Space, Place and Creativity

Ever since I visited my dear friend Ann Rippin in her new Pomegranate Studio in April/2017 I discovered I could use my space in a better way. I have a ready-made studio at the back of my garden, it is a creative womb and a place for fun; but during the last few months I’ve been sort of “avoiding” it… It is true that I have lot on my plate, travels and the work with RawTag (a more conceptual type of project that merges art and education for sustainability), but I also feel that being in the studio reminded me of the unfinished projects that linger around. It is not all idleness: the winter months were dedicated to small projects: the series of Fans for the FanTastic ladies and the Fairy Tales of Menopause, and my sketchbooks do not need so much space and I preferred to work in front of a warm fire in the living, rather than warming up the studio. Visiting my friend’s new studio was a revelation. As a textile artist she needs a sturdy high table, something she managed with the Ikea top range for kitchens, and this double table takes over the whole studio, leaving just enough space to circulate around it. But at the end of the day, it is not so much space you need to “dance” around, and a big table is something I’ve been missing.  At my return, I did a lot of drawings and plans, and in the design it occurred to me to transform my studio from an individual space to a more collective place where to share with friends, and the re-organisation of the studio, with a central table where we can play and share, is a must!

This apparently simple decision has triggered a number of interesting processes. At the material level, I created more space for books that have been hanging around the house for so long. Also, in the process I realised that much of the materials I have are not really used permanently: canvas and other surfaces (such as my tin and cardboard collection) can be kept in the garage and used at my discretion. The same for the growing amount of magazines, boxes, textiles and “stuff” I keep collecting for when required.  I wanted to have also a more personal space, with shelves for the increasing collection of objects and artifacts: the typewriter, the turntable (and the collection of vinyls of classical music), and the plants! This transformation also illustrates the difference between space and place, the former being the material spacial arrangement, and the second, a more meaningful and “inhabited” space. Another dear colleague, Harriet Shortt, did her PhD about these different perceptions of space, place and liminality, and her article about how hair dressers use/inhabit/value their space is really interesting!  At the spiritual level, I feel quite attached to my house, I like to “nest” and it makes me feel grounded, rooted and at the same time being able to fly. I love to work at home: housechores, reorganisations, cleaning, cooking, gardening… they are all ways for me to feel that I belong. Indeed, after returning from Colombia, the pull of the home was irresistible, and alongside the studio I also re-organised the house, bedrooms and living: putting up the beautiful paintings of my friend Osvaldo Polo, re-organising the plants (with a little mini garden on the guest room/office), and re-thinking how to keep my living a bit more tidy!

The importance of the house can be defined by Gaston Bachelard in his book The Poetics of Space as follows:

“If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace. ”

And this active dreaming is happening to me at the moment.  With the change in the space, I have been able to connect with my creativity. I started a textile project developing the ideas of the Yonis (a project I started last year!), and indeed, I was able to accommodate a last minute commission that fed from some other projects I have in the list.

Most importantly, although it is not finished yet, the studio has become my refuge again, and I feel quite comforted by going there, getting some stuff done, re-organising materials, paintings, magazines, watering the plants or simply snoozing in the sofa.  As for the future, the idea is that the Studio becomes a place for Art/Creativity/Development or Evolution… I want to invite my creative friends to share ideas, to have some sort of “Ladies Drawing Night”, where we talk and draw, and flow and grow, with our plans. I’d like the studio to welcome my mates for collective dreaming, for fun and joy, and to feel that indeed the space can exist, but only through meaning, living and intention, it can become a significant “place”. I’d like it to be an “oasis” for our journey, markers of our map, or simply steps on our process. Perhaps in this process of “building my house” I am also projecting my desires and dreams of a more collective way of doing art, giving to art the possibility and the potential for transforming our own lives, as artists, as women, as hybrids academics/artists/educators/mothers/sisters/daughters/partners…The funny thing is that the “house” is a recurrent theme in my dreams, and I often dream about my childhood house or being in another house and wanting to carve my own space (the anxieties of displacement I guess). Once again Bachelard comes at my rescue:

“Sometimes the house of the future is better built, lighter and larger than all the houses of the past, so that the image of the dream house is opposed to that of the childhood home. Late in life, with indomitable courage, we continue to say that we are going to do what we have not yet done: we are going to build a house. This dream house may be merely a dream of ownership, the embodiment of everything that is considered convenient, comfortable, healthy, sound, desirable, by other people. It must therefore satisfy both pride and reason, two irreconcilable terms.”

More to follow!




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