As of September 1st, I moved out of a beloved space, and into a new space as an artist without an official studio space for creating. After 7 years in my Canmore art studio that I shared with artist and dear friend, Barb Fyvie, we received notice that our landlord needed the space back.
This is not a blog to rant about this all-to-common dilemma in a space-scarce community, nor is it a ‘poor is me’ post. It’s an update (for those of you who hadn’t heard through my other social sites) and a place to share some wisdom I learned as I moved through this unexpected experience.
When life hands you lemonade…
Don’t get me wrong: getting the news wasn’t all happiness and roses. Barb and I had some sad moments over wine. BUT, when something this big happens, my automatic go-to is to ask: what’s the gift?
This usually leads me down a path of really looking at what can be gained by the situation, rather than focusing on what is lost. Going through the process of moving, I had to touch every piece of art I created, every art tool and stock and ink I stored … I had so much STUFF that I had set aside at one time or another in my studio to make into something else … what a job! Although most people can relate, I know all my artist friends are also laughing because, as an artist, you see a creative possibility in everything!
As I sorted, I began to see the gifts. I got to connect with paintings and wood carvings and drawings I had done a long time ago and realized — in my zest to embrace everything printmaking — I kind of missed some of those other mediums, like this pencil drawing I came across in a portfolio from many years ago, and some photos of wood carvings I had done.
If you have more space, you just fill it up
The studio in Canmore came at a time when I had been working out of a garage, but moved and found our new garage was dusty and unheated. Not very practical for Canadian winters. Then, I found space to rent with Barb and it was spacious…I wondered if I could ever fill it.
By my last few years in the space (photo below) I usually had to let something go when I found something new.
As I moved and faced the enormous task of clearing through my ample storage area (that was behind strategically-placed curtains) I actually found many things that were stored but seldom seen. A good example was my plastic bin of twigs. I’d brought these twigs from Calgary 7 years before and just laughed because, as my husband used to joke with me, “we don’t have trees in Canmore”. I kept these twigs as arms for my carved wooden snow people that I hadn’t carved in about 4 years. But, you never know, right? Geez…those got the toss.
It’s just one example of hanging on to something because I had oodles of room. Why do we never seem to sort and sift and organize? Because it takes so bloody long. Believe me, if I hadn’t had to, I wouldn’t have taken the time, either. Trouble is, I would have gone on being weighed down with stuff that I was likely never going to use.
If you don’t love it, don’t lug it
Barb had discovered Marie Kondo right about the time of the move, and found her ‘Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up‘ book to be really helpful. One of Marie’s questions for keeping or chucking stuff is “does it spark joy?”. I thought this was a great question, too.
Many things I had kept because they were practical. Often, it was something (a cool paper, a discarded photo, beads, wire string and more) that could become part of the many projects I wanted to do “in the future”. But the future hadn’t come in about 5 years. So, it was time to let go.
Barb and I both tried our best to find uses for these things we were letting go, like the call out from a local art teacher with a very limited budget. We put together two big boxes of art and craft supplies that made their way into the classroom to be used, rather than sitting in a bin waiting for the future to come.
You can’t take it with you
One of the challenges of having a much smaller space (and a firm goal to not spend money on a storage locker) means you can’t take everything with you. The process of reviewing everything and assessing the good from the bad was hard, but it got easier with every piece crunched or thrown out.
As I went through old art, half-finished projects and looked at them with an eye that only the passage of time can give you, I realized I had made some really bad art. But, that’s OK because I could clearly see the kernels of a good idea or the lessons that lead to something much better.
Another tough process was destroying and letting go of some of my old printmaking blocks. They were bulky and heavy. Between cards and linocut prints, I had over a hundred blocks in storage! Many I could never print from, as they were crumbling, and others were part of a limited edition that would not be printed again. Others I let go of just to make way for the new. I did keep one bin of many linocut blocks that “sparked joy” for me. I also knew I would be making more (and probably better ones), so I made my peace and moved beyond it.
Feeling the love of my community
Barb and I both said that the best thing that came out of our space was meeting each other. We will always have that, and the great memories of the many creative sessions, collaborative art tours and more that we created in that space. I also have a really great family who understood what a big deal this was for me. They supported me through this tough period: they let me cry, patted my back, put a glass of wine in my hand, and stepped up to help. One of the biggest accomplishments was moving my almost 300-pound antique Chandler Press (made to last!!) down three flights of stairs, up on the back of a truck and out again into our home. It just about killed my husband and boys, but they proudly displayed their ‘guns’ after that epic move.
I must also shout out to my wonderful friends and followers on social media who bucked me up during the three-month move by sharing their words of wisdom, encouragement and well wishes for a creative future. It’s a community that is just so lovely.
Where to now?
The last night in my studio before we handed over the keys, I saw this amazing beam of light coming in through the window. I had always loved the light in this studio space. I sat on the floor, pooped out with moving and cleaning, and just soaked it in. It felt peaceful and complete, not really sad because I knew that I would find other spaces to create.
Will I miss this space? Absolutely (look at that view – seriously!). Will not having a designated studio for new stop me from moving forward with my art? Hell no. As nice at this space was, I know my art comes from inside, and that I can find inspiration anywhere.
Coming out the other end of this studio move, I have found myself to be lighter because I have less stuff, and better organized because I had a chance to find the right spot for all my things that made sense. And, I have this crazy sense of freedom that I can go anywhere from here. Painting, carving, printmaking … whatever takes my fancy. And, with a world open to possibilities, I look forward to grabbing whatever is next.