WORKPLACE WORKSPACE….making it work!
Recently I was visiting my son who is a poet. He lives with his family in a spartan fourth floor walkup in Brooklyn Heights. When I arrived I noticed a very beautiful table in his main room that I had never seen before. (main room is the room which acts as of the living room, dining room, and kitchen). It was a very simple, natural maple, shaker-like, and pure design. I commented on the table and he told me that that was where he writes and that NO ONE touches anything on his table. So, of course, I began to mildly scan the table top from a distance. Neatly set on top were different piles of papers each with a paper weight, a few pencils and pens, and no computer. Very clean, very clear, and very concise. Nothing random or extraneous. A place for pure thinking and creating. I was very touched by the deliberateness of it all. Then I began to wonder, “Why a ‘table’ and not a ‘desk’.” …or, more specifically, is there a difference between a writing table and a desk? Maybe not. And then, maybe so…..or at least, maybe so to the writer. Perhaps it clearly points to “purpose” rather than a gathering of all-sorts-of-jobs to be done. (Of interest, I am sitting at my kitchen table writing this!) Whatever the case, I felt the importance, and even awe, of that sacred spot. There was almost a tenderness and respect that the table claimed.
This led me to consider my own studio. One year ago I moved my studio to another space just exactly across the cul-de-sac of my former space. It is somewhat larger and configured differently. In this new space I am actually able to have a “dirty” room and a “clean” room….which is a huge asset. The best part is that the dirty room has a back wall with a huge garage door that opens up into light and air.
My former space was smaller, dependent on artificial light, cluttered, and somewhat claustrophobic, due in part to the cement floor that was painted orange by the previous renter. I was always tripping over things…so much so that I had investigated purchasing liability insurance in order to be protected incase a visitor got injured. My very first studio, in 1965, after I graduated from MICA, was in the basement of our little house. No natural light at all….but I had researched and created a great light system. Even though it was less than “ideal”, it was still my own space….well…..well….until I started having babies. Then we had to divide it in half…the nicer side became the children’s playroom, and I shared my side with the heating systems, pipes and ducts. ….but, it was still all mine.
My best studio was the one in Baltimore which was on a separate upper level in our second home. I truly have my husband to thank for that. Not only did he commit to it, but he had the vision. It was light, airy, and large…and perhaps most importantly, once again, all my own. I was, indeed, privileged. It was perfect…not fancy….just perfect.
How many painters and writers can, in fact, claim their own space? How important is it? Is it essential?….How essential? And how “perfect” does this space need to be? I think it’s extremely important….to have a place where anything can happen…..and enough space to be able to put work aside and then revisit it and evaluate it without interruption. A place where you don’t feel confined and where you aren’t tripping all over yourself. A place where you can feel ownership of yourself and your ideas. A place where you can flow.
Just the other day, while I was mulling over these thoughts, I had an occasion to visit an artist friend who wanted to share some of her new work with me. She works in her home. I mean IN HER HOME…..as in, all over her home….the kitchen, living room, and dining room.
She stores her work downstairs in the basement. I didnt get to see that! BUT….she makes it work! My hat’s off to her!….to her committment, dedication, and drive. I marvel at her ability to be oblivious of her home, her furniture, her living space and to be only conscious of her work. Her fearlessness of clutter. With or without a studio, she will make it work! When I asked her how she does it, she just shrugged and smiled and said, “That’s what I do!”