Tuesday, February 25, 2014

It May Be Hideous, But It's MINE - Karen McGovern

The studio is less important than other things, like the burning desire to paint. If you don't have this disease, you can't catch it from a nice studio. (Warren Criswell)
Never apologize for your studio. (Denise Bezanson)
At the moment I have about 7,256 projects awaiting my attention—including hosting our annual board meeting (housing 6 people for four days and preparing an intimate dinner for 12…), training new resident staff, hosting tours nearly every day, and….oh yeah, FILLING SOME JEWELRY DESIGN ORDERS.
While the board meeting covered many important topics, our baby bongo,
Delilah, was the focal of many gatherings.  She is a wonderful hostess.
The Rare Species Conservatory Foundation, www.rarespeices.org
My life, like many of yours, is an exercise in controlled chaos.  For me, that means during extremely busy times, like now, working in my studio is measured in stolen minutes, not hours or days.  I’ve gotten so used to this schedule that I often create my best work standing over my bench, one eye on the clock, never even sitting down.
Do I LIKE this pace?  HELL NO! But, I live with it because creating art is 99.9% therapy for me helps me work through the insanity that is often my life.
One of the many by-products of this crazy lifestyle is what my bench becomes.  Right now, I can say with all honesty that my bench is as disorganized as it has ever been.  Believe me, that’s saying a lot.  Sure, my bench has been a mess before, but this…this is SPECIAL.  This is EPIC.  Not only that…I AM POSTING A PICTURE OF THE WASTELAND THAT IS MY WORK SPACE RIGHT NOW!  Yes, you may see many beads and wire coated in blue paint, because I spilled some about…oh…a month ago and never cleaned it up.  As for the rest of it—WHO THE HELL KNOWS?
We all go through periods like this where our work spaces take on the appearance of an exploded craft store, but I must say, I believe this is my personal best when it comes to a CRAPTASTIC display of mess.  I mean, just LOOK AT IT!
You want to know the amazing thing, though?  At this moment I have achieved something I never thought I would.  An unholy balance between my brain and the dump—I mean bench.  It hit me this past Saturday, when I realized I had to quickly complete an order for a client.  I stood at my bench and, with incredible ease, was able to finish the project (a cuff and ring combo) in under an hour.  It was like a dream-sequence.  My hands somehow knew where everything was, even though my tools and most of the components I needed were BURIED IN LAYERS OF JUNK.  I mean, it was magic!  Rivet flare tool?  Couldn’t see it if you paid me, but viola, it appeared in my hand.  I was able to find everything I needed so EASILY it totally freaked me out.  I swear I was in a fugue state or something.  At one point I actually asked myself, “Is this really happening?” 
I haven’t been back to the bench since then, absolutely no free time.  Later this week should be better, and I have several designs waiting to be finished, so I know I will have to face this soon.  And I know I have to bite the bullet and clean/organize in a really big way.  But, for now, I hope the magic continues and I can negotiate the land-fill as it sits.  I’ve never been one to require a totally clean and organized space to work, but this…well, I don’t think I have say anything more.   Spring cleaning, here I come, cursing and grumbling every unwilling step of the way. 
Ultimately, I realize that this space, in all it's messiness, is MINE.  My place to create, to play, to turn off the outside world and enter a new one where anything I imagine can be possible.  When I began this post it was to poke fun at myself, but in writing it I also realize that it's not about the quality of space in your studio, it's about tapping into the magic space in your head and heart.  That's where you truly create.   
Since I have bared my filthy soul so to speak with this photo, I dare you all to do the same and share photos of your work space at its worst.  And, let me know if you have found a way to work within the chaos.  Come on, let me see if you can top my mess!!!
NOTE:  The day after I wrote this piece I got an email from an online craft magazine (that will remain nameless) asking if I would submit photos of my studio for a story they are doing on artist work spaces.  The sample photos included showed dreamy rooms in pastel colors, bright windows with flowing white curtains and benches as clean as a deserted Caribbean white sand beach with boxes and jars of supplies beautifully labeled and displayed on hand-hewn shelving.  THERE WERE VASES OF FRESH-CUT FLOWERS FOR GOD’S SAKE.  Needless to say, after I finished LAUGHING LIKE A DERANGED HYENA I regretfully declined the invite.


Mary K. McGraw said...

I would feel right at home in your chaos.

Anja L├╝der said...

I love it ... creative chaos ... absolutely adorable ... sometimes I have only the space of a saucer on my (rather small) bench to work and like you say in those moments it just flows beautifully :-)

thewovenspoke said...

WONDERFUL post, I LOVE IT! I am so busy right now there is no time to even create :)

Lottie me said...

Thank you so very much for sharing your workspace and work bench. I have seen those photos of studios - just as you describe. How could someone work in such a pristine and clinical studio? I wonder if they ever get their hands covered in paint, or wear a much loved old apron well washed but with ancient smears of paint used in long forgotten projects.

A workbench like yours is a treasure trove - everything is to hand, a totally awesomely inspirational array of everything to hand. Long may it continue!

Pam Sears said...

BAAAAHAHAHAAAHAHAHA! Oh, man! About two months ago I had reached a level of "dumpness" that required an intervention (of me on myself while I watched to one side, giggling behind her hand). I also made the mistake of deciding to "move" things around (i.e., this table over here, that table over there, reorganize my bookshelf-cum-product holder). We won't discuss the length of time it took but the "before" pics were daylight... the "after" pics were lamp light. The in-between pics, you're wondering how I'm even managing to *move* in that mess! No matter, I had my nice, mostly cleaned up, studio. Can't really say that today. Not at the epic level yours currently is in, but I could give you a run for your money! ;) And, yes, I create better in a somewhat chaotic state than a clean (flower-vased) state.

Sharyl said...

Karen, we are clearly thinking alike! Thanks for sharing this delightful post!

I'm hosting a blog hop called "Clean-up, Fix-up" your Workspace on March 1st! Details are on my latest blog posts. Hope you and others will join in! --Sharyl


uglibeads said...

Lol. I think all creative people, myself included, have a somewhat dysfunctional relationship with their workspaces… I say if it works, go with it. Ebb and flow. Thanks for a fun read.

Marlene strait said...

Loved your story and your mess!!! As I told a friend recently,"it's mine and I'm keeping it this way"!!!!!!!
BTW, I also love your baby Bongo. Many years ago as a child living in Cleveland, Ohio, the Cleveland Zoo had the first Bongo in captivity,( or the first in the states) I believe. Have always thought that they were so unique looking.
Have a great day and thanks for the memories.

lunedreams said...

"As for the rest of it, WHO THE HELL KNOWS?" Bwahahahaha!!! Laughing my head off! This used to be my coffee table, a/k/a workbench. Looked just the same, except lower. Then I got rid of the coffee table and have compressed my "wasteland" into two TV trays. As I work, tools, little baggies of beads, lengths of wire, etc., are continuously falling off my tiny benches onto the floor (where they disappear forever), especially when I am hammering. This makes me psychotic.

Artisan Beads Plus said...

OMG! Thanks for the good laugh!!! I needed that.... My space is actually staying fairly happy since my clean up and I am really working hard and putting this back.... well, at least CLOSE to where it belongs! Believe me, I have been down your road on MANY occasions!!!

mairedodd said...

karen, i love your posts - i love how you bare yourself... and this post is no exception. i, too, feel intimidated by neat studios and work spaces. and since my illness and a huge shift in how i work, meaning not at the bench and all over my house in umpteen hundred plastic containers and trays - i appreciate this. thank you - you speak in a way we all relate to. your life is balanced in its chaos... and what you are doing with it is admirable.

Sharyl said...

Karen, I apologize, I read your post too quickly this morning. I reread tonight and realized you were saying you are very comfortable with your work area! I think deep down, I must be too, because no matter how much I clean and tidy, I always end up in the same place again! I think a super-tidy work space is not in my nature! And I can usually find what I need too. :-)

Right now though, I can hardly get into my room and move about so it's impeding my ability to work. So now, once again, time for me to tidy up... a bit! Thanks again for sharing your work space!
Best wishes! --Sharyl

Kathy Lindemer said...

I can relate to your mess. I have also declined showing mine for publication, but I am revealing some of the mess in a blog March 1.

Shirley Moore said...

Yeah, mine's pretty close to yours, and the worst part is that I've now creeped over to the kids schooldesk! Bad teacher! I decided I would never do anything about it if I didn't have a push, so I joined Sharyl's Blog hop. Not sure if I'll make it...
Love the irony of the invite...:)

pliccb said...

Oh I love it! Thanks for sharing, so nice to know we are not alone in our creative chaos. When I think about it, the only time my bench is actually neat is when there is nothing creative happening there. And it is true, the hands just sort of know where they last used whatever tool they want at the moment!
Carol Bartraw

PyxeeStyx said...

"You must have chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star." -Nietzsche One of my favorite quotes. Here's my messy share http://travelingsideshow.blogspot.com/2014/02/help-im-drowning.html
It's supposed to be all cleaned up by Saturday, but I'm still "Procraftinating".

Lori Cody said...

This looks so familiar!! Congratulations on having the nerve to post your picture. Sorry, no picture from me!
My Aunt came into my craft room the other day and I was SO embarrassed!!
My craft space is also an office for my husbands business so it is a real challenge.
I enjoyed your post. I guess messy is okay!

JuLee said...

My studio is so crowded that the only clear space is the path from the door to the chair. I once read that a lot of artist create in a 6X6 inch square of space, and that anything outside this space can be as messy as can be. We only concentrate on the 6" square. I think that is true for me ... the only cleanish area IS the area right were my work is coming to life.

Kelli said...

Ha!!! Been there, cleaned it up, messed it up again....and again........and again. I hate to clean, and love to create. Luckily, i have a door to close on the creative chaos. When I HAVE time to create, the last thing I want to do is stop and clean first!!

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