Friday, December 10, 2010

A Workshop of One's Own

   Bob Edwards recently interviewed a songwriter-guitar builder from the artist's workshop, causing me to go into workshop reverie.  Is there any place more wonderful in the man made realm than a workshop, a place that holds the tools for creation?
   I have always thrilled to the idea of such a place.  My earliest idea of the workshop must have come with images of Santa and Mrs. Claus. Santa and the elves working away busily; I was more intrigued by the making of toys than the actual toys themselves. Mrs. Claus in her kitchen (a sort of workshop, too!) baking and packing endless batches of gingerbread cookies--such pleasant industry! So this setting has always been a sort of ideal for me.  Later, I began to make a lot of my clothes, so my workshop was a corner of my bedroom.  The prized piece of equipment was a sewing machine bought with babysitting money.
   In my twenties, a friend of mine and I conjured up the idea of an atelier which would produce ethnic garb (this was the late seventies).  Atelier is French for workshop, and I believe we were perhaps more enthralled with the idea of a workshop/atelier than any actual business model for producing goods and selling them.  We enjoyed books like Cut My Coat and Folkwear patterns.  I created a pattern for wrap-around pants.  After that dreamy experience, I started a custom dressmaking business called Katzwerk. Though, I did not have an excess of business, the business I had required a lot of industriousness and sewing for a living lost its lustre.  I did learn quite a bit about women and their bodies (like the skinnier you are, the more sensitive you are about your body).  Well, I'm getting way off the topic of workshops. To this day, I like having a place to sew, with all my tools to create things I would not have otherwise (like painting smocks and quilts with my studio logo).  And just for the record, I want you to know that I made my husband's wedding suit(!)
   Still, I learned  that sewing was a most labor intensive way of creating. Making costumes for KET made the idea of a sweatshop very real! Painting, as a way to bring color and concept into creation has been more in tune with my temperament.  A love of landscape and a desire to hold beauty in my heart is a major inspiration.  Having a place to work is key.  An artist needs to be able to leave a painting and come back to it, without major dis assembly. Once I had my first studio, my productivity became constant.  It does not have to be fancy, but it needs to have all your tools so that you can create. My favored idea of a studio is more like a workshop, where the practical means of producing are eased. Dreaming and thinking about what to paint can happen anywhere (like in the woods). But then, you need to sit down (stand up) and get to work with your tools all about you.  What a joyful feeling this is!  Getting in there and making!

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