In 2012 right after my Dad died and I was recovering from my second knee replacement, I felt like I needed a lifeline. I had been ruminating for at least two years beforehand about creating a mixed media women’s art group. So I chose 7 regional artists to join me, and six accepted. One from my past life in fiber, another three I knew from the arts council and functions there, while others I knew of their work but had never met them.
It was important to me that they be working in different media than I and that they were already established, with a list of juried exhibitions, website, sales history etc. I had been in groups where I was the only one with that history and there was nothing for me to learn. I wanted more! We had our first meeting, set up ground rules and started right in inspiring each other with our work and process.
Now nearly 5 years since, the group has redefined our intention, seen changes and moves, lost members, gained members, retaining three original and settled into a very comfortable dynamic. Now we are a group of six, three here and three in Sonoma and it just feels so right. We rotate each month, meeting in each other’s homes and/or studios. Although my original intention was fewer fiber and more other media, we now are comprised of five who work with fiber (paper and cloth) and one who works with metal; yet none of us does exactly the same work. And all of us have long marriages, which that in of itself in today’s world is both unusual and spectacular! One of the things I enjoy most about this group is the wisdom that transfers between us as we each move in, out and through our individual creative processes.
Last week I had been asked, by a visiting artist friend, how much time I spend in the studio? She asked me if I work in the studio every day? I laughed…hardly! It varies I said but I guesstimate I work in the studio on average 7-10 hours a week. And yet that seems so completely inaccurate to me so perhaps I should keep track. Or maybe count the times I walk past the door?
In yesterday’s art group meeting the subject of studio time came up. Not so much from the how much time do you spend in the studio part but more from the how much time is spent in contemplation and research for each new work? It was then that I really comprehended that so many of my waking hours are spent contemplating the message for each piece in the Defining Moments series. In addition there is thoughtful consideration of how, as in technique to implement that message so when the viewer looks at the piece they understand what I am conveying.
A lot more time goes into thinking about the construction. I used to be very spontaneous in my work, and still am to some extent; but there is also careful thought of just how to construct it to get the most impact; and that thought occurs everywhere, in the shower, at the gym, while driving, ‘watching’ TV, when I should be sleeping, etc. Then there is the stitching. As I am incorporating more hand-stitching into my work I ponder a lot about that.
Most recently I have also dealt with my inner perfection critic… just how perfect these stitches must be?! I used to say I was a recovering perfectionist but clearly there is more work to be done on that front! I find it rather remarkable that I am so drawn to hand-stitching, and sometimes actually crave it, yet when I do it, it’s so tight. A good metaphor for the state of my brain perhaps. So there is more thinking about relaxing which is truly ironic, although a good overall trait to possess. When all of this is added up it seems I spend hours and hours and hours on the process, but maybe just 7-10 hours a week actually applying hand to fabric.
That said I am putting the final stitches, by hand, onto #16 which is about our marriage, which truly was a defining moment in my life. Because I thought I would be through by now, #17 is being drafted and #18 insisted on 3 am contemplation last night. So progress is being made on the final 9 pieces of this series, which I still very much enjoy even if it takes up most of my headspace.
So how much time do I spend on my art weekly? How many hours are there in a week?