Monday, February 25, 2013

Sharing in Community Spaces

A few weeks ago a colleague of mine shared a TED talk. If you've never heard of TED, welcome and be prepared to spend hours watching inspiring and fascinating short talks by incredible humans. Yes, so there I was, watching Cindy Chang share, in 15 minutes, the projects that she creates in public spaces.

The inspiration for her projects and, specifically her most popular project, came from wanting to do something with abandoned spaces, from wanting to know her neighbors, and from the struggles after the death of a loved one. Chang created a huge chalk board on the side of an abandoned building in New Orleans. It read, "Before I die I want to_______." People could pick up the chalk and fill it in. It was full in a day. As Chang said, "neglected space became a constructive one."

I immediately thought of The Empty House Studio, of the creativity, constructive creativity, we hope to foster in this area and all over. Why did Chang create those boards? Why do I create? The "why" brings up motivation and purpose, it brings up belief and practicality.

Now inside the house are two large boards that read "I Create Because____." As makers come through the space, they can share the reasoning, motivations, humor, and passion behind their act of creation.

And for now, I will leave you with a few...

- I create because 'I want to bring more beauty into the world.'
- I create because 'I can.'
- I create because 'well, see, what happened was...'
- I create because 'esuaceb etaerc I.' 
- I create because 'these two tea yo demon zit!'
- I create because 'of the passion that is running through me.'
- I create because 'the world is not enough.'
- I create because 'there is a rhythm to the beat.'

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Guest Blogger: Henri Bielawski on ReOrganizing his Studio

Today we have a guest post from Henri Bielawski. He is part of The Empty House Studio team, a colleague from my Arts Management program, and a very talented metalsmith and engraver. He and I talk a lot about the tension between management school and studio time but we've been able to spur each other on to creating ... in the tension, not despite it. 

He recently installed a vent system in his studio space and reorganized his bench. I found it so interesting to see the details of a space like this that I asked him to document the process. I hope you enjoy! 

Studio Reorganization by Henri Bielawski

I was at my studio a few nights ago, testing out a new low temperature solder. During the process I burned my table with a blowtorch and the smoke and fumes that resulted made me realize I needed to get some sort of ventilation system in my studio.

So ... I began to clean up and make some changes so I could rig up an exhaust vent from my soldering station to the outside.

First, I would like to show you what my bench looked like after I took everything out of it and laid it all on to my soldering station. 

My brother, who was also cleaning the garage (the location of the studio) at the same time, prompted my studio cleaning. I had wanted to reorganize for a while, and I had a few thoughts about how to do it. Also, I knew that I had collected more tools on my bench than I needed, lacked places to put them, and needed to do something about it.

The next pic is another picture of the soldering station. Unfortunately, these are the only two before photos I have of the studio. I wanted to take more but the battery on my phone ran out of juice that day. 

Note the empty drawers on my bench. Also, I would like to make a note that this is NOT what my studio looks like at all times. I don't toss everything onto my soldering table into a giant heap like this. Most of this stuff came from the top of my bench and the drawers. As you can see I took this photo after I had partially installed the exhaust vent (the big silver pipe running out of the right hand corner of the photo. 

I did a lot of things to make more room and cut down on the amount of space I use on and inside my bench.

I had a bunch of papers, mostly drawings, sketches, and other stuff sitting on the corner of the soldering station. Never bothered me before, but honestly, its just not safe and I really didn't want any paper around at all. I decided to save all that stuff for the drafting table at home. Boom - all papers banned. 

I had a collected a freakish amount of little metal scraps. Wires, metal shards, cuttings, sawed out metal scraps, practice plates, strange experiments, old projects, cool little knickknacks, etc. For some reason as a jeweler, engraver, metalsmith you just don't want to let go of anything that is metal, even if its not really anything. These scraps got separated into boxes as materials to use later. I made a collection box for copper, brass, nickel, aluminum, steel and unknown shit-metal, and a box for plastics and plexiglass. If I need any metal I can either choose from the scraps or melt down and roll my sheet and wire as I need it. Hard work? Yes. But I have the materials and I have the ability to make it instead of buy it if I need to. 

For a long time I had a burr organizer, but the holes were too small to hold most of the 3/8th inch engraving tools that I use. I drilled the holes bigger and that got rid of about five little boxes of gravers, allen wrenches, burrs and other things on my bench. Boom - bigger holes, more tools can fit, more space.  

I had hammers IN my bench. I hung those on the wall where I can see them. 

Anyways, long story short, because this is actually getting quite boring hearing a story about how I organized my studio...
Cleaning happened.
Organizing happened.
Moving stuff out of my general work area besides the immediate tools I need happened.

This is the polishing and sharpening station. I polish things here, and I sharpen tools here too, including my gravers. You can see the green thing on the corner of the table is my rolling mill. This is where I make sheet and wire. You can't see in this picture, but the bins that I separated the metal scraps are underneath this table. 

This is my soldering station. I am going to try to keep this station as clean as possible because, well, fire. The silver duct is an exhaust. I have found that it doesn't pull enough air to be very effective, so I am going to build a hood around this area sometime soon to capture the smoke and fumes. The air compressor I use for my engraving equipment is here too (the big hunk of equipment on the top right corner of the table) and I want to move that because it is expensive and I don't want to damage it. 

This is my bench. There are many like it, but this one is mine. The blue thing is the burr organizer, a majority of the engraving tools and burrs that I use are there. You can see that the inside of my bench is pretty clean. it used to be filled with tools. I hung all my pliers to the right on the drawer.  Right now my ball vice is connected to the bench as I am beginning to work on a new and quite large engraving of a bird. My brother put a folding shelf on the top of my bench. I have only a few things on it right now but it will definitely come in handy. 

There you have it. That’s the nitty-gritty. There is so much more I could write but I'll spare you. Time to work. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Space for Art

Photo: DIY Del Ray
Our porch is lit by a strand of twinkle lights. The single strand frames the front door and sets the scene for the activity inside. Inside we have another single strand draped around an empty frame on the wall and one piled on the logs in the fireplace. What is it about these lights that subtly suggest warmth, celebration, and community? Maybe its their tie to holiday decor, maybe its their candle-like glow, but I like to think that its the way each tiny light needs the whole strand in order to light our space. Too cheesy? Maybe.

Atmosphere and space have a powerful influence on the activity happening there. In creating an atmosphere that inspires conversation and creation, I've noticed that the subtle things in a space make a big difference in communicating what is expected of its inhabitants. For our happenings, empty space is a must, a blank canvas on which the artists can create.

Happenings are meant to be collaborative studio time... sharing and being active, inspiring each other to leave with an arsenal to draw upon when alone. Sure, your best work may happen while you are alone but, whether it is choreography or painting, pottery or poetry, strumming or stir-frying, a supportive community is a must.

We've had a great couple Happenings...  Wrapping a room with canvas, collaging, felting sticks, musicians painting, salsa dancing, and discussing the difference between a purpose and a motivation behind artwork... Thanks for coming out everyone!

Do you have an idea for The Empty House Studio? ...installation art? lessons? experiments? projects?... If you want a space, you've got it. But time is ticking away. Soon this space will be gone. 

Your team at TEHS

Monday, February 4, 2013

DIY Del Ray

DIY Del Ray "celebrates the art of small spaces and the creative spirit."

My cousin alerted me to the delightful DIY Del Ray blog as we started this whole adventure and, after meeting the bloggers in person, we knew that collaboration was in our future. Sure enough, we are hosting their food swap in a few weeks with all handmade or hand-foraged foodie items.

They came to tour The Empty House Studio and posted a fabulous cover of our efforts on their blog!

Check it out!