As a working artist who participates in fairs, markets, and galleries, I interact with many of my customers directly. As a result, I am often asked questions regarding my process and my studio. Customers express curiosity about the type of equipment/tools I use to create miniature mosaics and jewelry.
My studio is by no means large or fancy but it is functional and comfortable. If I had unlimited funds, I would create an impressive studio in my backyard complete with skylights, a small kitchen, bathroom, and a deck. Since I don’t have unlimited funds, I try to make the best with what I have. Allow me to take you on a tour of my humble art studio which is connected to my equally humble home in the John’s Landing neighborhood of Portland.
Upon entering the studio you will notice that the space does double duty in that the laundry facilities also reside there. Since the studio sits on a slope, the first section of the studio is higher than my actual work area. As you can see from the photo, the higher section not only houses the washer and dryer, but it is also a space for storing jewelry supplies and displays.
In the work area I have created “stations” as it is important for me to be organized. When my studio is in chaos, so is my brain. It is always important for me to sort out my studio before I start work. Though it may look cluttered because I have a lot of equipment and tools, it is actually organized. Each station must be ready to use at a moment’s notice.
My work area is small but each station has been carefully planned out so that I can work efficiently. I have 4 separate stations that I can zip in between in a nanosecond.
Since I predominantly create mosaic jewelry, this is the station where I spend most of my time. The station includes a large table, computer/monitor so I can watch Netflix while I work, various tools, a supply chest, and, oh, what’s that green thing at the end? Why that’s Pickle’s bed of course! Pickle is my neighbor’s senior cat. That is a whole other story worthy of its own blog. Pickle is my constant companion when I’m working in the studio and he even sleeps in the studio at night. I have two cats of my own but they don’t frequent the studio and they aren’t too fond of Pickle.
The mosaic station gets the messiest as I’m often cutting tile and glass as well as grouting and/or working with epoxies. The mosaic station is perched in front of the largest window in the studio. When I’m not watching Netflix, I enjoy the view and scent of jasmine which sits right outside the window.
Metal working Station
I have a proper workbench where my flex shaft and other various metal working tools live. I love my workbench! I love working with metal! I am currently combining metal work with mosaic jewelry. It’s been a process but soon I will be launching new styles of hand fabricated mosaic jewelry. Currently, I use cast bezels that are good quality and have served me well, however, fabricating pieces from start to finish has been great fun and I’m liking the results.
Enameling Station & Soldering Station
Alas, my enameling station hasn’t been used as much as I would like as I’ve been so busy with fabrication and mosaic work. My goal is to combine enameling with mosaic as well. I’m excited about the color explosion that will result from combining the two art forms. Oh the possibilities! My kiln is feeling lonely, but not for long.
It probably goes without saying that my soldering station ties to my metal working station. If I had a larger workbench I might combine my metal working station with my soldering station but it made more sense to do my soldering in the same area as enameling. On nice days I take my soldering station outside to work since it’s portable. I use various butane torches for now. I hope to use acetylene in the near future but that will of course require more funds (metal working is very expensive it turns out!) and space. I am currently working on filigree pieces which are testing my soldering skills.
The remainder of the studio consists of many tools and various supplies. Though cramped, I know where every single item is stored. Again, chaos is not my friend.
Thank you for touring my studio with me. As you can see, it’s possible to fit a lot into a small space if you’re motivated. Now, back to cutting tile and petting Pickle.
This week's blog was written by fiber arts artist Ammi Brooks of Ammi's Art.
I am veering off the subject of my art to talk about the animals I live with. First I will set the scene and then introduce you to them and give you a little information about each one. After that I will tell you how they fit into my world.
I live with my cousin Marybeth. We have two dogs, two guinea pigs and a Quaker parrot. Marybeth is the animal lover. From the time she was young she had birds, dogs, rabbits, and even a pet squirrel whereas I didn’t have animals growing up.
Five years ago I moved to Seattle from Portland to help my cousin sell her house and move down to Portland to be near her daughter. At the time she had Mimzi, a 13 year old pug, and Brodie, a 14 year old Chihuahua Jack Russell mix, and also a bird we called Birdie and often "damn bird."
Mimzie, the pug, died while we were still in Seattle. When Marybeth moved to Beaverton she immediately searched the animal rescue and found Rocky, a Jack Russell Terrier mix. He is a great little dog. He is very obedient and loves people. He has a spot on his back in the shape of a heart. Rocky has a lot of energy and shows great enthusiasm for meal time and walking time.
Here is the Rocky bounce.
Brodie became blind and died after about a year. Marybeth needed a little dog for her heart and lap. She found Juliette online from Animal Rescue and she came up from California. There were 10 other folks who wanted her. We won!
The Guinea Pigs
Marybeth was excited to expand her animal friends and wanted some Guinea pigs to play with and have for my grandchildren to play with when they came to visit.
Marybeth forgot about terriers loving little critters so when Rocky came home for the first time he tried to leap over their cage that was placed on the floor. The idea of playing with the pigs on the floor was not to be realized. Feeding the pigs is my pleasure in the mornings. They are so cute! Check out this video.
Nearly two decades ago Birdie flew into Marybeth’s home when the bird was very young. She hunted for the owners but alas couldn’t find them. Of course she adopted her/him (finding the sex of a bird is very hard unless you sedate them and poke around). Marybeth had a very close relationship with Birdie, carrying he/she inside her blouse and on her shoulder and feeding Birdie at the table. When birdie became an adolescent he/she rejected Marybeth and joined her husband Richard as her constant companion. We now think Birdie is a she.
In 2013 Richard was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and he and Marybeth stayed at his sister's house until he died a few months later. Birdie stayed home and never saw Richard again. Marybeth moved back home to grieve and to eventually return to work.
Birdie was never the same after that. She screeched when anyone came around, especially if there was excitement, except the time the EMT guys came to the house for an emergency. There were four big men…all very calm and Birdie didn’t make a peep.
My Life with Birdie
I took on the care of Birdie because Marybeth had enough on her plate. After Richard died she retired, sold her house, her mother’s house, and bought a new house in Portland.
Someone from Facebook gave me a small cage to transport Birdie to Portland. During the drive I found that she liked music and singing. I knew nothing of living with a bird. Apparently they are in need of a lot of attention, not just the usual feeding and cage cleaning.
I have her cage in the room where I do my art so she is nearby, however if I leave the room she squawks. If she hears a strange noise like someone upstairs moving around she squawks. It has taken a long time for me to figure out the things that make her screech. I know she is afraid of things like the mop and the ironing board invading her space. Depending on my mood I can calm her down. More often than not I shout at her and/or put her in the furnace room with the pigs (close by). Yelling at her works sometimes and helps me to let off some steam.
I look at our relationship as a gauge of my own life. I know that I can give her sweet coos and sing with her. I can ask for kisses. I know that I can put her on my finger and then onto my shoulder. I haven’t done that yet for fear she will bite me (she did that in the beginning but that was because I put my hand in her cage). I see how connected Marybeth is with her animals and see that my own connection is lacking. I am a bit detached, maybe my double Virgo nature, which has it’s advantages, and may also keep me from deep connection. My fear of getting bitten is my fear of other things in life. I see in our future a birdie who is on my shoulder while I make my cat toys and little egg ornaments.
She has her tissues to clean her beak and a mug filled with pens to play with. She has one of Richard's wool socks to snuggle against, when she sleeps at the end of the cage. She has several places to hang out including on the top of the cage, on the basket and the other end of the branch.
This is my animal loving cousin and housemate dropping into a dog grooming place in Tigard.