Each winter I go through a reflection period that should really be described as creative withdrawal. I'm not sure why this is but I think that it's partly because it's the time of year I have more difficulty working in the studio. The kind of work I do can't really be done inside my house, at least not entirely. So I need a space I can cut, carve and sand wood, spray paint, etc. Part of the garage tends to be transformed into this space. But even with attempts to insulate or heat the space, it's still too cold to work the majority of the time. At one point I was able to rent a studio space. It was wonderful to be in the creative environment with other artist studios and it was a little warmer. I enjoyed the experience while it lasted.
Artists are nothing if not flexible to change. We can create pretty much anywhere. I recall reading about how Eva Hesse traveled to Germany with her husband and spent much of her time in the warehouse he was using to create his art. At that time she was a painter and he was the sculptor but she decided to explore the warehouse and started creating from the random things she found discarded there. Through that experience came she came into a body of work that otherwise may not have happened.
From personal experience, I can attest to being flexible about the space available to work. I've taken over my kitchen table and the living room, converted a second bedroom into a studio and even utilized a corner of my bedroom. On a warm sunny day, the deck or driveway served me well. I also took my work with me to art shows, which I still do. Even now I have dedicated space in the living room and garage but I create in pretty much every room and outside. But there are still limits to the kinds of things I can create in the spaces I have available. I'm a mixed media artist so I use a lot of different materials, some traditional, some not. Not everything is appropriate to work on in a house. If you've ever seen an artist studio, then you know it's a place where it's ok to get paint on the wall or sawdust on the floor. Not so much in the place your spending time with your family or cooking.
So feeling once again not whole despite the little creative projects of crocheting and sketching I am doing, and missing the creative energy from being in a space with other creatives, I started searching for a space I could work year round. Surprising, Greensboro is lacking in terms of affordable studio space. Thanks to a fellow artist who knew of a space, I now have a small studio at the Creative Aging Network-NC at Bell House. I only just signed the contract and haven't moved one thing into the space yet but already there is an excitement inside me about working again. The ideas are almost overwhelming, even for the few pieces I have in progress that I couldn't finish because of the weather. I don’t know how long this studio space will be available as the building is up for sale, but that's ok because I'm flexible. #jnicholsart #lifeofanartist
It's snowing, still, in my area. It was expected to hit us early in the morning. And this time, the threat was real. Everyone raided the grocery store on their way home, even me. Though I was in search of broccoli for the recipe I was planning for that night and creamer for my coffee because we were getting low. To my surprise, the vegetable section of the store was more barren than the milk section. I lamented not squeezing in time the day before when I was already out and about. But I wanted to get back home to finish my sketch of an owl peeking through a cluster of branches. Luckily the rush at the store was over quickly and I found one of the last heads of fresh broccoli in the organic section. Home I went with aspirations of creativity. The only creative energy I had left was to write an entry in my journal, exploring what it means to me to live a creative life. Perhaps one day I will share that entry on my blog.
Today I have found myself with a snow day, like when I was a child. Though the excitement of going out to play in the snow was short. My husband, running late because I am too talkative over our morning coffee, needed a little help getting out the door on time. Since I made him late, I packed his lunch while he was showering and rushed out the door to clean off the truck and get it started. That was enough playing in the snow for me. It's beautiful, as long as you don't have to be out on the roads. Years of working in the long term care industry have soured me on the joys of playing in the snow. It is mesmerizing. At least from the comfort of my favorite chair. I did manage to finish the book I have been reading, 'Paradise Lot'. Seems like it took me forever to finish. Not because it wasn't a good book, but because I was reading two others at the same time. It definitely rekindled my ideas for transforming the front flower bed into an edible garden. My husband cleared the bed for me after I trimmed back the overgrown bushes. A soil canvas awaits the transplanting of some of my herbs that have out grown the raised bed and greens for salads.
This rare moment has also afforded me some much needed time to create. The studio is not heated or air conditioned so there are limits to the time I can spend in there. I often find myself exploring other areas of creativity during the cold months of the year and returning to projects in progress in the spring. Some of my projects include crocheting scarves and watercolor sketches. I've been sketching owls and decided to order some printing supplies. I haven't explored print making since college. Linoleum block print making is a close cousin to wood carving. It will at least temporarily satisfy my desire to carve until I can return to my current project. I am excited about it. I love owls as much as I love flowers. This may even be the beginning of a new series for me. That is the good thing about exploring creative techniques. It opens up the mind to possibilities that have not been considered. I have thought about exploring wood block printing before and this may just be the stepping stone. It certainly would not be a complete move though. I am a mixed media artist at heart. Even now, as I finish my sketch to be transferred to the block I am thinking of the many handmade papers I have and wondering which one I should print on; if I need to glue it to a thicker mixed media paper so it won't tear when pulled from the block and how the glue will affect the print quality. A test block is definitely needed. That I have learned from jumping in too soon!
As I close, I cannot help but feel blessed that I no longer work for a company that can't close during bad weather. In years past, I would have been clutching the steering wheel, a bundle of nerves, hoping to make it in to work and a stressed out mess once I arrived. But there are jobs that require people, no matter what and we should be thankful they will go in, no matter what. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers. And remember those not blessed to have a home or shelter. They suffer the most during this harsh weather.
I'm Jennifer Nichols, a mixed media artist from North Carolina. I enjoy capturing the essence of nature through a variety of materials. I incorporate found objects such as strainers and bottle caps into my work. I am drawn to these items but it is also important to me to do my part to protect our environment by keeping things out of the land fill.