This week's blog was written by jewelry artist Marty Hogan of Marty Hogan Jewelry.
Having a space to work is critical for an artist. It doesn’t have to be big or fancy. Each artist’s needs will vary depending on what they do, but it seems to me the space needs to be big enough to accommodate whatever tools and equipment the artist uses to create art, and it needs to be a space where the artist can have quiet time to think and create. The space needs to be their space. Every artist I know has a personal story about how they created space to work on their art. Here’s mine.
I’ve been making jewelry for several years and my workplace has changed and evolved with my jewelry. I started out on the kitchen table, which was a challenge. My husband gently vetoed my presence there and suggested he help me set up a little work station in the basement. We acquired some old boards which we placed on sawhorses and bed risers. This worked for tasks like designing, cutting and sanding metal, but hammering was often disastrous and ended with the table and its contents on the floor. I solved this problem when found a sturdy chopping block at a yard sale and it became my delegated hammering station. A portable table served as my bead and stone area, with all the stones organized in fishing tackle trays. They were now visible and readily available to whatever project I was working on.
As my work progressed, I bought a torch, some propane and oxygen, and I learned to solder. I soon realized that soldering in this enclosed area was dangerous and not good for my health, so I set up a table outside. This worked fine in the summer, but the cold Ashland winters bring snow, wind and freezing temperatures, so this was an uncomfortable option in the winter. I really needed a roof over my head for soldering, so I moved this area to a little shed attached to our garage. The only problem was that I had to trek through the yard, carry my work up 6 steps and walk about 100 yards down the driveway to the shed. After about a year of dealing with this inconvenience, I made the decision to move my studio to our garage.
Although I now had more space, sturdy tables and the soldering station just outside, this arrangement had a few drawbacks. The garage was some distance from our house and we lived in a forested area in the mountains above Ashland that is inhabited by a large population of black bears. We often saw them on our property and I noticed they had a nightly habit of wandering past our garage in search of an open garbage can or a carelessly tossed apple core. I bought a bear bell, bear spray and a good flashlight for my walk back and forth to the garage at night. I took precautions, made a lot of noise and looked over my shoulder a good bit when making the walk.
When I relocated to Portland about 18 months ago, I moved my work area into the garage attached to our house. My space here isn’t fancy. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter and I share it with our washer and dryer, lawn tools, wheelbarrow, stored boxes and everything else garages seem to accumulate. There is no room for cars. My husband observed these issues this summer and proposed a solution; “Let’s build a studio for you behind the house!” What? A designated jewelry studio, just for me? Unbelievable! The prospect of not having to share my space with anything or anyone else was delicious! We would design and build a 140 square foot studio in our backyard with electricity, windows, an inside soldering station, a vent to exhaust fumes, sturdy tables, enough light to see what I’m working on and ample space for my tools! Oh my!
Too good to believe? Stay tuned for the progress of Marty’s backyard studio!
This week's blog features an interview of illustrator Ellen Cranch, written by Carl Sandeen of Kristi Usher Fine Art.
Ellen Cranch will say that working with artists older than her and that have spent many years perfecting their craft inspire her. But as Artistic Portland's youngest artist, Co-op members will say they are the ones inspired by Ellen's obvious talent and the desire to spend her life creating art.
Ellen travelled back to Oregon from Calgary with a BFA focused on Character Design and Illustration from the Alberta College of Art and Design. She carried with her a wonderful body of work which includes Bear & Bunny, a children's book she wrote, illustrated and published.
Along with that, she brought to her display area at the store delightful illustrations, prints and framed pieces that customers love to linger over.
Ellen started making art at a very young age and was encouraged by her family to draw and create. She says, "I was the pre-pre-schooler who would answer questions like, ‘What color is this?' with ‘Green, you make it by mixing yellow and blue.’ "
She grew up regularly taking various art classes and was able to explore all sorts of media, though most of her work these days is either in ink or is digitally produced. The watercolor shown here was her first attempt at a children's fairytale that she wrote and illustrated many years ago.
Ellen, a Canadian, chose Alberta College of Art and Design for its excellent reputation and for its affordability to Canadian citizens. It also offered a Character Design major which was exactly what she wished to study. Ellen will comment, "It has a studio class focus and a drilling of the basics that most art schools let slide. And it's small, easily navigable and invested in incredible teachers rather than dorms or sports facilities or after school activities."
Good Grief was created early in her schooling. Ellen notes that "ACAD was fantastic at making sure we understood art and design in order to create the best and most professional work possible. The first year was 100% traditional art and drawing skill including perspective, shading, and shape design. Second year added new mediums and color focusing on graphic design, illustration, and so on. Third and fourth year was when the streams branched off. Illustration and Character Design broke away from Advertising and Graphic Design. Our projects focused on our majors and brought us to where we are today."
Currently, Ellen is finishing a coloring/doodle book which is a collaboration with her youngest sister, and has started a comic project with a friend. On top of other smaller art projects and drawings, she has worked on two larger commissions that she says, "Were really fun and turned out really well." One was a series of Selkie illustrations for a return customer and the other was illustrating a book The Discovery of Mi-A-Kon-Da for an all-girl’s camp.'"
About the future, Ellen says, "My skillset is at once narrow and impossibly wide. My drawing skill buys me more leeway than most graphic designers, but what I truly look forward to are illustration and character design projects. If I was able to join a studio to create stories and characters for any media, I would be ecstatic!"
The amazing benefits of participating in an artists’ retreat: Pojoaque Pueblo, New Mexico, November 2018
This week's blog was written by polymer clay artist Laurel Swetnam of Sequels.
This year I had the pleasure of meeting a group of artist friends for two weeks of working together during the day and sharing long, discursive dinners around a massive red table in the evening. There are usually about 6 artists from around the country and their partners, plus local artist friends who come to Butterfly House to work for the day and share dinner.
It’s an opportunity to disconnect from the usual distractions of daily life and to focus. I found time both to play with new ideas and to produce work. There’s time to look at images, sketch a new idea, plan an approach, try and fail then try and succeed. I spent a couple of days experimenting with a technique learned from Utah artist, Jana Roberts Benzon. Jana is a master at manipulating polymer clay to create luscious 3-D shapes. This one involves layering colors, cutting, turning slices and recutting. It’s complicated! Here
are my experiments with Jana’s technique.
Next I worked on a class I’ll teach on January 19th called Romancing the Wave. The idea is to create swirly patterns using ripple blade techniques with very sharp serrated knives and mokume gane, originally a Japanese sword making technique. Mokume gane adapts very well to polymer clay. I was also inspired by the stunning work of Britain’s Carol Blackburn, a former fiber artist whose palette is inspired by fabric designs like Missoni patterns, who has perfected her own variation in clay. The photo shows my wavy forays.
Working together, we have a rare opportunity to observe each other’s strategies for designing and perfecting new techniques. This was an eye opener. Maggie Maggio, who is both an internationally acclaimed artist and a color expert, used her time to work on a project to teach for upcoming engagements in South America and to celebrate the tenth anniversary of her book with coauthor artist Lindley Haunani, Polymer Clay Color Inspirations. Maggie worked tirelessly on making, tweaking, critiquing her new designs, and then repeating the entire process. Watching was a tremendous lesson in learning from mistakes and working day after day with intention. Here are Maggie’s prototypes.
As we work together, there is camaraderie, jokes and joyful sharing; there are observations and suggestions for each other’s work, sometimes helping to push towards a new design or a new level of artistry. This is, of course, also a motivation for belonging to Artistic Portland! Although I always take advantage of the glorious, sunny New Mexico high desert for a little outside time, I managed to make the components for new pieces headed for shows and, of course, Artistic Portland. It was a reinvigorating and relaxing time.