Today’s Artist Interview is with Karin Olah who I met through mutual artist friends in Charleston. She has an amazing show up right now (through Nov 1) up at City Gallery of her paintings that incorporate textiles (LOVE). In order to help spread the word I wanted to share her studio space and interview, now while you can go see her work in person! I’m thrilled to share Karin’s studio organizing tips and have her share her more about her process and creative space in this interview. These photo’s are not styled in any way, in fact the visit was totally unplanned and spontaneous so this is typical of what his working studio looks like on an average day.
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.
Interview and Studio Sneak Peek Part I
HKPS::What age did you suspect or know you were an artist?
KO::According to my family folklore, as a toddler, I was denied coloring books but encouraged to use blank paper to make my own pictures. Lucky me, I grew up in a home full of art supplies (My mother was a painter and an art teacher, my father – a landscape architect). We called Lancaster County, Pennsylvania – home. On a daily commute, you can see Amish and Mennonite farms – and see their beautiful quilts hanging on the wash lines. I learned to love and appreciate quilts and began sewing and collecting fabric as a young girl.
HKPS::What mediums do you work with and are there specific tools or materials you find challenging to keep organized or locate when you need to use them?
KO::The elephant in the room is my collection of fabric – arranged by color on a large wire shelving unit from a kitchen supplier. I organize my paints and mediums by color and type. My framing supplies and tool all have a home in this killer hand-made taboret – something I once traded for a painting. Pencils, scissors, paint brushes are bouquets of art supplies in flower pots. An antique cabinet hides my messy paperwork and miscellaneous gift-wrapping/disaster area.
HKPS:: Where do you make your art, how big is your studio and how long have you been in this space?
KO::My current space is a 2-story guest cottage just 12 steps from my back door on James Island. We moved in here in 2014. The space is divided into a downstairs creative space – about 12 x 12 feet – and a bathroom where I do my hand-dying. I display finished paintings on the landing and in the upstairs loft there’s a sofa and queen bed. I’ve never had a chance to take a nap in it, but my overnight guests are comfy there. When I need extra space, I work outside in the courtyard, or let wet painting dry upstairs.
HKPS::How many projects are you usually working on at once? Is this due to space constraints, creative process, organizing systems or other influences?
KO::I work on 4 or 5 pieces simultaneously to allow for drying time. My process involves an under-drawing, layers of paint, arranging fabric, the tricky and time-consuming layer of adhering the fabric with archival rice starch, and then more painting, and more drawing. Some days I’m a scissor-crazy fabric girl and other days I just a painter. I prefer to work flat on a table, laying out fabric and making decisions before I glue. When I work large (like 40 x 60 inches), I hang the painting on my back wall or use my cool easel that can fold down to a table top for the fabric layer process. I’ve started working on diptychs and triptychs as a way to concentrate on smaller individual paintings that take on more oomph when grouped together. Plus! It’s easier to fit on my studio desk, and fit in my Subaru, and makes shipping affordable.
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?
KO::My set up is nearly the same as the last 6 studios I had – one at Redux, a commandeered 2-car garage, a church basement, a bedroom, a home office, etc. I have an L-shaped desk made of luan blank doors, sandwiched with a space that works as a flat file for paper, unfinished art, a wet palette, or anything to keep clear of my toddlers’ adorable fingerprints. Having to child-proof the studio has been a new frustration in organizing adventures. It takes my 2 year old just a second to start collaborating with my work in progress. I have to hide the inks, pastels, and dyes – the things the kids are most drawn to.
HKPS::Is making art your primary “job” or source of income? How much time do you spend in your studio weekly/daily?
KO::When I have a show or project coming up, I work 40 hours a week – 10 of which is in front of a computer, doing marketing, inventory, emails, and website stuff. In between shows, I take commissions, make gifts, and experiment with ideas for the next series. Then, I’m clocking closer to 10 hours a week. I supplement my art job as a Client Happiness Officer for Alyson Stanfield (http://ArtBizCoach.com). I’m an assistant for her live events and online workshops that teach marketing and how to build a thriving art business.
Thank you Karin for sharing with us a bit about your space and how you use your studio space and store your materials! Learn more from Karin about how she organizes her space and any tips she has to share in Part II. Also, check out her beautiful show at City Gallery from 2015.
Is there a particular artist whose ‘Tool kit’ you would like to see featured? Leave a comment below and let me know!