Friday, April 1, 2016

Winter Studio Reset and New Projects on the Bench

Chalk this past winter up to hibernation and almost no studio time, until now. I have not had the energy to write here since November. It seems like such a long time ago. The week after Easter with the fulfilled promise of the resurrection has brought me back into the studio to actually produce some new work.

Starting in January I embarked on a complete studio re-set and clean out that has occupied almost all of my time. I have made over ten trips to the recycle and reuse areas at our local dump, eliminating items and paper that had seen better days. I still have at least one more trip tomorrow and then I will be finally done with what my husband has called "the big purge" of the studio.

My artist daughter has for years encouraged me to document this annual reset as part of my creative progress. I think of the movement of my equipment and supplies into their more proper placement in the studio as the physical representation of the spiritual reorganization of my creative thought patterns in preparation of making new work. Harkening back to "Art and Scholasticism"  by Jacques Maritain, (now partially available online)- The idea in the mind is the ultimate yardstick by which all is measured.

When I put my physical studio back into an order that makes sense to me, each kinesthetic touch of tools,equipment, or materials somehow links into the creative verve in my mind and helps me order all that is found there.

The major part of the reset was moving the composing table next to the flat files, across from my large Hamilton type cabinet. This space had previously been occupied by a large shelf which stores all my tools, punches, irons, and equipment I don't use every day. The composing table is a home-made one finely crafted by a printer many years before my time. I acquired it from The Museum of Printing when they were located  in North Andover, MA.  It is a wonderful composing table, the perfect height for me, complete with two stones and ten cases for type. (By the way, click on the link for the MOP. They are in the process of moving to new facilities in Haverhill, MA and are starting a huge sale of excess type and equipment TODAY for the next week.)

New composing table position next to flat files, Hamilton type cabinet work station/Press room studio
Another huge job involved moving my desk and library area around so that I could have all my books grouped in one area, and be able to add another shelf for my typewriter collection.  In this process I was able to sort through my studio library and better organize it.  I still have work to do there, but my duplicates and unnecessary books have been donated and all my "project" books are now stored in the paper cupboard for easy access. These photos show the library move almost done. I am thrilled to have most of my typewriters that I use regularly in book projects out and readily accessible now. My next major project will be to clean all the machines and replace some small paper rollers.

My desk moved to the opposite wall, facing the basement window, the books, the new shelf.

The area above my main bench, a 6ft. Hamilton wood topped drafting table from the Clinton Railway Yards in Iowa, is filled with small items that have great significance for me, both personally and creatively. As an object oriented art historian, each small object I have close to me has a memory from my life. I have angels given to me by friends, a stuffed toy or two from when my children were very small, photos of my parents, pieces of toys, and so on.  Since so much of my creative life involves my interpretation of the thin space between this life and the next, the layers of these objects are central to my creative process.

Above the Bench-I have loads of little things, angels etc, along with small books and my ink!
I also managed to finally go through all 20 of my flat files and pitch and toss. Still have to replace labels on the drawers, but feel much better. Having wooden tops on the flat files gives me more workspace also. The book reading angel that hangs over the small board shear always reminds me that spirit is a part of every creative journey I take.

Workspace on top of flat files, new storage boxes of hand tools, stone cutting bench.
Father's chair

During the reset I also took a great deal of time to sort, clean, and sharpen all my hand tools, special individual boxes for storing them. They are now neatly stacked and clearly labeled, easy to find and put away. This idea came from my good friend Spike Minogue from the Ottawa Valley CBBAG.

My old grey stone cutting bench belonged to Father Catich, and was given to me after he died, along with his studio chair, which I sit in every day. I can't seem to bring myself to recover the seat yet. It seems like just yesterday that he died, but it has been 37 years this April.  Each time I think I will be able to change the seat I manage to put it off for another day.

1893 Challenge Gordon 8x12

I still have to clean the paper cupboard completely, but the presses are all cleaned and oiled. Two printing projects are designed and ready for the chase. I hope to be on press most of the next two weeks. I have not done any major printing since right before Christmas, and I ache to smell the ink and feel the spin of the wheel along with the push of the treadle under my foot.

My etching press is also ready to go and I have tentatively begun work on two designs one for a drypoint on copper, and one for a wood engraving. It has been almost ten years since I attempted either and am looking forward to the journey!

My newest projects are small leather bound unique artists' books filled with a variety of content. They are a work in progress, to be sure, and harken back to the small items above my bench and the memories that each one of them invokes as they are looked at, touched and held.

Small leather bound unique artists' books in progress.

I love the feel of the soft leather in my hands as I skive the edges and fold the covers into place. My eye is drawn to the collages of letters being placed on the thick rag paper with pen, brush, and hand ground pigments. The process of deciding what colour to place where, what size of letter to make, and what shapes to include with the brush, remind me of putting things into place in the studio, in my creative mind, and in my life. For me it is a kinesthetic union of the physical touch of our lives and the intangible spark of the soul in our creative hearts across the thin space of the physical and the spiritual in our world.

As I prepare to move into the Spring with a renewed creative heart and a verve to make new work, I know that all will be well, and all will be well, with the joy and the blessings of the resurrection in that 'thin space' between this life and the next, all will be well.