Art in a beehive

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Dear Artist,

Yesterday, Todd Butt of Trenton, Ohio wrote, “A local group is opening an art studio building in the next town. They need about thirty artists to rent studios and they are planning to have a Friday opening each month for the public view. Have others tried this? Are there any guidelines, cautions and contractual warnings you might offer?”

Thanks, Todd. Subdividing buildings into artists’ rentals is currently a hot trend. Frustrated landlords are looking for creative ways to beef up density and turn a profit. Some run a pretty tight ship, like a strata-title operation, while others rent casually, often cheaply, on a month-to-month basis. For artists who chop and change, the latter might be preferable. Here are a few considerations:

Many buildings restrict hours of use. It’s best to work in a place that’s open any time you need it. Also, you need to ask yourself how far you have to drive to get to it. I’m a believer in working where you live, and oftentimes there’s a fine spot right under your nose. Regarding potential noise, make sure walls and partitions aren’t too flimsy. Nothing worse for a Vivaldi lover than a thumping rocker next door. High ceilings are preferable to low ones. Check out the lighting, both natural and artificial — some converted buildings are dark and dreary and not really suitable for artists. Most of us require big windows.

You need to check the heating and air conditioning: Who pays for it and how good is it. Some older industrial buildings are poorly serviced. You also need to check fire precautions and escape routes. A big building full of dreamers could be a fire trap. If all else fails, you need a rope tied to a radiator.

Further, human nature being what it is, you need to figure out if you’ll be able to function in an extended commune where people tend to socialize and may even invade your space. While many artists find these environments stimulating, others find the lack of privacy neutralizes their individualistic spirit. Weak egos can go even further into negative. The presence of super-achievers, on the other hand, can be useful. You cannot dismiss the possible benefits of like-minded passions. Not so handy is the company of underachievers. When all is said and done, artists need to struggle on their own.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “Under the magnetism of friendship the modest man becomes bold; the shy, confident; the lazy, active; and the impetuous, prudent and peaceful.” (William Makepeace Thackeray) “My work is always better when I am alone and follow my own impressions.” (Claude Monet)

Esoterica: Perhaps the greatest benefit of beehive buildings comes when the general public finds out there’s a lot of honey to be had at predetermined times. Visitors wander in and out of the studios, nip away at your finger food, meet other bees and are exposed to a wide range of art. In theory, quality prevails. In practice, a serious artist may be overshadowed and oversold by a drone who paints cute pussycats on barn boards. “Meow!”

 


Successful beehive
by Ro Fulkerson, Ogden, IL, USA
 

Here’s one example of a very successful, very competitive arts “beehive.” The Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles, MO has become quite a tourist attraction as well as a popular place with the locals. It’s amazing what variety of talent can be found there.



There is 1 comment for Successful beehive by Ro Fulkerson

From: wen Redmond — Aug 21, 2010

When I had my babies I had no family around to help. I would rush to my now in home studio for their nap time and work for 1/2-1 hour. I became quite accustomed to this interrupted working style and began a new phrase on my art making. Art not unlike children grow and breathe, become mature. Let yourself flow with this to find the solution that works for you. Children do grow up and once they enter school, you won’t believe how fast. I didn’t. Now my babies are young adults I have all the time in a day to do all I want and sometimes wander away, waiting for something to wake up. Bottom line — enjoy the time.

 


Historic Alton Mill
by Jim Lorriman, Shelburne, ON, Canada
 

082010_jim-lorriman

“Endless Summer”
cedar sculpture
by Jim Lorriman

Such a beehive is the Alton Mill in Alton, Ontario. There are 25 plus studios, a number of galleries, retail shops and a cafe. The setting is an historic mill that has been completely refurbished. The mill is close to the Millcroft Inn which is an upscale hotel and spa. I prefer to work alone but a number of artists from my area have their studios there. Here is the website.

 

 


Great space, no pay
by Richard Woods, Sparks, NV, USA
 

With its tall ceilings and wide open space I loved my live-work studio. From the massive rafters eighteen feet up to the warehouse stripes on the bare cement floor it also had its down sides. Located in an industrial area of East Oakland, I had a fine view of the Chevron Asphalt plant. A Union-Pacific rail-yard book-ended the street beyond a screen of weed and willow, while the Bay Area Rapid Transit line in the other direction brought a train into the East Oakland station every few minutes. Noise could be disconcerting but I grew used to it. The live-work spaces were rented month-to-month, were all newly built to proper commercial code into this ’50s era factory complex. You had your choice of a regular commercial size hinged door or keep the industrial roll-up. Bring your own heat. One guy slept and showered in a travel trailer, in his studio. It was a wonderfully eclectic bunch of working artists for the most part, although one neighbor was an early Internet pioneer. Everything from monumental compositions in steel plate, to ceramic plates with delicate fishbones burnt onto the glaze in the kiln. Painters, printers, furniture makers, and one guy who collected monster wood-working machinery, and made foundry patterns to pay the bills. We hosted open studio tours, barbecues on the loading dock, impromptu concerts out on the rail spur. There was always the hum of activity, but after a while it seemed like an oasis of sanity in an otherwise indifferent world. But I couldn’t make it pay.

 


Mini self-promoted galleries
by Jackie Knott, Fischer, TX, USA
 

082010_jackie-knott

“Taos Pueblo”
oil painting
by Jackie Knott

One of the most successful such endeavors is the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, VA. It literally is what it says, an old WWII torpedo factory. In 1969, the city took on an ambitious project to convert the building to studios. Today, 165 artists create and work in this huge building, and over a half million people visit there a year. It is indeed a fascinating place. I wandered past the open room studios and saw some artists busily productive. But I saw more of these spaces functioning as mini self-promoted galleries, but deserted ones at that. I got the impression many of these artists exhibited there but they didn’t actually work there. The glaring shortcoming I observed was no one was present to help sell. I saw one patron trying to buy a piece and she couldn’t find anyone in the adjoining studios that knew anything about it. She walked off frustrated and an artist missed a sale. In such an environment one would have to be present just as you would a paid job and that doesn’t set well with most artists I know. Few work like that. The other alternative would be to depend on others when you couldn’t be there, then you’d be available to sell their work in a reciprocal relationship — it all sounds too complicated. A once a month showing sounds reasonable and I might be tempted to try it but a daily grind would be just that, impossible.



There is 1 comment for Mini self-promoted galleries by Jackie Knott

From: Penny Collins — Aug 19, 2010

I love this painting.

 


Frustrated by drama and chatter
by Laura Tovar Dietrick
 

082010_laura-dietrick

“The Flow”
original painting
by Laura Tovar Dietrick

I am currently working in a “hive” environment with 24 other artists and I have enjoyed moderate sales in this economy, for which I am grateful. The studios themselves are not locked, but are partitioned off and patrons are allowed to enter to look at the artwork hung on the walls. People enjoy coming to our First Friday events and with food and music find it to be a monthly treat. The upside is having other artists to talk to and discuss various issues that would normally bore others to death. The downside is that many of the artists don’t take it seriously and like having a “studio” so that they can tell everyone that they are an artist even though they may only create one piece of work per year. For those of us who treat our art as our business, it can be frustrating as there is plenty of drama and distracting chatter. The only solution, in my view, is to also work at home and consider your studio away from home as only another venue to show your art.

 


Life and death of a gallery space
by Suzette Fram, Mapel Ridge, BC, Canada
 

082010_suzette-fram

“Never Give Up Never Surrender”
acrylic painting
by Suzette Fram

My experience was in a small gallery/studio space. When we opened, there were 5 artists with their own studio and a large gallery space for different guest artists each month (with promotion and opening reception and all that) and lots of space in hallways to hang paintings. It seemed like a wonderful idea. It was, at first. The company was great, the energy awesome. After a while, artists no longer came regularly. The place was deserted. Few visitors came. When they did come, someone would have to greet them and give them the tour. That was not always very convenient if you were in the middle of painting. It became annoying. And there were days when no one came at all. What I learned is that being an artist and being a gallery operator are two very different things. To successfully run a gallery, you have to have a business mind, and a salesman’s mind. More importantly, you have to have contacts and a client list that is interested in art and will come out to openings and especially, that will actually buy art. You can’t be painting and being gallery host at the same time. After a while, not that many people came, there were very few sales; it kind of turned into a little tourist attraction. People would say how wonderful the place was and how needed it was, but no one ever wanted to take out their wallet and buy something. In a matter of months, artists started leaving. I left after about a year.

 


Unsafe neighbourhoods
by Richard Gagnon, Knowlton, QC, Canada
 

I really appreciate the regular poke that reminds me of what I should be doing as opposed to what I have to do. I do understand that at some point sanity will dictate that what I have to do will take precedence and I can paint again. Your letter on the artists’ beehive was very insightful. The fire consideration was important and there are collapsible ladders that can be bought provided you are not above a certain height from the ground. The building location would also be a safety factor. Not all neighbourhoods are safe after dark. Some aren’t even safe in the daylight hours. Unfortunately, neighbourhoods that are the least safe have the most attractive rent. Working late on a project or going in when the muse strikes could be life altering. Personal alarms and cell phones with 911 on speed dial still leave the emergency response time to deal with. A lot can happen in five minutes. Even good quality buildings are impacted by the neighbourhood. I used to stay at a high end hotel north of the airport in Atlanta. The concierge regularly warned me not to walk the streets after dark. The pool patio area where I would spend a few minutes in the evening destroying a cigar and a glass of scotch was surrounded by high walls with razor wire along the top. If a building was to be selected for such a project location is everything and the extra cost in rent should be considered insurance.

 


Missing the beehive
by Kathy Weber, RI, USA
 

082010_kathy-weber

“Yellow tie”
acrylic painting
by Kathy Weber

For about ten years, I had a studio in an old mill building with a number of other artists. It was great; we organized a yearly Open Studio event that became better attended every year, until the building was sold for conversion to condos and the artists were all kicked out. I work at home now, which I like, but I really miss those Open Studio events; it’s a great way to get known and to sell some work. I didn’t find that I was interrupted constantly; in fact, mostly the opposite, as the people who were there were trying to get work done. Funny thing, I knew a fireman who worked in the fire station that happened to be right across the street. He told me that they worried about that building burning down and had walked around inside to become familiar with the layout in case that ever happened.



There are 2 comments for Missing the beehive by Kathy Weber

From: Penny Collins — Aug 19, 2010

I like your subject matter! Businessmen are not common in artworks :-) Great design and colour – the yellow tie against mauve shadow on shirt works really well.

From: Sheila Minifie — Aug 20, 2010

I like it very much too – for the same reasons. Love the tonality as well.

 


Eight hours of lock-up?
by Brenda Behr, Goldsboro, NC, USA
 

082010_brenda-behr

“Candy”
watercolour painting
by Brenda Behr

Think twice before you jump. Going into a “beehive” artist space is about the dumbest thing I didn’t do. I was the first to sign up, lay down a deposit, and then pull out. I refused to hear him when an artist friend, more experienced than I, said, “Don’t do it. Nobody will want to climb those stairs.” I wanted too much to believe it was a good thing — camaraderie with other artists, Friday night art crawls, publicity for all, revitalizing an otherwise dead downtown. In the final days before the move, the voice I heard that kept me from moving my studio there was my own. I paint from life, and only on the coldest days, it’s still life. I’m a plein air on-location artist that visits everything from strip joints to local landmarks to breathtaking landscapes. Why the heck would I want to lock myself inside a studio eight or more hours a day? For the most part, art is a solo activity. We need to save our socializing chitchat for our openings.

 

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082010_robert-genn
Plein Air for Camphill 2010
 
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081710_betty-sommerville

Beachcombers

5-colour stone lithograph
by Betty Sommerville, BC, Canada

 

You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Linda Blondheim of Gainesville, FL, USA, who wrote, “Currently, I’m negotiating with a gallery for a loft space upstairs within the gallery space. This gallery already shows my work so people are used to seeing it there. I think having your own space would be better than sharing it with a commune of artists for the reasons you stated, and the everyday battle of trying to get along with many artists who have varying degrees of professionalism. When you have your own space or partner with someone you trust you are in control.

 

 

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Art in a beehive

 

 

From: John Ferrie — Aug 16, 2010

Dear Robert,

A number of years ago, I lived in an artist studio building.

The owners of the building loved art and wanted to create a space where artists could work/live and co-habitate with 60 units!

They made a special room for framing, another with a full wood shop.

There was a gym, a restaurant and a gallery space.

The building was an old storage building with huge ceiling space and incredible light.

I moved into the largest suit in the building and made it my studio, residence and gallery.

I worked very hard in this studio and really cut my teeth as an artist there.

I did immense canvases and a great deal of work there.

I had gallery showings 2 and 3 times a year with wild openings with drag queens and huge media coverage.

On some opening nights I would project 3 story images of my work onto the next building!

During the East Side Culture Crawl I would have no less than 3000 people through my studio.

It was an exciting and dynamic time that I will never forget.

However, the building was in the worse neighbourhood in town.

There was extensive prostitution and drug use in the parking lot.

It was located on the train tracks and the building would shake at all hours from the roaring trains that screamed by at all hours of the day and night.

We were also right across from the Animal Waste reduction Plant…on a hot summer day the smell would ruin your appetite for days.

There were, at one count, seven marijuana grow-ops in the building. There were endless break-ins and robberies, nothing was sacred.

And while I was prolific and hard working, there was resentment from the other tenants and I was told I should share my wealth and clients.

While some artists works hard and produced work, a number of the artists chose a more bohemian life-style and sat around moaning about the lack of respect for their art.

Most of which had not done a single piece in decades.

I made the building owner buy a large mural for the lobby and it still hangs there today.

After nine years and watching 1000’s of neighbours, five restaurant concepts and dozens of building managers come and go, I called it quits.

I go back on occasion for their open houses and I am pleased to see there is still some life there.

I would not be the artist I am today without those formative years, but I would never return to live there.

Always, John Ferrie

From: Amy — Aug 17, 2010

I loved you letter — I recently tried out a stint in a local studio building which has a great reputation and attracts neat artists. It was a little on the far side from whre I live, but there were others in the co-op space that lived further away, so I gave it a go. I didn’t use the space nearly enough and while I couldn’t find kinder people to share space with, I never got much done while there. I looked forward to the Open Studio afternoons but was disappointed by the people who came — not many, usually the same people, loved the snacks, wanted ideas on how they could make the same things, but didn’t buy art if it cost more than $10. Not that I don’t like $10 art — I buy it myself sometimes and it has a good place in an open studio environment — it just wasn’t the audience I thought this location would attract. I was surprised and the more artists I talked to, the more I realized that they were paying lots for space, advertising, gallery & organization memberships, special gallery rentals for shows, entry fees for shows, and selling next to nothing. Not a good business model for me, and I am back home again.

From: Susan Kellogg — Aug 17, 2010

My experience was not wholly positive. Throwing oneself into a the development of a start-up art center was exhausting (and I was young at the time). A group studio consists of a lot of sensitive people saying, “Look at me!” and finding that no one wants to. Administrators tend to be left brain types, although the Torpedo Factory’s Marian VanLandingham negotiated both worlds artfully. Working on and in an art center taught me the important lesson…that just because people could get dressed in the morning did not mean they were sane. I was so happy when I left!

Work at home is the answer and now the social media really help get one’s work seen without stress.

From: D. — Aug 17, 2010

My experience was less than stellar as well. It became what I called the “Misery Loves Company Club.” The majority of the joiners sat around complaining and waxing poetic about art and it’s meanings while us worker bees actually MADE art, sold art, and kept the place in running order. It became a very depressing place to be and counter-productive to be there at all. If I did it again, it would have to be with artists I knew and trusted who shared the responsibilities and business aspects of having a studio and also shared support and guidance. (Oh, and major binding contracts would be signed…several “artists” just disappeared when the rent came due or maintenance was required.) Not cool.

From: Susan Volant Pierce — Aug 17, 2010

I’ll sound a note of opposition. I had a space in an recently opened studio complex made in an old residential house, and managed like a co-op. The only rooms left to previous use were the kitchen and two bathrooms. I had a south facing window but brought in appropriate illumination to compensate. After the first month it became apparent that locking the front and rear doors was inadquate, and hasps were put on individual spaces. Also during that month, rules about noise and music were modified. The following month the only sculptor left under pressure. His process was too loud. A few months later the municipality had to rework sewer lines, and the water supplier followed suit in the same year. The assessed fees were a substantial burden. Within a two year period the bathrooms needed refitting, a portion of the roof needed repair (unexpected wind storm), a not-so-minor airborne contagion ran rampant through the facility, the hot water heating system needed to be replumbed, and there were problems galore caused by the “first annual residents show” that had less to do with quality of work than with the wide diversity and success of marketing approaches. I wanted my divorce just as badly, but it was not nearly as big a relief as leaving that place. After half a year of looking I found a disused three car garage, signed a long term lease, fitted the place out for all seasons, complete with a half bath and cooking niche set aside from the single large studio room. Though the initial costs were less than modest, it was all paid off in three years. After that, my monthly rate was less than it had been at the co-op. The lease permits visitation and sales, and twice a year I’m permitted an open-house. In fact, the residents of the contiguous house have found that they enjoy helping. After five years, or upon the house being put on the open market, I will have an option to buy that portion of the property on which my studio stands, due to an advantageous zoning situation. It’s been a lot of work, but being free of the studio co-op is marvelous.

From: Caroline Trippe — Aug 17, 2010

Golden Belt Studios ,managed by Scientific Properties, in Durham, NC, is an example of the best of this kind of thing. It’s a green environment, and because the studios are in a renovated cotton mill, (purchased from the city for $1! ) with high high ceilings & enormous windows– the natural light is fantastic. There are 35 studios ranging in price from $275 per month to $800; some artists share. ( There are lofts and business spaces in other buildings in the complex.) The spaces are essentially cubicles, so they are not closed off from the ceiling—this helps with the light. The walls are high enough to provide security, and we have padlocks for the sliding steel doors. The largest studios are huge. There is a sound factor, but for the most part this isn’t an issue, as everyone is very respectful of privacy. We do have to pay liability insurance. Artists have electronic keys and can come and go at will. It is climate controlled, and there is round the clock security, so it’s a very good deal. There is janitorial service as well, though aritst are responsible for keeping their own studios clean. To get a space you have to be reviewed by a board but there’s some turnover. Artists may use the studios for working space or exhibition only, as we choose. There are no restrictions–you don’t have to put in a specified number of hours. Golden Belt has been in operation for 2 years now. We often meet as a group to discuss relevant issues. On the down side, we are in a recession, and sales are not what most of us might have hoped for. Still, our open studio evenings—Third Fridays—do get a lot of traffic, and efforts are being made to increase that, and to have other open studio days and to get more publicity. For those artists who can hold out, it might turn into something. Many of us are retired—but there’s a good mix. Nice people. And a good mix too of different media: painters, printmakers, photographers, jewellers & metalsmiths.

Check it out at www.goldenbeltarts.com

Artists can post work on the website if they choose; most do. Events are announced via the website and Facebook. I’m very happy to be part of this community, for as long as I can afford to do so!

From: Vivian Longfellow — Aug 18, 2010

At least 7 artists had just finished installing their art work in the old building in Wyandotte, MI. Perfect place except it caught fire & burned to the ground….I did managed to save a pastel and reframed it as the model wanted it…..!

From: Janet Toney — Aug 18, 2010

‘In theory, quality prevails. In practice, a serious artist may be overshadowed and oversold by a drone who paints cute pussycats on barn boards. “Meow!” ‘

You are funny, and so right! Of course it might be they are painting out-houses, or fairies, or wolves! Yuck.

From: lisa — Aug 18, 2010

I would like to suggest Todd looks at “Arts in Stark”. The city of Canton Ohio has been doing this for several years now and continues to grow. It has been a very successful venture and many local surrounding communities are begging to jump on board and renovate downtown areas with great art related entertainment. Check it out! Hope you like it and find it works for you.

From: Claudia Roulier — Aug 18, 2010

the artists need to establish regular meetings to iron out problems and personalities…..

From: Edna V. Hildebrandt — Aug 18, 2010

I enjoy going to the Neilson Park Creative Centre with Etobicoke Art Group every Wednesday Open Studio with a fee for a whole day or half day. The group work independently on their own work and sometimes we critiqued each others work on request of the individual member or help on other aspects of the work e.g.framing or preparation of the canvas.It is a small group who goes regularly and there is great rapport among members.We also have group exhibition in the gallery regularly.

From: RALInsure@aol.com — Aug 18, 2010

A guy in the next town over is trying to the same thing and reached out to our art association to see if he could attract anyone…most of us work at home, a few have “real” studios designed to make them come in and actually do what they say they want to do….and a few were thinking it might be a good idea for me to look at because I have turned over an area in my basement to being a well lit studio…(they feel I need something better because I am a good painter…I imagine if they felt my stuff stunk it might be okay??? So, your article was timely and you are so right, Vivaldi is okay once in awhile but Poulenc, Saint Saens and Rachy just don’t fit in with Rockers….

From: George Kubac — Aug 18, 2010

The best place is a small place with the windows facing the trees.

From: Scott Wheeler — Aug 18, 2010

Why would anyone want to work nearby a bunch of other artists? Honestly.

From: Emily Bristow — Aug 19, 2010

Although I tried a group space only briefly, I would like to insert a note of caution.

Make sure everyone understands and follows the rules of fire safety. I know of two shared spaces that went up in flames because of oily rags in non-metal, closed containers. In one instance, all twelve artists lost all their supplies and the work they had stored there.

From: Leslye Miller — Aug 19, 2010

Wow! That’s crazy about oily rag in any closed-container, not just non-metal. Oily rag should be rinse thoroughly in soap and water and hang outside the building to line dry completely, if the artist is to keep the same rag for reuse. Keeping such oily rags in closed-containers of any kind tends to hold extreme heat, especially during hot weather season, while at the same time inside any building without air conditioning running can build up with heat fast. If you are a lazy artist I would suggest you use napkins and dispose of them in properly when done.

From: Leslye Miller — Aug 19, 2010

Art and motherhood appears to be a really hard task for most mothers, who feel they would be neglecting either children or their life careers. I think the most important thing to do is embrace the challenges and prepare yourself to balance between the two choices. In my point of view nothing is impossible and anything is possible. I’ve met a mother who has two small children of different ages, but almost close in age. I have witness these two children to want their mother at the same time of everything the other wanted, this was very unique to me. And the mother was handling it so very well, that it totally amazed me, and she was an artist as well, but truly had a hard time figuring out how to make time to continue with her creativity. Now myself raising my child and trying to keep up with the daily challenges of painting. I had to really work with using my creativity in two unique ways. One was being creative in figuring out how to comfort my child, two at the sometime in the day wanting to get creative in art. I have learned as an artist, that you sometimes have to take a break and step back and look at how much has progressed so far in your work, I figured why not take this time to spend with my child, while I found that it worked out really well in most my experience in creating the finest art and comforting my child. The only problem I had with my child is the freaking teen syndrome and peer pressure, whoo! Am I glad that chapter is over. She’s in college now.

From: Catherine Stock — Aug 20, 2010

I was rather astonished to see Cedar’s studio in her windowless basement. I sold my second floor apartment/studio in New York when a new construction blocked not only my view but all natural light. I thought I was going to go mad in the dark claustrophobic dungeon that my lovely studio had turned into! In the end, I not only quit the apartment, but New York and the US and now live in rural France where I have a wonderful studio in an old converted barn, filled with light. I committed financial and professional suicide in doing this (I was doing pretty well as a portraitist), but I manage to get by on a vastly reduced income illustrating books and running a few workshops, and get to paint what I want. I am happy.

From: Maggie — Aug 20, 2010

This is in response to Cedar’s question for working mother artist. I am a mother, artist and art teacher. So I have a child and work in my studio but I also go to teach in a school. Cedar’s work is in her home but that does not mean she is a stay at home mom. She is a working mom just like other working moms and if she wants to be a working artist she needs to find child care while she works on her art just like other working moms. I have reserved certain nights a week to work in my studio and my husband takes the main parenting roll that night. That way I get a big block of time to do my work. Trying to be a stay home mom and working mom at the same time is bound to leave you with low energy and unproductive. It is a balance act. Make sure you get what you want out of your parenting roll and your work roll. They are only little once and if you are working and parenting at the same time you will not enjoy either one. Carve out the time you need for each job and focus on one at a time. We women are so good at multi-tasking we tend to forget some things are better done one thing at a time. Good luck finding the elusive balance of the Working Mother!! and don’t be to hard on yourself!

From: Maxine E. — Aug 20, 2010

Dear Cedar, What blessings you already have! What you need is a wife!

From: Judith Motzkin — Aug 20, 2010

My active ceramic art career survived raising two boys. There were times at the beginning when I just did other, smaller, more discreet and interruptable projects. I did a trade with a young ceramist, studio space for child care. So she worked in the studio when I was busy with my kid and I had dedicated work time when she had him. With the second, I paid a wonderful Trinidadian grandma for a few partial days of time. Once they were in school, I knew what time was mine. I also worked at night and have a supportive partner. His retirement was a shock to my solitude, as much as the kids.

Having my studio next to my home was key when they were young. Work, life, garden, kids seemlessly intertwined. I used a baby monitor to catch an hour in the studio during naps.

I remember my son telling his friends that his mom didn’t work, to which I replied, “Who makes all that stuff in there?” Of course he meant that I didn’t go out to a job. Later, in high school, when they guidance dept asked what he wanted to do, he told me that he wanted his life to be like mine, where his work and play are the same thing. He is now 25 and moving toward that goal with music and video.

They are only babies for a short time. Enjoy it, but keep working, no matter what.

From: Christine Middleton — Aug 20, 2010

Message to Cedar, Babies are important and you should give them lots of time. However, to keep your creative flow going you cannot mix the two things. Your studio looks great, so neat & tidy. However, a baby loves to investigate and would soon have all those things pulled off the shelves. In my opinion the baby things go out of the studio, as it is also a reminder and distraction when you are doing your art (which bye the way I like the art very much). A shared babysitting task with another young Mum would give you some “free” time to paint and be yourself. There is always a guilt thing for Mums as to whether they should want to work, no matter what the work is. Plan time for both and you will get your inspiration back.Hope this helps Christine

From: Antoinette Ledzian — Aug 20, 2010

The entire time I was watching the video, my ONLY focus was on imagining a young child in this environment. I do hope Robert will dedicate a page to “safety” concerns in studios regarding art supplies, sharp tools, fumes and proper ventilation, ESPECIALLY with a youngster in the area? Seems like a volatile situation to me. Are we missing the forest through the trees here, or am I overreacting?

From: gail g. — Aug 21, 2010

You are fortunate to have such a lovely and home space. It won’t be long before that little cutie will be everywhere and it appears that there are a lot of toxic substances and non child friendly items very near the floor soo…. the whole studio may need some rearranging. Won’t be long before he is exploring every thing. I too am concerned about toxins and ventilation etc. We just have no idea of how fast a child can get around and if there is something on the floor, they will find it and will be in his mouth in a second. But you will get it all figured out.

From: jj — Aug 21, 2010

beautiful space, Cedar.

I am a mother and artist, who has worked from home as an artist, telecommuted, and also worked outside of the home. I find it is most difficult to work from home, as it is hard to separate mothering from work, and many expect that with good ‘time management skills’ or the ability to work efficiency while your child naps or plays you should be able to have it all. And if you can’t, then it must be due to your own lack of organization. mmhm. I find it hard to imagine anyone taking a baby to an office and being expected to accomplish something of use there. For me, when my children were very young, I found it much easier to get a sitter for a few hours and rent cheap studio space- albeit dingy and damp in a communal warehouse. I found it more stimulating to be in the presence of other artists, and a welcome respite from the lonelihess of stay-at-home motherhood. In my opinion, those who speak of treasuring their children’s babyhood are not currently living it 24 hours a day. I miss it now, but it was recent enough in my memory to recall how difficult it could be physically and emotionally. And I am honest enough to admit to a society that professes to hold motherhood sacred that motherhood is not always all it is cracked up to be. If it was, men would clamor for it and stay home 24 hours a day.

Now my kids are in school, and life is much easier. I appreciate my children and my art more. I am glad I insisted on time alone to paint when I did. I do not create well when distracted. Yes, raising children is an ‘art,’ but so is cooking, and neither satisfy my need to paint. Finally, Cedar, do consider as your son grows older, that he may or may not develop your talent or interest in art. I was frustrated, then amused that my older child, despite having more art supplies than any other kid her age, had very little interest in creating. She likes stickers. She thinks that if she becomes a painter like mommy she will sell paintings and get rich, but is not really interested in coloring or painting. (Perhaps I should teach her some basic accounting) On the other hand, my younger son has incredible talent and an inborn sense of composition.

From: Denita Tizard — Aug 22, 2010
From: Susan Tschantz — Aug 22, 2010

To the new mother, relax. Take the time both your child and your body needs to recover. You may well find that you focus in art changes, and you might need to adjust your medium to one better suited for snatched time, but it will.

But you should not be alone in this. This child has two parents, and hopefully a full family that should be active in his/her life. Do not go it alone. You do a diservice to both yourself and your child.

A child should change your life, it should also change the father’s life. Sadly, it does not often do so. But a child is a life changing event.

But there is hope… there is life and art after children.

From: Joy Gush — Aug 22, 2010

C edar — Congratulations! Now start meditating on how to teach your dear young son. A young age is a time to learn. Your Studio is finished. Be sure to lock everything away. Now is the time to learn the art of cooking nourishing food. Telling stories. Maybe writing some of your own about your son’s moments in his new world. Your canvas art commands your attention and is a possessive Master. You cannot give a canvas and your son equal love. It is his time now. When he goes to school, you may have time again to paint. I found my talent late in life, and my paintings of memories bring me peace. There will be time, when your son is older and you have given him the best foundation for his life — let it be his best memories of his mother’s teaching…

From: Dave C. — Aug 23, 2010

I watched Cedar’s video and was just a little jealous of the space that she has at her disposal. I am confined to a small corner of a 10×10 bedroom, which is also my office from which I work. But, I guess it isn’t the space available, but how you use it.

The only concern I have for Cedar and her baby is that I didn’t see any systems for managing ventilation in her studio. That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t any, just that I didn’t see it. Working in that enclosed space I would think that ventilation will be more important than anything else in that studio. Cedar, do NOT ignore this one safety feature just because you have a wonderful space available to you. Especially considering that you have your child with you in the studio.

From: Jen Ganshorn — Aug 31, 2010

I was really interested in this letter, “Art in a beehive”….because I am currently in an apartment having given up a house and commercial studios as you talked about, as I am disabled. The companionship was awesome but since I paint at 2am most times I decided to move my studio home. I have been debating and debating for months…with off white carpet and apartment/rental constraints.

I read your letter and decided that “right under my nose” were a couple of perfect spots…..don’t cook much so my kitchen counter/cupboard on one side became, with the addition of a stool, a perfect countertop workspace…. the cupboards are full of art supplies rather than “kitchen stuff”….it is reserved for the other side of the galley kitchen. Water right close by too ! Who needs to eat anyway :)

With some thinking, lots of plastic, and a big piece of carpet covering the bedroom floor from my caretaker, I now have a wonderful north facing space with good light and a fan for hot Saskatchewan days. I am on the 14th floor and so the view is amazing and inspiring, even to me a floral painter ! :) I am busy organizing my new space.There is a lovely park “kitty corner” from me that I can put art supplies on my walker and go visit to draw, so I can plein air paint too……….

I do have to remind myself NOT to sing at the top of my lungs to “Phantom of the Opera” in consideration of my neighbor next door.

Not having a studio has resulted in no work, most likely an excuse rather than a reason.

My work is shown at Garden Gallery in Kindersley and I am fortunate to have the most wonderful mentor and teacher……he has encouraged me to paint on my balcony…. HEY, yet another space!

From: cindy wider — Sep 28, 2010

Hi Denita, thanks for reading my book and I am glad you enjoyed reading ‘Paint in Your Pyjamas!’ I was sad to read that you felt that I was encouraging ‘skiving off to paint’ and that your home and personal life was neglected. That is the opposite intention I had for this book.

The idea of working in the small blocks of time is not meant to be a selfish one, in the book I also say how important it is to manage our home and personal life; paint in your pyjamas is all about finding an effective work life balance. Its about making sure that we remember ourselves, and that a hobby is a valuable part of our lives. I have written a time and home management plan in there as well; from pages 113 thru to page 135. The idea is not to be selfish but to care about yourself more. I am sad that you didn’t quite benefit as fully from my book as you could have. I don’t recomend skiving off to paint every minute you get, I encourage the idea to use the small blocks of time creatively rather than wittering them away. I consider everyone in my family as a priority but do manage to run a highly successul online art tuition business, as well as paint for a local art gallery. My eldest son turned out very well and acheived a very high OP score and is now studying robotic engeneering at university. He wasn’t affected by my 20 art career. as for my two little daughters; they too have greatly benefited by my attitude to do what I love; I share my knowledge and skills with them and they often paint along with me. My four year old daughter held her first painting lesson at preschool the other day and was praised for her technique and teaching expertise Lol!

 

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