Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Guest Blogger: Kerin Backhaus on "Active Expression"

Gestation(mass noun): the development of something over a period of time. 
Time. Time can be a sensitive subject, times past can bring us sadness, remorse, and regret. But time can also bring us understanding, reflection, enlightenment and growth. Development, the act of growing, the act of expanding, the act of creating, the capabilities or possibilities of something …
As I stood on the hardwood floors of The Empty House Studio (TEHS) with my creative colleagues, time was on our side. Six months, not even the normal gestation period of human being … was it enough time to develop anything? Was six months’ time enough to even develop a space like TEHS?
Jug Sketch by Sarah Coffin
Three hours later I was listening to a poem created within an hour, the orange threads of yarn sewn in and out of a homemade loom, the sounds of guitar strings almost in full completion of a song, at least 10 matchbooks decorated, something like 55 photographs taken, 3 sketches drawn, several herbal seeds planted … and my rock candy beginning to crystalize.
It was then I reminded myself of this simple quote from the Buddha:
The jug fills drop by drop.
Thanks to TEHS and its founding members I was reminded why I got involved in the arts in the first place. ACTION. Whether our creative actions were cumulative or just a happening moment, it still would fill up the proverbial jug that is known as TEHS.
President Barack Obama, on this same very day, merely hours earlier, said this to America:
"We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial…"
That is what TEHS promises all creative minds. Its mission is simple, just like Buddha’s message and timely just like Pres. Obama’s words: we must act, we must create, we must meet. By filling our jugs one drop at a time, by practicing our crafts we can fill, we can develop, and we can grow in a space like TEHS. As imperfect or partial its victories will be, and as different as our creative gestations periods are, there is nothing more valuable than our active participation in expressive life. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Long Haul Project

The Empty House Studio is in its current little venue for 6 months... maybe less.

We thought it a prefect structure for trying out some time-sensitive projects. A few nights ago, artists, with visions of calendars dancing in their heads, got together to start things.

If you are an artist or know any artists, you know that they are always starting things. Ideas bounce around in artists' heads like a pinball machine. The idea of starting things "alone together" really got us excited and so we put out the call to artists we know to get them thinking about timed projects.

At the end of our 6 months, we will have a show and/or results party to display our currently "marinating" projects. We are so excited to watch the developments (or have things to forget about and rediscover in 6 months). We hope you are inspired to start a patience-enhancing project of your own and share it with us... even if you can't be here in person.

NOTE: If you are on Instagram, #theemptyhousestudio with your projects. Or you can send them to us and we will share them on a Pinterest board.

Our list includes:

1. Vodka Infusions - A. Cherry, Lime, Star Fruit, and Pistachio; B. Cilantro, Lime. TEHS. (1 month)

2. Time Capsule Notes - a few people wrote notes or made predictions. We are burying them in the back yard. If you want in on this, contact us at theemptyhousestudio@gmail.com! (6 months)

3. Operation Matchbook - We are starting a very exciting art project that will be shared with Northern Virginia in 6 months. Stay tuned. TEHS. (6 months)

4. Rock Candy - Began 6 flavored homemade rock candy sticks. (3 weeks) Continue homemade organic candy projects. Kerin Backhaus. (6 months)

5. Herbs - Planted 3 herb pots. Rosemary, Basil, and Spearmint. TEHS. (6 months)

6. Loom - Hand-built a mini loom. Began weaving a piece. Erika Koch. (6 months)

7. Homemade Vanilla - Bourbon separated into bottles with aged vanilla bean. (6 months)

8. Poetry writing - Wrote some during the Long Haul Party. Palmer Horst. (Continuous.)

9. Mandolin-ing, Guitar-ing and general "watering" of the house with music. (Self-teaching... continuous.)

10. Documentation. Photo, audio, video of The Empty House Studio activity. Blake Stenning. (6 months)

11. Two bottles of wine. Same exact bottle. Taste tested the first bottle. Recorded reactions. Will do the same with the second bottle in 6 months. (6 months)

12. Six Months of Collaboration - I (Sarah Coffin) am planning to have at least 3 major pieces of collaboration with my pottery and another art form. I have one in the works with metalsmith, Henri Bielawski. (6 months... maybe a year)

13. (Since it is 2013 and all...) TEHS is asking all that come through to complete the sentence: "I create because..." in the style of the wonderful Cindy Chang. So, why do you create? Facebook or email us with your response. theemptyhousestudio@gmail.com

What fun!

Monday, January 14, 2013


We had our first artists' meeting, inviting other colleagues to be a part of this project. We had so much fun breaking bread together and discussing the possibilities. We are so grateful for their enthusiasm, ideas, and involvement. 


Adding pencil details

We would love to hear from you if you are interested in being a part of The Empty House Studio activities, whether it be on the planning side or the participating side. 
Email us: theemptyhousestudio@gmail.com

Questions? Read our Mission and Story tabs for more info. 
Or just email us. We'd love to hear from you. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Sill Plates and Thrilling Dates

Just scheduled a contractor estimate, a chimney sweep, and took pictures of sill plates... Just another day on the job here at TEHS.

You know, Google can be great. I've got a special place in my heart for Google. But nothing can replace the ol' ask a friend, ask a neighbor idea. Remember them? Real people?

I've had such fun recently, getting to know people's interests, specialties, and experiences outside of what I would normally talk to them about. Rather than googling and surfing the endless waves of world wide opinions, I've been asking those people whose faces I see. People in town, family, friends...

And so, I move unabashedly forward, seeking to learn... not only for my own knowledge but for personal interaction on a whole new level. Does that make sense?

Deep thoughts from TEHS. Happy Friday!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Locks and Keys

Old houses provide an endless amount of projects...and lessons! As we (all of the characters involved in this little story) get to know The Empty House Studio, she continues to surprise us.

The old doors and old locks needed to be replaced. The homeowner's parents, D and B, live close by. They are so kind to come do some of the labors of love, including change the locks. Well, true to form, the little old house's locks and doors were not a simple remove and replace job. D spent hours with these funny old doors and, being quite the handy man, performed a marvelous hinge and lock replacement trick, including rebuilding the interior of the door.

We found an old cardboard shim underneath one of the hinges. It still had its old price sticker on it for some-odd cents. With new locks in place, I walked down to the local hardware store, a charming little useful place, and excitedly copied keys... for when I suddenly become the nutty professor and lock myself out of the house. The hardware store made me wonder who last touched that cardboard shim? Did they buy it at the little hardware store where I just got new keys made for the house?

Drawn by H.B.
Think of the questions, stories, and possibilities around doors and keys. Entering a new year, possibilities and questions abound. What doors will open and what doors will close? Who holds the key? What is inside? These can be exciting or daunting things to contemplate as a new season begins. We here at The Empty House Studio are both excited and daunted by our new venture. We want to promote artistry and craftsmanship in Northern Virginia and yet, the accepted pace of life around here can squelch it. But we know that we are more than our 9 to 5, more than our commute... and so, we persist.

We sincerely hope that you will walk through our door someday, literally or online, and step into creativity and inspiration. The key to a good year? Take time to think about purpose and beauty. Happy New Year!