In this week’s sneak peek we return Inside the studio of Sam Hunter of Hunter’s Design Studio. I met Sam at Quilt Market and interviewed her in her old studio in 2013. When we last spoke she promised to invite us back after her move and I’m so excited she did! Sam has set up a practical and organized studio and here she shares her tips and suggestions. Also check out her old space here and compare the systems she kept and changed in her new space.
*These photos are not styled so this is typical of what his working studio looks like on an average day.
In the Studio with Sam Hunter-Part I
Please See my first interview with Sam HERE to learn more about her background as a Quilt Artist.
HKPS:: Is making art your primary source of income? How does this affect the aesthetic or process of your work or create pressure for you to produce?
Sam:: I design quilt patterns, so I make a lot of quilts while I’m working those out. There certainly is a pressure to produce, especially for the industry Quilt Market cycles (May and October). I also have relationships with fabric companies, so often I have to produce something quickly from their fabric, and these samples are used to market their fabrics and my patterns and are shown to catalog companies – another avenue for selling patterns.
In terms of aesthetics, I strive to make things that are makeable – I try not to make things that are so hard to make you might quit quilting in frustration! Also, it’s important that I make things that require sizes and cuts of fabric that are available to customers.
HKPS:: How much time do you spend in your studio weekly/daily?
Sam:: Studio and office/desk are no longer in the same room in my latest space, so hard to say, but I probably log 30-40 hours between them in any given week. Some weeks are all about the desk, others week are all about the sewing machine (I tend to work in blocks).
HKPS:: Do you enjoy the company of music, other people, or anything else, or do you prefer to work in solitude?
Sam:: I’m definitely a solitude lover, and usually a silent solitude person. If I’m sewing something terribly tedious or repetitive I’ll save it for the weekend and invite friends to come sew with me as it makes the time pass. I might keep something going on Netflix (has to be something I know so I don’t care if I miss a scene0). I’ve tried working to podcasts and for the most part can’t deal with them…either I make mistakes because I’m concentrating on the words instead of the work, or I feel yelled at after an hour, and I end up not relaxing into the work.
HKPS:: Where do you make your art, how big is your studio and how long have you been in this space?
Sam:: My newest studio is the living room of my 2-bedroom apartment, and I’ve been here 3 months. It’s 12′ x 15,’ and I have another 10′ of dining room to stretch into if I need it. My office is in a corner of the master bedroom, which it shares with my “living room” stuff. I sleep in the smallest bedroom. I feel like I’m making the best use of the spaces even though to an outsider it looks pretty goofy.
HKPS:: Is there anything you find distracting or choose to leave out of your studio space?
Sam:: I had the computer in the studio for the last three years, so having it separate is something new. I like that I don’t default to sitting in front of the computer anymore, and it makes the time in the studio richer and sweeter. I can load up an iPad in the studio if I need sound or TV or a quick peek at the internet, but it’s far less convenient, so I don’t do it. I added an armchair to my studio space so I could sit comfortably and reflect on my work, take a call, or sip a cuppa.
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?
Sam:: The layout is based on what I’ve learned in other spaces – it’s not terribly different than my last space. I have baseboard heaters here, which necessitated changing my design walls (my last ones were portable, but in this studio it’s built onto the wall) and they also mean that I can’t put certain things near the heaters, so the layout didn’t have a lot of flexibility. In this studio, the things around the edges don’t move, but everything in the middle can shift. This allows me to manage different sized of projects and different numbers of people.
I also pay attention if I always look in a specific place for something… If I do that a couple of times and it’s not there then perhaps that’s where I should move it. In this studio all the power outlets were behind things, so I invested in long extension cords with flat heads to that I could chase them out from behind things. You’ll see black cords hanging on hooks in the pictures – those are my extension cords. I’m happy that I didn’t lose access to that functionality. And If I ever build a studio from scratch I will plant a lot of outlets in the floor!
Like many people on a budget, I use Ikea heavily for storage solutions. My cutting table is 2 Ikea kitchen carts connected together (below) with hooks. I like the storage underneath and the drawers – and I can disconnect them and wheel them out of the way if I need to shape-shift the studio.
HKPS:: How do you create “zones” for different phases or aspects (mediums) of your work? For example, in kitchen design we refer to the “work triangle.” Do you find any similar arrangements useful in your space?
Sam:: I keep the iron close by, but far enough away that I have to get up to use it (move the body!). I like sitting close to the design wall to sew as I frequently work a project on and off the wall as I sew to keep it all organized. Fabric stays together – in fact all things of a similar ilk are kept together. The cutting table is between the iron and the design wall.
HKPS:: How do collections, personal objects, memento’s, or found objects (playful sense of humor, ironic, kitschy, etc) show up in your studio space or artwork?
Sam:: I LOVE to be surrounded by the bits and bobs that inspire me. I’m a word girl, through and through, and I’m a sucker for motivational words, so my major studio play space is full of words. I have a few shelves of knick knacks too, but they don’t get in the way of the tools. Everything is out of the way allowing me to work effectively (check out the Lego minifigs on the top of the bulletin boards). I have a lot of stuff that is close at hand or stored in a way that it lives right where I will need to be using it. For instance, my studio tracking sheets are dangling off the bottom of my main bulletin board, and next to a flat surface (which is where I write on them), next to a pot of pens (so I CAN write on them), and close to my calendar which is where I keep track of the days. I would file it elsewhere, as then it would be inefficient to keep digging it out.
HKPS:: How and when do you curate or edit your materials, including supplies and tools?
Sam:: I love a good cull, and I do them often – usually at the end of a big project or start of a new project. I’m also big on ending my year with everything tidy, so I tend to clean and finish my way through December every year, landing on January 1st with a clean slate, few unfinished projects lingering, and ready to go. If I use a tool or product and dislike it I give it away. And I do frequent giveaways of my fabric scraps to keep them out of my studio (I’m not much of a scrap quilter, so they can just pile around me and drive me nuts!). I get to work with pre-release fabrics, and the fabric companies are usually very onboard for me giving the fabric away as a tease or promotion, so it serves a lot of purposes in one!
HKPS:: Do you have a mantra, 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?
Sam:: No altar – just the positive words and things that make me smile in my sightline. I have a few decks of cards of inspirational words, and I periodically pull them for inspiration or to jog my thinking out of a rut. I do meditate daily, if only for 5 minutes, just to calm the head chatter. One of the things I say to myself often is, “You got this, You’ll figure it out.” I”m pretty resourceful, and as a creative person I tend to solve my problems creatively. That said, I also have a great network of really smart people who are my friends, and I know I can take a problem to them if I’m stuck.
ARTIST LEGACY & PROCESS
HKPS:: How or where do you feed your curiosity or learn new creative techniques? Do you attend workshops, retreats, or classes online to help you evolve both creatively and in your art business?
Sam:: It’s easy, when business building, to spend all your time in creative output, and it can drain you dry. I do occasional workshops, but usually not in anything related to fabric. I’m fascinated by book arts and hand lettering. I re-upped my museum membership recently (Portland Art Museum) and I bought one that allowed me to bring a guest, so now I can grab a pal for an art date. I’m test driving spending a half hour daily before the computer turns on in doing creative reading – either art tomes or business books – and I like how it feels. Any day that starts at the sewing machine rather than the computer also tends to be a better one. I think it’s important to sing in our own voice before we let all the other voices in – it helps strengthen our voices.
HKPS:: Where do you show your work?
Sam:: It’s all on my site (the stuff I make for sale) and everything else in on Instagram. My IG feed isn’t as curated and targeted as it could be (not white and pretty), but it’s what I’m up to, and I find my followers appreciate the human aspect of that. It’s not full of animals and kiddos, but there is an occasional food picture in there!
I don’t formally exhibit my work much – I have some issues competing in the quilt world, so I just don’t engage in it. I do have a rusty fine art practice – mostly in the back seat due to hustling to grow the business.
Next week we’ll be back to share more tips from Sam. In the meantime, hop over and check out her website or other social sites.
*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!