Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Open Studios Can Open Your World

Lynn Goldstein in her studio with Li Nan
Recently, someone asked my opinion about having an open studio. As a result, I have been thinking seriously about the answer. But first, what is an open studio? An open studio is one where the public is welcome to come see artists at work, and it is an option to consider depending on an individual artist's temperament. I can only speak for myself, and I can state with certainty that it works for me at this point in time. My studio is located at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, Virginia, which was formerly a prison. The Workhouse has approximately 60 studios. You can find glass, ceramics, paintings, drawings, jewelry, fiber art, photography and more at the Workhouse. Additionally,  you may visit the artists at work in their studios.

When a studio is open to the public, work will be interrupted by visitors coming into one's work area. It is next to impossible to know how an artist will respond to such occurrences until they happen. I am an extrovert, so this is not something that is troubling to me unless what I am working on requires extreme concentration. Often, open studios are run a lot like cooperatives. In many respects, an open studio is like a typical office, with personalities (some good, some bad) to match. From my perspective, the positive attributes far outweigh the negative ones. If you think that having visitors almost daily will be difficult for you to manage, you may want a studio arrangement where the studios are open only at certain times throughout the year, or are not open to the public at all.

Since I have rented an open studio, I have met fellow artists who have inspired me with their creativity, their work ethic and their talent. I have received valuable information from artist friends who have let me know about opportunities to show my work, to judge shows, to teach workshops and to apply for artist residencies. In fact, as a result of having a studio, I will be collaborating with a glass artist, David Barnes. I will be writing more about this in another posting. This opportunity would never have presented itself had I not had a studio. Additionally, the visitors to my studio have become students, collectors, friends and helpers in my work.  I have become comfortable talking about my art, my process and my history. I have also just had fun with the artists that share space with me and the visitors that come to see my work. 

Willow Pond © 2013 David Barnes

As an example of fascinating encounters, just a few weeks ago a young woman came into my studio. She would be recognized in her native country of China, as she is a television announcer in Beijing. We had a interesting conversation and posed for pictures together. Yesterday, I had a visitor from my home state of West Virginia. Upon seeing my admiration for trees, he asked if I would be interested to know that West Virginia, with its unique ecosystem, is home to 800- year- old trees. He asked if I would be interested in seeing and painting them. Would I? You bet I would! If I didn't rent an open studio, these encounters would never occur, and I am grateful for them. So, there are several aspects about your own personality and working habits to consider before renting in an open studio environment, but for me it is working beautifully.