My Art Studio Journey
Hello friends! It’s been awhile….
The quietness on my part has largely been due to the fact that I've had a whole heck of a lot on my metaphorical plate these past few months concerning my art studio / studio apartment culminating in me moving out of it at the end of November.
I handed in my keys at noon on Saturday. Breathe out.
Wow, what an incredible journey! And, phew, I'm glad it’s over.
As I write this, I'm hearing Alicia Keys’ song “Brand New Me” in my head…
It took a long long time to get here It took a brave, brave girl to try.
Let's go back in time to December 2013.
I wanted a day studio where I could make art, uninterrupted. I had been using the big room in our home for that purpose, however, my partner, David, and I were also seeing a few local therapy clients in the same room and trying to grow our practices, so I found myself regularly putting all my art and supplies away every time a client was scheduled for a session.
There weren’t any day studios available in Santa Fe – only this live-in studio that cost a little more than I had budgeted for. The previous tenant had vacated in a rush and left her bed, couch, desk, and chair behind. And the studio had a small kitchen and bathroom in it.
I said to the landlord, “I’ll take it.”
(No, it looked nothing like the photo above—it was completely bare. The shot above was from 2018.)
Soon, I realized I might as well stay overnight sometimes so that I could work with my art whenever the impulse arose and as late into the night as I wanted which was often when I felt most inspired and in a flow.
I talked with David and we agreed that I would go there on Thursday evenings and stay through Saturday evenings returning home for dinner on Saturday night. This would give me two nights and two full days there every week.
We basically have had this schedule, with few exceptions, for the last six years.
The primary one being that prior to having the studio, I didn’t feel comfortable calling myself “an artist.”
However, over these last six years, I created so much work there that this is no longer an inner struggle. Here is a sampling of just some of the various projects I worked on while there:
I delved deeper into a career in fine art photography reaching levels of skill and recognition that still mean a lot to me even though I haven’t shot much at all in the last three years. See work in Photo I and Photo II and Travel.
I continued the work that had already been underway for Julian Linen, my Etsy brand for hand-woven scarves and tote bags made from recycled coffee sacks from a local coffee shop. Every item sold out. I've since closed its doors as the business became more production-oriented instead of creative and I lost my passion for it. In November, I sold my beloved loom (after owning for it 18 years) to a lovely husband-and-wife couple with an alpaca farm in the mountains north of Santa Fe. They are both learning to weave. I'm delighted my loom has a new, loving home where it will be used again.
Click on galleries of photos in order to see them full size.
I also hand- and machine-sewed my first queen-size quilt at the studio from fabric salvaged from my grandparent’s summer cottage. I eventually gave the quilt to my two oldest nieces.
I then turned to abstract painting, creating a collection of large works in shades of gray combined with New Mexican red sand, and other paintings in black and white and gray with occasional flecks of color. See my paintings here.
I drew small-scale abstract ink and pencil drawings culminating in a curated show of the best ones along with two of the large-scale paintings. See the ink and pencil drawings here.
Over the last two years, my interests have moved away from making visual art and on to writing blog posts and shooting videos on topics in psychology for my therapy website. You can read the posts and watch the videos here.
As you can see, I made such a large volume of work there, much of which I am humbly but unapologetically quite proud of. The result was that I finally felt completely comfortable calling myself an artist, after wrestling with this for many years. Now, it feels just like second-nature to do so.
Of course I’m an artist. It’s so obvious now. It’s about who I am, not what I’ve created.
* * *
The studio also gave me a special kind of peace and quiet. It gave me time alone, in my inner world, sleeping more, dreaming more, relating more to my feelings and inner life than I had previously. This has proven to be priceless in my own personal development and becoming.
It also gave me a place to deeply enjoy the company of my two kitties, Sassy and Madeline. They shuttled back and forth with me every week without complaint, having their favorite spots in both homes, but getting to relish in the forbidden pleasure of sleeping right alongside their mama at the studio, whereas at home, they slept in a different room.
I never got as much sleep with them next to me, but the sacrifice at the time was worth the extra close countless moments we shared. Sassy enjoyed two of my first six years there before she passed. Madeline enjoyed an additional year alone with me before she passed. I then made the painful and, at times, lonely and anxious shift to being there by myself for the remaining three years.
Lastly, the studio gave me the most exquisite "room of my own" as Woolf once advised. I took great pride in fashioning it over those years into my evolving aesthetic. I hemmed and hawed and lost sleep over my attempts to make it truly reflect who I was at any given time. I witnessed my personal style change and morph with my dreaming process.
During one phase, it was critical to me that my studio reflect my New England roots and my craving for that place and character, complete with black and white and sepia photos of relatives and objects from a former era of time.
During another stretch, the studio echoed my then shabby chic aesthetic with china teacups and floral pillows.
Finally, it became a sort of minimalist “New York apartment” from my fantasies. Much more modern-leaning with framed Kate Spade ads and a drawing by Valentino of his new storefront in Manhattan. No more objects from the past; no more shabby chic. Out with the old, in with the new.
By the end of my time there, I spent many a moment just sitting and marveling at what I had created. I loved the final style of the space.
But, as with all things in life, there is a shadow side. The studio also came with costs that were endured beyond the rent.
From alcoholic neighbors of various sorts over the years who ranged from sketchy and scary to loud and verbally abusive; from a noisy child and a bad-tempered single father waking me up at dawn many Saturday mornings for a time; from regular potent sewer odors that woke me up in the night to occasional sewer water leaks in my bathroom. There were heavy-footed neighbors; there was wildlife outside who dug massive holes in my precious garden and others that left piles of shit that I tried to avoid stepping into in the dark of night. And eventually, there was a mice infestation that I no longer could control despite all my efforts. (Yes, all these problems were brought to the landlord on multiple occasions, some were resolved, many never were.)
So, for a solid three months now, I have not been able to sleep overnight there due to the volume of mice coming and going and their eventual fearlessness of being close to me.
It was clearly time to leave.
And so, I’ve had to come to terms with the range of feelings that the move has brought up in me. The fear of losing my precious unrelated time, the loss of the space that had become a dear friend, a haven to sink into the flow of my artistic impulses, a place to design as entirely my own.
However, for some time, the studio felt a bit more like a glorified storage unit that had fulfilled its promise and now out-served its purpose, no longer what I needed for the next chapter in my life. In the last year or so, it’s felt almost anti-climactic to go there. Much of me quietly wondering, “Why exactly am I still coming here?”
I’m happy to say that after much inner work, dreaming, conversations with those closest to me to help me through, and a internal shift I can only attribute to the magic of the Spirit, I now feel completely aligned with my decision to leave and do not feel like a victim of (rodent) circumstance.
What once felt like an impossible ask of me, a sacrifice I couldn’t bear facing, is now a welcome change.
Now, I’m relieved the move is over. It took all my extra time and energy over the last month, and extended into the two months prior, as I sorted through my things, cleared out clutter, sold, donated, recycled, gave away, and integrated the remainder back into our home. A huge task.
I can’t wait for what’s next for me.
I love that instead of constantly packing and unpacking my core belongings and being in a chronic state of transitioning back and forth every week, I can settle into one place – our home – and enjoy more of the seamlessness and spaciousness of time.
I’m also excited and touched about a new chapter of relationship with my partner where we explore together even more deeply our feelings and needs around togetherness and separateness through our direct communication and intimacy-making rather than through the imposed boundary of the studio.
I feel relieved, calm. I feel excited.
Below are some recent views of my studio.
Enjoy the space. It was a dear friend.
Click on galleries of photos in order to see them full size.