Having a studio space is a must for me. Throughout ‘adulthood’ I’ve had 12, some more commodious than others. A partial list includes: (1) spare bedroom in our first apartment in Eugene, as a newly married lady with a law school husband; (2) large open concept studio at the Eugene Warehouse Studios, started with 8 artist friends; (3) room in a little duplex owned by Euphoria chocolate company (heavenly); (4) 2nd floor shared studio (with my artist pal, Barbara) above Newberry’s 5 & Dime; (5) custom-built “Tuff Shed,” complete with wi-fi, cable tv and skylights; (6) 4th floor studio with amazing views of Olympic Mountains; (7) shared studio in an artist-owned building housing 19 artists. Each space was what I needed during that period of my life.
My present studio is 4 miles from home (my farthest commute to date) and the smallest (12 feet x 14 feet with 10 foot ceiling). South facing in SE Portland, my sunny 3rd floor studio fits my present needs. We downsized with our Seattle-to-Portland move, getting rid of stuff that no longer supported our “empty nest” life style. So too, it is with my studio. Working in a smaller studio forces me to focus on what I really want to create. It’s challenging to move away from my pack-rattedness (I’m a hoarder of scraps of paper, bits of ephemera or snips of ribbon), but so freeing to throw (or give away) materials that no longer hold my interest.
Of course I lust after a larger studio (doesn’t every artist?). Somewhere I wouldn’t have to put everything away and could work on multiple projects at the same time. In the end tho’ it’s about having my own work space, regardless of size, where I can come and create. To paraphrase Virginia Woolf “. . . a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to make art . . .” As I’ve recently “retired” from my graphic design/invitation business, I just need to figure out the money part!
Family & friends – what could be better? Being with them at the beach in Manzanita! The “Robin & Bob Memorial Birthday Weekend,” a long-standing family tradition, was celebrated with gusto: delicious food (fabulous dinner at Blackbird), tasty beverages (French 75), good conversation, vigorous bike rides and sandy walks.
Our friend Betty contributed paper napkins for Sunday evening’s cocktail party. I snagged one and ripped it up, then embedded it in beeswax to create this encaustic collage, commemorating time well spent. Wish you’d been there too!
Monday – a little rainy, a little sunny - I’m at the studio, savoring this past weekend (and a double-tall, nonfat latte). The opening at Maude Kerns was a great success – very well attended and the staff and volunteers did a bang-up job. Everyone’s art showed well. So satisfying to see my six months of work displayed on those white walls (am SO glad that I spent the money to have all seven pieces framed). Dear friends, acquaintances and gallery patrons were very enthusiastic and I was honored by all the positive feedback I received.
Flashbacks of our seven years of college and law school life flooded back during our brief visit to Eugene. How much and how little had changed since we left in 1982! We all spent time in there (my husband Bob, brother JS and sister-in-law Robin) but have such different remembrances – often about the same people or events. Distinct instances blur, melded together to become tangled memories, threads of life that seem distant and close at the same time.
I don’t know the date this photo was taken, the original hangs at my cousin’s house along with the typewritten card. My grandmother Hattie Viola May (my father’s mother, our daughter is named for her), taught Sunday School in Guin, Alabama. I don’t know the children’s names or why they were photographed. I do know that there’s innocense and sincerity in both the picture and Hattie’s pledge that speak to me and I’ve been making copies, hand coloring certain elements and using them in little encaustic collages. I wonder about “overall boy” (as I fondly think of him) with his buttoned-up shirt and forthright stare. Who is he and what happened to him? My grandmother was a hat maker, excellent seamstress, mother of three rowdy boys, gardener and devout member of her church and the stories I know create the fabric that binds my cousins and I together and makes us “May” women. The past is always present in the most touching ways.
The florist at the 5th Street Public Market had glorious displays and the lupine were quite spectacular.
Robin lusted after this rustic green house, too bad it’s too large for her garden.
We were thrilled to re-connect with our friend Cindee. She and I were traveling companions on Amtrak’s Empire Builder – it’s how we arrived in Eugene from Tuscaloosa. Additionally we were hiking/camping buddies (along with my husband and brother). Her photo of our camping adventure gave us the opportunity to celebrate our “younger selves” and laugh about good times past.
After my mother’s death in the fall of 2007, my brother and I emptied her Florida home. As we sorted through stuff we were surprised to find out that our mom, Audrey, had some major packrat tendencies. Phone books dating from the ’60s and ’70s took up a corner in her closet. She had 14 bathing suits in various stages of decay (she walked in the community pool with her “noodle” every day, weather permitting). An antique marble-topped dresser next to her bed was crammed with papers, pictures, cards and more.
Our baby pictures and color photos we’d sent her of our daughters throughout the years shared space with small black & white snapshots of high school chums, girl friends from her art school days in New York City and dapper young men in WWII army uniforms. Report cards from our elementary days were in folders next to numerous typewritten resumes (with carbons). They belonged to our father, Merrill, who died in 1964 when I was 10. Job inquiries, yellowed newspaper clippings of her fashion illustrations, matchbooks, her wedding announcement with the Crane’s engraving plate and other documents that were obviously precious to her were nestled in the dresser. Our history mingled with hers in four wooden drawers.
Most of her belongings; clothes, furniture and knick-knacks were sold, while paintings, silver and china were shipped west to Portland and Seattle. Audrey’s small red rolling suitcase was filled to capacity with the treasure trove from the bedside chest.
Yesterday, when I opened it, looking for items to copy to incorporate in my encaustic art, I was struck with how little I actually knew of her life. We didn’t have a close relationship so I know the big stuff, but who are these saddle-shoed teenagers she’s goofing with? Who’s the bearded old gentleman in the pith helmet next to the plow horse? What are the pictures of clouds about? The tiny details that make up who she was are lost to me and what I’m left with are images of people and things that mattered most to her. I could be cynical and liken all the items in the dresser to the phone book cache – stuff she just never got rid of – but I don’t think I will.
I like to reside in the comfort zone of competency, using skills that I’ve already mastered (or so I believe). Being a beginner, listening to that pesky inner demon camped out on my shoulder, hissing “this is SO easy, why can’t you figure this out?”, “you’re doing it wrong”, “who DO you think you are?” is not my idea of a good time. Looking at “experts” in a particular medium can be overwhelming.
Having embarked on “the encaustic journey” embracing and coming to grips with my “beginner status” is an eye-opener and much to my surprise I’m having a blast. There’s great freedom in not knowing exactly how to do something. I am following the basic instructions, especially those involving safety – overheating the beeswax, having stuff catch fire and burning down the building would be a bummer for sure. Daniella Woolf, Lissa Rankin and Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch, all encaustic artists and book authors, have become my new best friends even though they don’t know me!
Familiar images, handmade papers (crazy love for Indonesian batik dot paper), relatives’ & my own handwriting all meld together and the scent of beeswax is so intoxicating (yes, there’s adequate ventilation). The process has me hooked.
Pleased to share the “official” postcard for the upcoming show at Maude Kerns Art Center in Eugene. My piece “Waiting” (one of my seven stitched collage samplers) is featured on the card. I’m excited to see my fellow artists’ work – we all had such different ideas about the concept of “self portrait.” Stop by the opening May 16, 6-8pm and say hello! There will be music, wine and tasty treats.
Spent the past weekend in Seattle teaching at LOJ (Letters of Joy) and working on a wrapping project for a client. Visited friends, consumed delicious food & drink and participated in “retail therapy.” What could be better?The students in my class, Tape it Up, Packing tape transfers for collage, were so creative and enthusiastic – the two hour class flew by and they didn’t want to leave. My phone was almost dead so I didn’t get to photograph all 10 student’s work – here’s a collage created by Andrea.
I’m back in the studio – cleaning, rearranging and getting rid of anything I haven’t used in the last year (10 x 14 feet means that everything has to have a “spot” – it’s like being on a ship). Going home yesterday afternoon I saw a guy “dumpster diving” in the building’s HUGE recycle bin. I’d put out a big box of paper scraps (end cuts from invite jobs, etc.) and was glad to know that my trash was someone else’s treasure!
Encaustic painting is something I’ve been wanting to explore for a while – took a beginning class at Collage in March, but I resisted purchasing supplies or starting on anything until after all the pieces were done for the Maude Kerns show and LOJ. Am making space by the window (for good ventilation) and will soon be ready to experiment with color, beeswax and collage – looking forward to see where it takes me.