in my current studio for about six years, and it was built for me on our property in the country. I used to have a studio in Lexington (where we lived at the time). I shared a studio with two other clay artists there, and it was located about 4 blocks from where I lived. I really liked that as it was close by, spacious, and very functional. I liked sharing it with others too as it allowed for an exchange of ideas from time to time. Since I teach I am comfortable working with others in the studio, and when I went off by myself as I am now, I was a bit concerned at first that I might not like the isolation. There are times I might like to have another person to work with, but generally, I have adapted well to working alone and now seem to thrive on it. I find it allows me to be more contemplative about what I am making.
My studio is where I live, even though it is not attached to the house. This can be an advantage for a potter as it keeps the dust and mess isolated, and not having to deal with messy footprints across the entry way. I know some like a studio in the house, but I tend to not be too clean most of the time, so it is better for everyone in the house to keep it located a short walk (1 minute) from our house. And I actually like the separation. It is both physical and mental. Something that seems to fit with the way I think and work in the studio.
I planned the space myself, but did keep in mind that if we ever moved it could easily be modified to be a garage like structure. I have a work area, a kiln area, a material storage area (where I also mix clay), and another space that I hope to eventually use as a small gallery space. The material and gallery spaces are still not finished (needing more drywall installed, etc.), but they are still rather functional. The 'gallery' space is where I store finished pieces for now, mostly on shelves or in boxes.
The work space is fairly functional, at least for the type of work I make. When I am actively using it, as I am now, it really gets messy, but works fine. I am not the most organized in how I use the space, but hey, it works for me. There are times I clean it up and it looks really good, as a studio, but when it is
dis-shevled, it seems to still work just fine. And since we live in the country and have some land, I can store a lot of things just outside my studio if needed. I do both throwing and hand building there, and have spaces allotted for each. Since I do not produce functional ware, I am not easily over run with pots.
My kiln space is attached to the studio, yet it is outside, although covered. I have a gas kiln and an electric kiln there, along with some shelves for storage. So that helps a lot! The pictures I am attaching, with the exception of the kiln space, are all the same just taken from a different angle in the room. Hopefully this helps you see the overall work space, and confirms what I say about it being messy!
I do wish I had more storage space for work in-process. More shelves would be helpful as it does get a bit cramped since I often tend to put off glazing and firing too long, making it seemed more cramped as time goes by. Kind of how many of us work in clay, making pieces for a while and then having to stop and glaze and fire. I do not have a glaze area per se, so I need to clean things up to do that, which does not encourage me to stop and glaze as it also means I am not making new work. Of course glazing is an important part of the process, and certainly just as valuable as the actual making of work. But having to 'change' your work space does not allow you to keep your head in the game with new work being born. If I had a larger overall space, I would be able to simply move from one to another, allowing me to glaze when I need to, and then turn back to wet clay just as easily. So, not ideal, but I make it work. The danger is when you stop making things only to then glaze, you have to re-ignite the fire inside you to start a new body of work afterwards. Sometimes that can be a challenge!
The last part of the question, has the studio location influenced your work, is not real applicable. For me, it should read: has the studio 'space' influenced your work. My answer to that question is yes. I am not able to work on anything too large, but honestly, I have little desire to do so anyway. There are times, however, where my ideas take on a little larger scale than normal. but this is most often realized by working in parts, or sections (different sections that all comprise one piece, not attached to make one big piece). So I guess the answer is yes, it influences what I make, but I designed the studio to fit the way I work anyway, so what came first, the chicken or the egg?
In the past I have worked in spaces not much larger than a big closet, to spaces that I could park a vehicle in. In each case, I adapted and made work I felt was important and serious, and still seemed to generate ideas that ended up to be about the same size in scale regardless of where I worked at the time.
So to conclude, I think we conform to what we have, and continue to dream about the ideal space yet to come.