Mobile walls

While the heating and electrics are being worked on in the new studio it seemed a good time to sort out a mobile wall. I’d commissioned one some years ago. It wasn’t quite what I’d asked for but did a good enough job in what was then my vast studio. In the new, reduced sized studio, mobile walls need to work harder so the old one is becoming two with storage inside. One is finished and provides a stable mobile double sided wall with room to store things inside, the other is part finished. Both will also serve as ‘blinds’ when I feel the need to shut out the outside a bit from the glass doors.

I love studio ‘furniture’ to be on castors, having everything mobile gives great versatility. Other studio ‘mobiles’ are ex library trolleys and ex cafe tray racks. The library trolleys hold paint while the tray racks are for storing drying acrylic skins.

Getting to this studio has been a long journey and is still on-going. I will write on the emotional part of it another time but for now will just say that the start of the build was at a time when my husband of 54 years was part way into his Alzheimer’s journey. I became his full time (and it was very full time) carer. He died 21 months ago.

Time is a strange thing, it feels simultaneously like yesterday and it feels like a lifetime ago. I’m feeling my way through a tunnel. I think there might be light at the end of it.

Erasers

I am lightening the load in my studio.

It’s amazing the sort of stuff that is accumulated over the years. There is a rational for not getting rid of anything if you are an artist. Your studio is different in this aspect to your home, knowing you can scrabble through drawers or boxes to find just what you need to make your latest Opus is very useful.

However, size of studio becomes an issue when you move from a vast space to a relatively small one. Plus, in the past I’ve supplemented my income by teaching art and offering art courses, for which I had a stock of art materials. There was also a time when I had more than one studio with the consequential doubling up of materials, a rented studio and a studio at home. (Happy days) .Then there are times when certain tools were being used at such a rate (read erasers) that when I found them at bargain prices, well you get the picture. In case you don’t, yesterday I found four different containers of erasers. I went through a period when I used erasers as a drawing tool, al la Robert Rauschenberg’s erased de Kooning drawing.

Then there was the time I found bargain priced little sets of exquisite Chinese calligraphy brush sets, I loved the brushes and bought quite a few sets with the idea of giving them as parting gifts to students but before that happened fate stepped in and I no longer offered courses. Yesterday I photographed them, put them on FB Marketplace, they are being collected this morning.

I have other multiples of stuff, metal plates and the like, all at some time relevant to the work I was doing.  I have a load of short pipes, they are specific diameters to fit paint rollers. I have a lot because there had to be a minimum order. I use these plain basics to make my own specific paint rollers, however I’ll probably need to live to a hundred and fifty to use them all. So the question becomes how many do I keep?

There is another aspect to clearing the studio, besides physical space.

I am scared.

I am scared because it has been such a traumatic few years that I feel in some ways as if my confidence has gone. Goodness knows if you ask anyone who knows me, the chances are they will say I’m a confident person. There are physical reasons for my confidence reduction, my body likes to remind me it is not what it was, but it is not really the physical part that I’m referring to. I have paintings in private collections on different continents, yet I still have plenty of paintings in store. So there is a little gremlin whispering in my ear that making more paintings is sort of self-indulgent (I kick that gremlin out but it keeps coming back). Then I just feel it’s all a colossal waste of effort, given that I’ve spent the last few years caring for my husband through his Alzheimer’s disease until his death. Am I still grieving? Yes I am.

The studio isn’t finished, it needs the heating finishing as well as other things, but at least I have my stuff under my own roof,  body willing can slowly sort through stuff.

It’s in my head that ‘stuff’ needs sorting I cannot erase the difficult stuff and nor should I want to although some things would be better not having happened, erasing them does not alter the fact it did. All that stuff makes me who I am and that manifests itself in work.

Ultimately to make something work you just have to keep showing up, if I don’t get into the studio to work no work will be done, so I will show up, I’m moving back into that by ‘showing up’ to sort out the excess baggage. When bodily-pain gets too much I rest and take more painkillers, when the emotional pain gets too much I cry, shake myself up and get on with things.

Is it a colossal waste of time? Probably no more so than anything else, give it a thousand years and most things will have gone however whichever we look at it.

Am I still an artist? Yes I am.

 

Such is the journey.

Sometimes we forget the journey we’ve made so far.

My studio had to go into storage when the new landlord wanted to triple my rent which took it beyond my reach. Then caring for my ill husband took over my life until his death all this, at the same time that building a new studio at home hit problems. So, the passage of time, like sand through an hourglass, has moved on.

The new studio still isn’t finished, I just don’t know where the 22 months since my husband’s death has gone. Time does move on. Finally however the studio contents were transferred from storage last week and I have a big job of sorting through everything.

Yesterday I was organizing drill bits, sitting on a sofa to do it, I did wonder if I would ever need them again. I like my tools to be meticulously organized. I smiled, wondering if I’d need to use them in the way I have in the past.

My body is paying me back for having done things beyond its natural capabilities in the past. I’m thinking here of when there was a shortage of building materials way back in the ‘70’s and a large truck full of concrete blocks were delivered. This was in the days before trucks came with unloading lifts. We had been waiting months for the delivery, Alberto, my husband was on his way back from Oxford but got stuck in traffic from an accident. The single delivery man said he couldn’t unload the blocks on his own and would take them back and we would have to re-order. No said I you can go if I don’t keep up with you unloading them….. Yea, it was stupid of me but hey-ho….

Anyway, stepping back from my digression, I was also thinking of how versatile Alberto was, there was nothing he wouldn’t put his hand to, and every job he did was so well done. However the way he kept his tools in buckets…. drove me nuts, of course he always said he knew where everything was but couldn’t find things …..  I’ve had studios in different places over the years, and sometimes at home. When I had the studio at home Alberto would always come to ‘borrow’ tools, because I always knew exactly where mine were. He always returned them back knowing it wasn’t worth the angst he’d have if he didn’t!

Other than drill bits (I’ve colour coded sizes using nail varnish (I know, I know, but I did say I could be a bit OCD at times), I’ve also been looking through some old sketchbooks with the intention of dumping a few (I have done that). I came across a couple of quick sketches from decades ago of dear friends and relatives. They aren’t technically great sketches ( so what) but they hold the essence of these two people, my friend the late Harry Blackburn and my late brother-in-law Shawn McDonnell. They bring back so vividly the time I was drawing them. Such is the journey.

 

 

A quick swipe

I find it endlessly fascinating to see how communications evolve on social media. Sometimes I actually feel a sense of relief when someone who from long observation of their styles and communications do respond to having their buttons pushed once too often. I think that there is a genuineness about that that separates them from the robots. I’m not talking about nastiness but more that sense of riotous indignation that can surface when some ‘dick-head’ has gone too far. It’s a sort of genuineness that tells you, this is a real person who is normally a calm and considered person with, or without passion on a subject, but thoughtful whatever. Those that try to be the best they can rather than those that seem to be the worse they can, of which we’ve seen too many in the last few years.

It is almost like watching a cat that’s being tormented by a young dog and the cat shows lots of patience but after having its ear nipped once to many times gives the dog a quick swipe of its paw. That look on the dogs face when it realises the cat has claws, but usually does not choose to use them. The cat goes back to being patient and calm, the dog goes back to play at tormenting the cat but with a new wariness, now understanding the cat chooses to not whack the dog most of the time.

Having written what I just did, it has made me think that maybe we’ve all been a bit too patient and that’s why both the US and UK are in such a mess, we took too long to give that one swipe when it was needed, it means we let the dog think it was all right to torment, we let the dog think its way was OK and there were no consequences to its excessive actions.

We in Wales

I’ve been in Wales recently in a location I love. My eyes have rested on sea, on day-sky, night-sky, on green hills and scraggy mountains.

I drive to Wales. When the miles behind me become more than those in front something inside me begins to lift, I smile to myself recognizing that what I feel is the complete opposite of Superman’s reaction to Kryptonite, I feel energy flow through my body and my heart begins to sing.

Before I take off on completely fanciful tract, I will say that I have had a relationship with Wales since childhood. There was 12 years difference between my sister’s birthdate and mine. When she married and with her husband moved around many locations in Wales before finally settling to one, I was still a child. My childhood became peripatetic in that I would go to stay with her, her husband and family at every opportunity. I managed to sometimes get into trouble when I did.

I recall taking three (of her eventual four sons) walking through fields and up a hill for an afternoon. That part was fine. However, it being one of those idyllic summers that are forever in our memories as through rose coloured specs, in this case an idyll summer without the specs, we children were barefoot.

At that age it is so liberating to be barefoot. No stone dared to be sharp or uncomfortable to walk on and the grass was but a plush carpet for our feet. However; why is there is inevitably a however? I had led our merry band back down a different route that took us through the village, only to come face to face with my Civil-Engineer brother-in-law and his company’s CEO. Whatever the CEO might have thought my brother-in-law was not best pleased at seeing his children and niece looking like a gaggle of barefoot gypsies with twigs sticking out of their hair. After the dressing down I had for that, we only took our shoes off and carried them with us after getting away from civilisation!

There is a coffee shop in Dogellau in an ex-haberdashers shop. From the coffee shop I can see place my sister and brother-in-law used to take us to for dinner or tea all those years ago. I’ve been back to many of those childhood places in Mid/North Wales even though my late sister and brother-in-law eventually settled firstly on the Gower in South Wales then between Swansea and Carmarthen.

As a child my brother–in-law gave me a sense of family I didn’t feel in the rest of my childhood, family was everything to him. Because of the work he did and the need to be close to the civil-engineering projects he worked on, he, and my sister, also gave me Wales.

I’ve digressed.

I cannot speak for the interior state of other human beings, I can only speak for my own. I have a sense of always being the observer, what is in here, is here, and what is out there, is there. I see out-there through my senses, as well as through my eyes. There is a border, I think it is my body, although if I were better at description, I might be able to define the sense of where body becomes less corporeal and more essence.

If others have felt as I have, the sense of self being as the borderline I am trying to convey, then it is little wonder our world is so fractured.

Over the years In Wales my border-line seems to have been morphing into something else. This last time I felt the border-line had dissipated, there was no break between the sea and me, the day-sky and me, the night-sky and me, the green hills and scraggy mountains and me. Then I realise there is no me in this, I am as much a part of those things I see as they are of me, it is we.

It is getting nearer to the time I will be able to pick up the studio work I had to leave while I cared for my husband through to his death. I walked with him through that journey. The twenty months since the end of that particular journey and indeed the three years before have felt as if I’ve wandered in the wilderness. A wilderness hidden from others at the body’s border-line. Stress and dealing with some hurt sent me to Wales this time. Now I am back I still have the same circumstances I had before I went, the same hurts and betrayals but I am not my body’s borders and I have been given the gifts that the ancient land of Wales can bestow. We will survive, the other as large a part of me, and me as a small part of the other. We are We.

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Conversations

Not quite finished yet but this is my bespoke Belfast sink unit for the studio. I thought I was fastidious about finish but have someone who is more so! I was just going to have the sink on a couple of brackets! Mind you he’s a maker after my own heart. Showed me the shelves on the left, size Is perfect measure to take a wine bottle!! Not sure if it’s just the creative in him or if (having been my downstairs neighbour in my old studio) he knows me too well!

Before this sink unit was made and relating to it I received a phone call: ‘Linda, the cupboards. Spray them white outside?’ Me ‘Yes. ‘What about inside, white or lacquer? Me. ‘White’ ‘But they are oak inside!’ Me ‘OK, laquer’. ‘Are you sure?’ Me ‘you please yourself, yes lacquer’. ‘OK’ Me: puts phone down and wonders why the question when it was always going to be lacquer on the inside! Lol.

Another conversation: ‘For the surface, I have this lovely seasoned oak’ Me: No, this is a work space and while oak is lovely, I will get it messy!’ ‘No, look I am recycling it, there are wormholes, (all treated) but I will fill them so they look black dotted and lacquer the whole top very well.’ Me: But I will get it mucky when I wash my brushes or paint containers etc and you won’t see if it’s the original surface or paint splatters etc.!’  ‘Pah’ Me: ‘OK but don’t complain if you happen to visit and see a mess when I’m working in the studio! ‘Pah’.

The maker of my sink unit told me he was asked by his occasional helpers why he takes so much care with something that is going into my working space, he replied ‘Because it’s Linda, you need to understand, she is a perfectionist and it’s a creative thing, it has to be right’.

Thank you Oleg, for caring about how the studio is going to feel.

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Trolleys and a feeling of hope

My new studio build is progressing, albeit slowly, though more quickly than it was. After a long time I can now see a time when it is mostly complete. It’s going to be a lovely space as I always knew it would. I was spurred on to get it finished when an a good friend said she had a friend from abroad who saw some of my paintings and really wanted to come in Spring and see some in the flesh. I sort of panicked, said to my friend I hoped to have the studio finished, didn’t tell her about my panicky feeling because I had nowhere to show paintings and my studio contents are all under wraps in storage. Hauling out paintings to hang them in a couple of spaces I was offered for that purpose just wasn’t an option until I move all the contents to the new studio.

If you’ve read my previous blogs you will know that my attention, sadly, has had to be focused elsewhere and for some considerable time. Now my focus begins to return to the studio. Apart from other, much sadder things, any studio focus I’ve managed has been mainly to do with the studio-build itself. Recently, in an oddly serendipitous way my focus moved to how the studio will function for me.

I’ll come to the serendipitous part after I’ve mentioned the size of my last studio, which was truly humongous. It was a room with a full sized marked out Badminton Court plus space left over, it had 10ft (3.05 mt) high sash windows, a very high ceiling into the roof space, and was situated in a group of historic Napoleonic buildings. Because of the available space I was able to dry the acrylic paint skins I’d started using as a medium, by just laying them on plastic around the floor to dry.  The problem with this method was the old building had quite a fly problem, especially in Summer, and they tended to die and bomb the skins, so I’d be having to pick them off the skins rather regularly.

I knew I’d prefer a different way to dry and store the paint skins and had been looking for a second-hand catering tray trolley, but discovered they cost about £200 each even for used ones, so I’d sort of given up on that idea.

Except I hadn’t really given up, I’m nothing if not persistent.

From the time I’d first started to look for a trolley until recently, I’d joined fb. Through fb I found local selling sites and through those sites, Marketplace. I love Marketplace, I’ve sold things through marketplace and I’ve bought things. A couple of weeks ago I was checking my items for sale posts when up popped new items for sale Marketplace and yes, you’ve probably guessed it, there was a tray trolley, not only one but two. The price was £50 for the two and included the trays. I agreed a price of £40 for the two and went to collect them from about 20 miles away. They just fitted into my car and the friend who came with me was gently amused at how thrilled I was at getting these trolleys.

I adore trolleys, they are such good items for studios, they make the space more flexible. I bought library trolleys some years ago that I use for my paint. I wrote about those trolleys in an earlier blog.

I was inordinately pleased at acquiring the tray trolleys, not only was it the outcome of having patiently waited to find what I sought at a price I could afford, it represented something much more.  Even though it was a temporary seismic shift from the last sad years to a feeling of hope, it was the fact that I could, even if temporarily at first, feel that hope again. It meant I was thinking of being in the studio working rather than worrying about how it is getting finished.

On the next warm spring day I will wheel the trolleys out of my garage and give them a good clean down (they are a bit greasy from their last reincarnation.). It will be a labour of love.

Tray trolley - Linda Sgoluppi