This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….” For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines, and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.
NEWSLETTERS 101 #9: Share Your Studio
Our studios are magical places, and we live in magical times!
We live in magical times.
We now have tiny little computers we can carry in our pockets. Quite a multifaceted computer!
We can use it to access the Encyclopedia Galactica, foreshadowed in the Isaac Asimov’s sci-fi series The Foundation Trilogy. We can connect with friends, family, coworkers, our collectors, almost anyone, really, though many of its functions: Email, texts, and countless platforms. We can read documents and the news. We can take pictures, listen to music, and watch movies.
And we can also make movies.
These little computers—okay, smartphones—have made the job of sharing our work, our words, and our workspace sooooo much easier!
Why would people want to see our studios? Because.
Our studio is where the magic happens.
This is where we work, where we make our art. This is where we store our supplies: Our paints, our tools, our woodblocks for carving, our raw stone, our clay, etc. Remember, we are the people who ran away to join the circus! And our studios are a combination of the three-rings, AND the peek behind the curtains.
Why would anyone want to visit our studio, you might ask. (Yes, there are creatives who HATE having open studios.) Because.
Our studios show others who we are.
I’ve visited many artist studios over the years, and every single one was unique. And every single space reflected the spirit of the maker.
Some were incredibly neat and orderly. Supplies, tools, materials—paint, fabric, brushes, carving tools, etc.—labeled, arranged “in order”, by color, function, usage. Some were incredibly messy, which was just as fascinating. I can speak to the power of both. Knowing where everything is, just when you need it, creates an efficient orderly work process. Working in chaos means surprises, experiments, spontaneity, making substitutions from necessity that never would have occurred to me otherwise. Me? I start with order, end up in chaos, and clean up in time for studio guests. To a certain extent, that is. Whatever is left untidied because I ran out of time is labeled “creative mess.” (This is also why I own about three dozen pairs of scissors.)
Even people who work in similar media do it differently. Seeing the studios of folks who work in the same media as I do was fascinating.
Though we may have so much in common (materials, process, etc.) there was so much that was different: Color palettes, organization, subject matter, sources of inspiration.
Some people who paint still lifes keep all those lovely props in their studio, at least until they finish with a specific series. I love seeing the hundreds of brightly-colored salt-and-pepper shakers in a friend’s studio! It was fascinating to see their paintings, and recognize a pair of them (salt shakers) in their stash. I had a friend who used to borrow some of my own stuff for theirs. What excitement to find my knickknacks in their work!
Studios also reveal a little about who we are, as artists, and as people. I once visited a studio of an artist who was clearly uncomfortable with visitors. Most of their space was completely off-limits, restricting our movements to a very tiny retail area that featured displays of their older, totally different work. The artist was not very friendly nor engaging. Even though it felt uncomfortable for us to be such a squished place, I commented on some lovely older work. That seemed to make them even more uncomfortable! They also hovered around us, as if in fear we might steal something. When another group of people entered, we fled.
In hindsight, taking pics and/or making a video might have presented a very different picture of this artist and their workspace. I hope they are using this strategy now!
My studio? You are invited to touch the work, pick things up, open drawers, and ask questions when you’re ready. It’s filled with signage, in case you’d rather browse before you talk with me.
And in these times, a visual tour of your studio is welcome substitute for those open studio events! In fact, this is our opportunity to share what it’s like to be in our creative space, with us emphasizing the highlights and often-overlooked features.
I use regular photos, too, of course. These are powerful ways to show our works-in-progress, our workspaces, older work, etc. Be sure to use plenty of captions, so we know what we’re looking at and where it figures into our set-up, production steps, etc. Movies add a little oomph, especially if we are interacting with our audience along the way, with a bit of narration.
I carry my phone camera as I walk through my studio, explaining what each work station is used for. I show my display of finished work for sale, sharing a bit about each series. I also like to include books that have inspired me, books about cave art (especially the Lascaux Cave).
My fabric stash is always in there, of course, and the vintage/antique wood boxes I repair and restore for my assemblages. There is literally something for everyone in here!
If your studio is a stand-alone unit, or attached to your home, share the outside of it. If it’s inside your home, share the views from your windows. In my old studio in Keene NH, I also had beautiful views and daylong light from the three walls of windows of the antique barn we restored for my workspace. My movie of my old studio on South A Street included a beautiful mural along a ledge, by Bud Snow, a bank of jasmine in bloom (wish I could have captured that beautiful scent, too!), and a daily caw-fest of indignant blue jays and hummingbirds.
If you have a beloved pet that accompanies you in your studio, include them in your images/footage. My bunny Bunster would greet guests, begging for Cheerios, which also kept kids busy while their parents browsed. No critters in my studio here now, except for the tiny Pacific tree frogs that occasionally straggle in this time of year. (I try to rescue all I can and release them to a small fountain in our building manager’s backyard.)
If parts of your studio are off-limits to regular in-person visitors, this is your opportunity to change their point-of-view. Show your pots going in for their first firing in your kiln, and how they come out at the end. Show your painting process, but don’t make us watch the entire 12-76 hours it took you. Either edit your footage, or use fast-forward to capture everything in a brief clip. Or use a slow-mo for those processes that normally go too fast for us to understand what just happened.
Tell us what we’re looking at. Narration is key. If you’re a talker, consider making, shorter, separate videos for those of us who don’t have an hour or two, or at least make that an option. If you’re not a talker, prepare a script or notecards to read aloud.
Don’t worry about dust. Just before a photographer for a magazine arrived at my home and studio to take pics for an article about me, I realized I hadn’t dusted. They assured me not to worry about it, because dust wouldn’t show up in those photos. (I now call it ‘patina’.) Don’t worry about how organized or clean your studio looks. It says nothing about your professionalism or the value of your work. It’s just who you are, and how your work, and that’s what our audience wants to know.
If, like my artwork and my workspace, you have waaaaaay too many media/supplies/works in progress/stories, consider doing mini-videos. Cover one workspace, or one series, or a couple displays, at a time.
Finally, no need to include the actual video in your newsletter! Videos are extremely ‘dense’, so save them for either your website or another platform. (Mine are on YouTube, though that may change as I use the new features on my FASO site.) Just use a link in your newsletter, with one or two images to create interest.
I hope this gives you ideas about how to share your sacred creative space with others. I’m no expert, and I don’t know how to edit videos. If you do, please share your thoughts, your ideas, and your video resources in the comments. If I need help, I’m sure many others do, too, and we would deeply appreciate your recommendations. If you have questions, share those, too. I’ll do my best to answer, but you can also give suggestions to others’ questions, too!
And as always, if you know someone who would find this article/series useful, pass it on to them. And if you received this from someone else, and want to hear more, follow my blog at my website or here on FineArtViews.com.