The lockdown period for me coincided with a transition between studio spaces. I was anticipating being away from London in March until the summer and I had moved all my studio belongings into a storage unit in February, so when lockdown kicked in I found myself without access to a studio or workspace. Despite this disorientation, I was able to make a little at my home which was a welcome distraction to the general uncertainty of the time and inability to make any long term plans. It gave me time to appreciate the space of a studio, and how the act of making is an important part of my life. Over the past 10 years I have occupied a variety of different spaces, each influencing my work in different ways, and allowing me to develop the close and spacial kind of friendships that can only be found through the sharing of creative spaces.
I feel incredibly lucky when I think back to my time studying sculpture at Edinburgh College of Art. We had beautiful airy studios, in the old part of the college, with views looking on to the castle. I had a great group of peers surrounding me and excellent tutors, who encouraged me to think bigger and to create larger scale pieces.
After studying, and a brief spell working from a basement of a youth hostel in Leith with some college friends, I moved to the newly renovated Edinburgh Sculpture Workshops where I stayed for the next 4 years.
I had a space upstairs and access to big workshops and project space downstairs which was a great set up coming out of college. I felt at home in the ESW community, with many friends I knew from the art community of Edinburgh there. I loved having a secluded space to think and make simultaneously, without pressure of being on show, whilst also having access to large shared workshops. The studio space is a place I feel happiest as it is a space I have agency over, there are no other commitments there other than being a space for you to create and think up ideas, to experiment with different materials and not be afraid of failing.
An Evolving Space
My studios have always been chaotic and full of objects, I am certainly not a minimalist. I tend not to draw my ideas on paper, rather to make small objects or 'maquettes' that allow me to work through ideas in much the same way as drawing. My space at ESW slowly accumulated these test objects that weren't artworks necessarily but that were significant to me and my process in some way. Some were relics of projects I had been involved in, some were fragments of ideas that didn't quite evolve into a finished piece of work. I worked a lot with jesmonite at the time, and was interested in architectural space and science fiction, so a lot of the imagery and objects reflected these interests.
When I moved to London to study at the RCA in ceramics and glass I had to adjust to a dramatically different practical set up in the studios there. Working with these materials require a great deal more space. In ceramics for instance the clay working areas are kept separate from plaster areas and lot of storage space is needed for glaze materials, kiln storage and bulky plaster moulds. At the RCA it took me some time to adjust to having very little to no individual workspace and a lot of communally shared workshop space. As a result I found it hard to focus on my ideas and creative development but that being in a supportive group of other artists was hugely beneficial and I learnt so much about how to work with these materials.
Working in ceramics and glass, I have found, requires more collaboration, more helping and support both practically and on a personal level. The materials are inherently problematic and sometimes it takes multiple minds to work through a problem and figure out the best way forward. Also there are lots more points at which things can go wrong , and weeks of work can be lost quite easily, so a social network of support is invaluable, as well as a high level of determination and resilience!
When I finished college I joined a beautiful ceramics studio in East London, with several others from the RCA. This was a great experience learning about setting up a working studio, the practical aspects of maintaining and looking after kilns and how best to organise a workspace between several people. I have found that being around other artists is something that is important to me, that a community around a making environment is enriching and inspiring. There is a feeling of mutual support and learning through the challenges of each others projects. This is one of the reasons I like working in these materials, although as an introvert I sometimes find it a challenge to develop my own work in a communal environment.
The interlude was a good opportunity for me to think about how I want to work in the future, and the type of space that will help me move my work in the direction I want to. As the lockdown eased off I moved into a shared studio in South London. It is a slightly quieter space with a bit more individual room, but it is still within a community of other artists. I spent some time organising my space to make room for glass casting, as well as ceramic work. It felt great to be back in my own space again and to start working on the plans I made through lockdown. I feel quite settled there and can feel I am more focused on developing my work.
I have started a shelf of studio oddities and I am feeling excited about the possible additions I will accumulate in the near future.