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!