Lost in Fiber | archives + preservation initiatives

The Living Room Studio

Posted on: Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Ruth Asawa's Living Room, San Francisco, 1969

I had so many interesting conversations this past week with artist and maker friends in San Francisco regarding their studio set ups and the curation of objects within their space.

One of the themes that seemed to emerge (in this era of Instagram documentation and perpetual sharing via social media), was the role that visual archiving plays in true creative development and the overall form-building process within the workspace or home studio.

Artists tend to be hoarders or at least collectors of items that have some resonance with their own creations, or not. I have a sculptor friend from Brazil who does not live with any of her pieces as she sees this to be a distraction from her process and the sanctity of her home life. 

A glimpse into Kirsten Muenster's jewelry crafting process in San Francisco

There is something so rewarding, though, about understanding the thought and craft that goes into art and design objects when coupled with the way that a maker occupies and arranges their world. Their final pieces seem to be more of a visual distillation of the field of information that the individual is constantly filtering through on a day-to-day basis.

Kirsten Muenster's jewelry worktable with succulents providing micro-landscapes

Interior/exterior dynamics in the Bay Area are so environmentally and historically rich. This was highlighted for me while visiting Sasha Duerr's 'Soil to Studio' class at the California College of the Arts in Oakland last week. It seems essential that students would now need to understand why and how the soil beneath their feet (as they navigate to and from class) needs to be meaningfully connected to the work that they do and propose for the future.

Bird's eye view of 'Soil to Studio' plant-based dye experiments 
by California College of the Arts undergraduates

Sasha's work in 'permacouture' as well her poetic cultivation and documentation of natural dye processes at her 'Dinner to Dye For' events and 'Weed Your Wardrobe' workshops provides a refreshing alternative to the traditional studio setting bound by four walls.

Detail from a 'Weed Your Wardrobe' workshop (image via the Permacouture Institute)

I am, of course, still processing many of the conversations that took place during my time in California, but one thing that I am now convinced of is how place genuinely influences creative outlook and possibly one's attitude towards the harvesting of materials. 

A January window in Russian Hill, San Francisco

For me, the key to living and working sustainably is the relationship that one has with the most mundane items in one's home or studio. Seeing beauty in the ordinary, valuing the 'ugly', and even whittling the edges of existence with redundant chores, is something that comes from time spent re-positioning and integrating forms in unexpected ways. 

Perhaps this is what the next chapter holds for me? Tools for living, tools for digging deeper, tools for letting more light in, whatever the contextual framework might be.


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