Welcome to Part II of my interview with Susan Gregory! If you missed Part I where she shared her painting studio please go back to last week’s post here. This week Susan shares her ceramic working space at Cone 10 and how organizing affects her ceramic process. Thanks for sharing this aspect of your creative work with us as well Susan! This is a very different type of work and space and there is much to be learned from shared spaces.
HKPS::What age did you suspect or know you were an artist?
SG-C10::I fell for clay while living in the mountains of NC (age 24). My boyfriend (now husband) and I went to his friends’ house for dinner. She had a clay studio under the house and showed me some basics.
HKPS::What mediums do you work with?
SG-C10::I mostly use porcelain but have now also started using black stoneware. At cone 10, we fire mostly gas, high-fire reduction (to the pyrometric temperature of cone 10/2380approx) in our community kiln. In San Francisco, the studio fires electric and I have been introduced to cone 5/6 oxidation there, which I find surprisingly pleasing. I plan to integrate electric fire into my studio time at cone 10 with the black stoneware.
HKPS:Where do you make your art, how big is your studio and how long have you been in this space?
SG-C10::Cone 10 is located on the upper peninsula in a flourishing part of town. When we moved here (June 2010), no one could even visualize where we were. We had to explain that if you keep driving on East Bay, about a ½ mile past the bridge, next to Martha Lou’s, that’s us! We lucked out with our space and it has great light and ample room for our vibrant community of 30 members. It’s about 3800 sq feet and houses studio members as well as classes and cottage industry (CBFB tablescapes-see below).
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?
SG-C10::Our building has wacky history. It housed a car dealership, then a synagogue, then an ice cream truck operation. We had a Noah’s ark mural/motif going in Fiorenzo’s studio/CBFB. We busted out some walls in the large front area and scraped the floor of old linoleum tile. There was a stage and projection booth there. Refurbishing just to get the openness we needed was a grueling job. It was done by us, generously-spirited friends and family to keep costs low (I bet there are still some that shudder at the memory of that time). The back already had sinks for dish washing so we outfitted the sink to allow for clay cleanup. We moved from a location that was much smaller so having the ability to expand and articulate the space as we needed was refreshing although hard work. There are things we can improve on but the studio has a nice flow and works with our process well.
HKPS::Do you consider yourself to be an organized person?
SG-C10::We try to be organized and some of us are much more detail-oriented than others. We try to capitalize on that and not frustrate them (hahA)! Some people are better at different jobs than others and that sorts out pretty well. Having many of us is mostly a huge attribute, ‘many hands make light work’, but sometimes it s a lot to consider in keeping order.
HKPS::Have you ever worked with another artist or gallery? If so did you learn any systems for organizing?
SG-C10::Many moons ago, I worked as a gallery manager. The work I represented was completely different than my own and I can’t think of anything specifically that helped me in terms of organization but I did get a gist for how things can operate on the other side. I now work with/ share ownership in cone 10 studios. We are artist run and pretty casual but it keeps me straddling both worlds pretty well.
HKPS::How or where else have you learn your organizing habits and systems?
SG-C10::Several of us have worked in other group studios either in the Low country or elsewhere. I know I’m constantly taking notes on my studio in SF to see if I can cross-pollinate with cone 10 organizing. With ceramics, there are a lot of logistics to consider in terms of water and clay refuse clean up. Also, safety with the elements is a consideration as well as working with artists at all different experience levels who know less about proper methods.
HKPS::What types of schedules, systems, tools or processes do you use to help maintain organization in your studio? Would you like to share any tips?
SG-C10::We really work to be democratic in our responsibilities. Cone 10 doesn’t have employees so all studio members are needed to keep us running. We require members to provide 2 hours of service each month. With firings, folks pitch in as needed with loading and unloading and those that use communal glazes mix them as they are needed. There is a task sheet where members can check off accomplished activities. In terms of the gallery, some members maintain sales while working in the studio. It is a balance of organic and organized.
HKPS::How many projects are you usually working on at once? Is this due to space constraints, creative process, organizing systems or other influences?
SG-C10::We often have classes, studio member work flow, big commercial orders and exhibition deadlines cooking up at once. We try to give precedence to those that are working under pressure but the kiln is always communal with work from everyone.
HKPS::How often do you purge, clean or de-clutter your supply stash and space due to space or other constraints?
SG-C10::In the communal studios, where we share wheels and teach classes as well as use equipment, it is expected that each artist cleans up after their session of use. That includes disposing properly of scraps, cleaning shared tools, wiping surfaces, sweeping and mopping around their area. The individual studios are left more to the artists’ discretion and sometimes we get a little friendly nudge from our neighbors to hop to it.
Before an exhibition or event, we call all members to come together and clean up the space. We break up the tasks and usually it only takes a half a day between everyone’s schedules. It’s a lot like having company come to your home and having the forced straightening that comes with that. It takes a big push of energy but it’s really rewarding once done.
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? How do you store/archive your work or records?
SG-C10::Because of the complexity and duration of process, we are all encouraged to edit our work. It’s one of the hardest lessons, especially for those that are just past being thrilled for creating a recognizable form, but it is of incredible valuable. To fire, there is much effort and financial/environmental cost, plus storage becomes a premium when so many artists share space. Our body of work as artists is enriched with the strategic plucking of less than pieces.
Many of us work in larger sculpture and rotate exhibitions, we try to carve out space in the communal areas to help store works and then we have an attic as well.
In sharing space, as with everything, there is much goodwill involved and we are lucky in having a community rich in grace and generosity.
My greatest wish is that through seeing how other artist work we can learn from one another. There is no ONE correct system or way of organizing. There are as many creative systems as their creative makers! My aim is to highlight these unique makers in each interview. A HUGE thank you to Susan for inviting us into both of her studios and sharing her personalized and group systems about how organizing affects her creative process. Please check out her work over at her website and please check back, I hope to meet up with some of the other ceramic artists working at Cone 10 Studio in the near future, there are some great artists there.
* Inside the Studio was my brainchild in 2011. There are a lot of popular studio features on the web and in magazines but I’m specifically interested in showing how organizational process influences the artists studio work. These photo’s are not styled and are typical of how the artists working studio looks. I request that each artist leave their space as it would be on a daily basis (just like I ask my clients). This series is meant to highlight how artist REALLY work rather than showing STYLED shots (popular in home and organizing magazines and blogs). I’m sure just like me, you are fascinated by the “behind the scenes” sneak peek into these artists working lives!