Where artists create: Studios get personal

The Associated PressOctober 19, 2012 

  • IF YOU GO

    What and when: Art Alliance's Fall Colors Studio Tour, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 20-21; potters tour, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 20-21

    Where: throughout the Centre Region

    Info: www.artalliancepa.org, www.potterstour.com

An artist’s workspace is as personal as the artwork.

Talk to different artists, and you’ll get a variety of individual requirements for the spaces in which they create: Some need a lot of space, others very little. Some need quiet, others crank the music to deafening levels. There are those who want every piece of equipment in its place, and others who scatter their materials all over.

The common denominator? Each finds that personal blend of the functional and the inspirational.

“Once people define a designated space to do their art, it’s a very important step on their journey as an artist,” said Linda Blinn, editor of the quarterly magazine Studios. “It says, ‘I think of myself as an artist.’ ”

Some artists carve creative space out of closets, armoires, laundry rooms and mudrooms, said Blinn, while others hire designers to create elaborate studios.

“You have to decide what you’re going to do there and what you love,” said Jo Packham, editor of Where Women Create, a quarterly magazine in which women write about their own creative spaces.

“I love containers. I love little bottles, and everything has to be very organized,” Packham said about her Ogden, Utah, studio.

Moorea Hoffman, a San Clemente, Calif., kitchen designer and quilter who helps clients plan their studios, suggests asking these questions:

• How much work will be done sitting or standing? Table height needs to match the work. For those who need to stand at a table, for example, as with painting or cutting fabric, the tabletop needs to line up with the crafter’s hip bone, Hoffman says, for optimal strength and agility.

• How messy will you get? Do you need a wet station and an area that’s kept dry? Quilters like to keep their work area clean, while painters need somewhere to clean up.

• Is there natural light? Can you control the lighting? Have as bright a light as you can find, but put it on a dimmer switch. Task lighting, such as a table lamp on a swivel arm, also is helpful.

• Do your floors support — or hurt — you? Artists enjoy cleanable floors, such as tile and concrete, but these surfaces are hard on knees and backs. Think vinyl tiles. They come in patterns, some that resemble hardwood flooring, or carpet. If you already have a hard surface, use a gel kitchen mat at your primary workstation.

Packham thinks a good table and chair are essential.

“It wears on you to sit a long time,” she said.

The fun part in planning an art studio is instilling personality and inspiration, which can show up in how things are organized. “Some people can’t look at disorder. Everything has to be behind closed doors,” Blinn said. “Other people need to see everything they’ve got, so it has to be out.”

Packham likes to see her supplies, storing them in see-through boxes, and glass jars and bottles.

“If it’s in a box, for me, it’s gone,” she said.

Lee Meredith, a knit designer, stores yarns, threads and fabric openly in cubbyholes and hanging shoe organizers. Her supplies are accessible, but they also provide colorful inspiration in the small studio in her Portland, Ore., home.

“I love colors and I love to be able to see all my yarn,” Meredith said. “I love to see what will inspire me that day.”

Meredith’s yarn cubbies are made from Trader Joe’s coffee cans covered in contact paper, glued together in two rows, then attached to the wall above her work station. It’s her most popular storage craft, she said, at her craft blog, Leethal.

“It’s functional as an organizational tool, but it’s really wall art,” Meredith said. “It really stands out.”

Mary Heebner, a Santa Barbara, Calif., mixed-media painter, prefers a soothing studio space. The walls are white, the better for showcasing her art. She works in quiet, enjoys breaks in nature, and needs a lot of floor and wall space. She’ll start with a piece on the floor, then pin it to a nearby wall.

“I let the paint drizzle, use powdered pigments, mix paint directly on the surface of the paper,” Heebner said. “Then something starts to coalesce.”

Her favorite piece of furniture keeps her organized: a table configured from four filing cabinets — the kind that store maps — with a combined 40 narrow drawers that are stacked in two columns and topped with galvanized metal.

Heebner’s studio may be seen in the fall issue of Studios magazine.

Other creative storage solutions in that issue: Store small stacks of fabric in a doll house, and larger fabric folds in a vintage toy box; sort paint brushes by size and type and store them bristles up in colorful planters; and use C-clamps to attach a wooden dowel or copper plumbing pipe to a shelving unit to hold spools of ribbon, tape and embellishments.

Creative storage ideas in the fall issue of Where Women Create: Store colorful spools of thread in lidded, glass jars; keep buttons, beads or small treasures in antique wooden trays; and hang beadwork pliers and other small tools from magnetic strips within reach.

Sometimes, having an art studio isn’t enough. Brian Kasstle has several places in his Long Beach, Calif., home to make his art journals, but his favorite spot is at the garden patio table.

“I crank up my music and just spread out,” Kasstle said. “I feel I am totally lost in my own world back there, and that works the best for me.”

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