Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Because We're Worth It...By Karen McGovern

I know you.  You're just like me.  You scour the Internet, local art and bead stores, searching for the best deals.  You save your pennies and splurge on a FlexShaft, or a new set of shiny, perfect hammers, dapping tools, pliers, snips and punches.  You celebrate the Holy Grail of disc cutters that you saved up to buy by skipping lunches and dinners out for six months. You spend hours at the Rio site, painstakingly choosing the perfect gauge of wire, the perfect sheet, the perfect gemstones and beads.  Every package delivered greeted by a tiny (or huge...you go, Girl) happy dance.  You spend all this time, energy and CASH acquiring the perfect tools for your art, gather them in your arms and then....

Set up on your wobbly card table in the corner of the spare bedroom under the spitting fluorescent desk lamp you salvaged from the garage.  You sit in a folding chair that may or may not have been part of a children's table set and wonder...WHY DO I FEEL SO UNINSPIRED?

You have acquired, obsessed and painstakingly cared for all your tools except one. YOURSELF.  We all do it.  Every issue of Art Jewelry Magazine has an ad somewhere in the first 10 pages that promotes caring for the most important tool any artist has.  THEMSELVES. Your HANDS, your EYES, YOUR POOR, ACHING BACK!!!  Yet, most of us completely disregard this and work in conditions akin to artsy torture chambers.  I know I did this for YEARS. 

We are willing to spend ridiculous amounts of money on beads and wire, yet balk at the idea of installing correct lighting in our work space or buying an ergonomic chair.  Wait, I jumped ahead, we sometimes don't even give ourselves a real work space!  
Not all of us can afford to create a dream studio to work in, but we can make damn sure the space we  do work in is the best it can be, no matter what.  

Three things matter.  Your table, your lighting, and your CHAIR.  Chair is in caps cause that, to me, is one of the most important tools any artist can purchase.  Think about how many hours you spend at your table/bench.  Think of how many of them have been hunched over, perched on some rickety chair that offers no lumbar support or posture incentive.  Then think of the lovely Rice Krispy sounds your back and shoulders make when you finally get up.  Not to mention the PAIN.  Come on, we can do better, right?  WE MUST DO BETTER, because, as I said, we're WORTH IT.

Setting up a decent work space doesn't have to cost a billion dollars.  Yes, I drool over the bench ads in the magazines...they are so clean and shiny...SO MANY DRAWERS.  But they also can cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars.  If that is out of your price range, then do what we do best...GET CREATIVE.  I was lucky enough to discover the Frankenbench in an online blog.  I wrote about it here.  My husband is handy, and we created a bench/work table that is perfect for me using an old wood table and a wood door.  In less than three hours we created a fantastic space that works for me.  As for lighting, I still struggle, but have managed to hang, clamp and suspend light sources all over my work space so I no longer find myself squinting helplessly for hours on end.  I use incandescent bulbs in varying strengths, lighting areas as needed.  I even have pop lights (those battery operated round things that come on when you press them) on the UNDERSIDE of my bench because I drop stuff CONSTANTLY and it's impossible to find 2mm beads, small gemstones or a tiny findings without LIGHT (Man, when I think of the hours I have wasted blindly feeling the floor for something I dropped....)  The whole Frankenbench thing cost me maybe $50.00.

Finally, the CHAIR, the throne, the seat from which all good things come.  For many years I used a folding chair from a card table set I had been given probably 30 years ago.  Man, did my back pay for that!  Before reading about the Frankenbench and researching what a good jewelry bench actually IS, I had no idea things like bench height mattered.  I was slumped over my table (which was way too low) on a chair that did nothing for my back or posture at all.  Once I realized that your bench should be higher, almost chest level, things started making so much more sense.  AND, I finally came to the conclusion that a good chair actually can make a HUGE DIFFERENCE.  

Again, I do not have a huge (or at the time even EXISTENT) budget for furniture.  I did some searching online and was really blown away by how EXPENSIVE chairs are.  At least chairs offered on jewelry supply websites that were advertised exclusively for jewelry designers.  $600 for what looked like a glorified office chair?  SERIOUSLY???  I'm sure these chairs are great, and if any of you out there have one CONGRATULATIONS, but there is no way I can afford something like that.  So, my hubby and I went on a one day chair safari, visiting every office supply store and furniture store in my neighborhood.  I sat on a crap-load of chairs that day.  I had a list of things the chair had to do.  It had to be adjustable in height, have great back support, be lightweight and mobile, have removable arms, and support good posture (NO MORE SLOUCHING).  I found the perfect chair for me at Office Depot.  It cost $79.00 on sale and my hubby purchased it as an early birthday present!  I have to say I was speculative about the whole process.  I kept thinking "How much difference can a chair make?  I could be spending that $79.00 on METAL, damnit!"  Then I got home, assembled the chair and used it. HOLY CRAP!  Angels sang, the heavens opened and my back wept with relief.  I cannot tell you how much I love that chair.  It goes up, it goes down, it has the most springy, yet fully supportive back with a delicious lumbar support curve that fits me like a glove.  I may marry that chair.  For real.

Bottom line, we artists have to treat ourselves better.  Realize that we are the most important tool in our toolbox.  If you plan to give time and effort to your art, then do it in the best setting you can given your space and circumstance.  YOU ARE WORTH IT!!!  You're work will be better, your health will be better and you'll get the most out of your efforts, I guarantee it.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a date with my chair.


Erika said...

Great post! You are a talented writer, Karen! Your idea for lights under your table is great. I've even thought of putting a white sheet under the table to catch the 2mm beads to make them easier to find. I usually end up finding them months later and wonder about my vacuum cleaner.

Keith@ Vintage Crab Jewelry said...

Haha, great post! You are so right about the chair! I got mine at Office Depot too but I didn't think about the removable arms. I love it though!

Juliette Williams said...

Fantastic post, and OH so important. Thanks for sharing your Frankenbench, too! :)

stacilouise said...

such a wonderful post! I loved the Frankenbench! My whole studio re-do only cost me about $200-and that was paint and lighting mostly, and the wood. thankful for a handy hubs who built my shelves. I scored a similar chair in the trash!!!! I could not believe how much better I felt then my previous chair. a chair is key!

Kelli said...

You are SO right about the CHAIR!!!!!!!
Great post!!!

Shaiha said...

You are so right about the chair. I used to start getting spasms in my back about 20 minutes after I sat down. I invested in a good office chair and I can be down there for hours with my back not complaining.

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