Today’s Art Studio Organizing-Mary Carol Koester of Azalea Bindery. Mary Carol is a book artist I met through a mutual friend while in Asheville back in January. I was so excited to be able to visit her working home studio and meet her in person while I was there. I’m so happy to share this sneak peek into Mary Carol’s studio. These photo’s are not styled so this is typical of what her working studio looks like on an average day.
Art Studio Organizing-Mary Carol Koester Interview Part I
HKPS::Please introduce yourself by sharing some or all of the following:
When did you realized were an artist?
MCK::I didn’t acknowledge it for a long time. My brother was the artist in our family and we all felt unequal to his gift. However, I always made things. My friends were artists. My best friend was a potter. I became a forester. At one point, she said, “I’ve had it with the art world” and I said, “I’ve had it with all the controversy”. She turned to nature, I turned to art.
What materials you work with?
MCK::I work with silk, linen, leather, paper, paints, adhesives, cord, thread, board, various hand tools, and large heavy cutters and presses. I was always organized but I would still have to look for things at times during the day. I have so many different materials and supplies to keep track of.
Is making art your primary source of income? Do you have a partner who helps to support you?
MCK::I consider art my primary job, however, income from my business augments a small retirement annuity.
How much time do you spend in your studio weekly/daily?
MCK::I work about 36 hours per week, sometimes more.
HKPS::Where do you make your art, how big is your studio and how long have you been in this space?
MCK::I make my art in a converted garage which is 380 sq.ft. Eight years ago, I installed a tile floor, wallboard, heavy insulation, windows, sliding glass doors, a stove, extensive lighting, and shelving around the upper 4 ft. of the whole room. I installed (3) 6’x4’ work tables w. underneath shelving and flat file drawers plus a separate 5 drawer flat file.
HKPS::When you began working in this space did you plan any systems for the overall set up or did you let things evolve organically? How did past studio spaces or systems influence this space?
MCK::By the time I set up this space, I had already set up 3 professional binderies and a book arts school. I was taught early on that equipment use dictates the room set up. I used graph paper and small pieces of paper cut to scale which represented everything that had to go in the room and how the work flow would be managed. I don’t think I could devise a better set up than I have now. I’ve given it a lot of thought.
HKPS::Do you use personal objects & memorabilia in your art? Do you collect memento’s, found objects or other “stuff” that keep in your studio? Collections of ephemera? Anything that evokes your childhood or playful nature=sense of humor (ironic, kitschy)?
MCK::I got kind of carried away with this…I collect Jackie Kennedy Onassis memorabilia and because people would see some of my collection, they would send me all things Jackie. I also have a few female deities and a picture of my mother who died in 2011.
HKPS::Do these collections ever overwhelm you and if so how do you decide when to edit them?
MCK::When I did a major reorganization last year, I had to box up most of the books and small objects and put them in storage. I miss seeing them but I love the extra space.
HKPS:: Do you have a muse, mascot or area that you dedicate as an altar? OR-do you have any rituals, superstitions or routines you practice regularly in your studio?
MCK::I do have a little altar and I keep several talismans which have meaning to me and tiny objects d’art I like, the green daughter goddess, Tara, and fabric patterns designed by William Morris. I also hang quotes that represent concepts I want to digest. It’s just a little corner but it has lots of meaning for me. I keep fresh flowers around, too.
I’m amazingly strict about where liquids are placed. They usually need a cap and have to be off the work surfaces. (see if you can find the un-capped cup in one of these photos, leave it in the comment below:)
HKPS::How much thought do you give to your artistic body of work in terms of historic value and the overall legacy you will leave behind?
MCK::I tell my clients I guarantee my work for my lifetime and that it’s lifespan is about 200 years.
HKPS::How do you store/archive your work or records?
MCK::I am studious about archival materials and reversible techniques. I have all my important work professionally photographed.
Thank you Mary Carol for for sharing a bit of your personal creative process and your organized and productive studio space! In Part II I have more from her about organizing tips, systems and advice. Mark your calendars to go see her work in the Asheville area (Weaverville) at Art Safari May 7-8.
*The idea for the Inside the Artist Studio series began while attending an art retreat where I curiously observed the differences in the creative cycle of order and chaos and what that looks like for different individuals. I’m very interested in sharing how organizing affects the artist’s creative process. Some systems and order are vital to our creative PLAY and learning to find a balance that works to enhance your creativity is what I hope to share with you through these interviews.
Is there a particular artist whose ‘Tool kit’ you would like to see featured? Leave a comment below and let me know!