Thursday, April 19, 2012

System Restore

I have been hard at the cleaning and reorganization of my studio in Lambertville, now that I have finally settled on a date: the afternoon of Sunday May 6, which is also the date of the full moon! The online exhibition of my work with Galerie Cerulean has been archived, HERE. I was happy with the work and with its reception, and just feel like celebrating a restart to go with my Re:Vision! So cleaning, moving furnishings, and preparing to share it all with friends who might be able to join me for an open studio is an end in itself as far as I'm concerned.

I couldn't help thinking about my studio and the spaces which have preceeded it, and I'd love to show you photos of ALL the work spaces I've had over the years. But herein follow a couple shots of two of my prior studios, and my current space when I first was looking at the building.

After moving to western NJ, I set up my studio 4 times in my first 3 years -- the last one was quite a nice space, but over a laundromat and the building was not a healthy place for me to be. Out here it was very difficult to find anything suitable for a studio away from home, so I reluctantly gave in to the idea of buying a building for my work. The building I found had been a potter's studio for about 25 years, a cabinetmakers workshop before that, and before that, a men's club! Prior to that, I heard, a pair of elderly sisters lived out their days in the small, older part of the building, which is entirely of stone and was built in the mid-19th century; the cement block addition in back, where I work, was the men's club in the '40s I think, called the "Top Rock Club." My wonderful building has lots of unique characteristics which won't be pictured here; neither will the benevolent spirits, whose presence I felt as soon as we met.

I'll begin with this shot of my fantastic studio at Hunter's Point Shipyard in San Francisco. This was my second studio in that complex, and I worked there for about 14 years. What you're seeing through the windows is fog.

In 2003, we left San Francisco after having lived there 18 years, and came to western New Jersey, near Lambertville. At first we rented, and I had a studio at home. Then I rented a small space in Frenchtown; and then moved across the street when the space above the laundromat became available. There was a lot to love about that studio, below.

All I could see was the open space and the light; but over time the air in the building was a problem, so I started looking for somewhere else. By this time, we were living in our own home, a farmhouse near Lambertville (thank you, crazy SF real estate market!). But the spaces available for rent were too refined for painting. After a long search, I took a look at an appealingly run-down building which had been on the market about 3 years. There were issues with the zoning and there was a lot of work needed. This building would not be for everyone, which is how it managed to wait for me, I guess. The wonderful potter who owned it had a nice small showroom in the older part in front, with gallery lighting, and did his ceramic work in the back. Here are some shots taken on our first visit.

I was terrified at what I was taking on! No insulation, no interior walls in parts, a concrete floor, woodstoves for heat, and lighting as shown. When the builder got to work, an infestation of carpenter ants and termites was discovered between the roof sheathing and the top layer of roofing, which had been repaired with duct tape. There were buckets of standing water in a space between a ceiling and the roof. But the space was big and open, supported by that enormous iron beam -- probably donated by one of the members of the Top Rock Club, I figure!

The interior was gutted, almost the entire roof had to be rebuilt because of the insects. In the process, we enlarged one skylight that had been in a small design studio off to the right of this lowest shot, and added another just like it. On the advice of the previous owner, we lost about an inch or so of barely adequate ceiling height (my only regret, I would love 10-15 feet of height), by adding radiant heat to the floor and covering it with plywood -- no regret there!

Here's how it looked when it was finally done, below. I anguished at every step, but I love my studio, and enjoy leaving for work. Some people really like to work at home, but I like to leave, and go to my private, usually closed, stone building, with no windows but up to the sky, no phone. I close the door and forget what's out there; but when I want a break, there's a canal path, the Delaware River, Rojo's Roastery, and the Big Bear Natural Foods Store, just a few steps away. Even Rago's Auction House provides me with some diversion with their previews. There are bookstores, like Panoply, and Phoenix -- and the Golden Nugget flea market provides me with all sorts of junk I can sometimes actually use. But once I get in that door, I can be entirely alone in that cluster of activity, and I guess that's really my happiest kind of existence -- maybe from being the middle child in a large, chaotic Irish-Italian family. I thrive on solitude, as long as I know it is my choice.

You can see my native mess in some more current images of my studio, with recent work, in the blog Structure and Imagery, thanks to artist Paul Behnke. Or visit me in person, May 6, or by appointment.


  1. Thanks for the story of the studios, and my! you sure did transform your current space into a very beautiful one.

    1. Thank you, Altoon! It looks like a gallery in that last photo -- now cluttered of course with work tables piled with stuff, and bookshelves piled with books and supplies, and storage racks, piled .... getting better this week though, since I'm moving things around and cleaning. Have to stop though and get back to PAINTING!

  2. An incredible space! And you put it to great use.

    1. oh! thank you, Paul -- sorry I didn't see this until just now, not meaning to be rude. I appreciate your kindness very much.


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