wednesday, december 11, 2013

Open Studio!

It was incredibly cold on the day of the event--for Seattle, that is. It was unlike anything I’d felt in recent memory. The still, icy air was as clear as glass. The sunlight cut through it like a diamond. There were no shadows. The grass of the side trip was frozen solid, crunching curiously under foot. As I pounded in the wooden stakes for my signs leading from 34th and McClellan to the Edwards’ home on College street, I noted that I’d never actually dealt with frozen dirt in my life before, although I had read about it in books. I smiled with satisfaction that my signs were going to be particularly secure this year.


Driving that morning over I-5, I had gazed out at the city of my birth. Seattle felt for all the world like a fantasy castle built on a serene, crystalline planet, somewhere in a distant world. It was going to be a good day.

I admit I had put off planning for this Open Studio at first. Feeling a bit under the whether and crunched for time after the Thanksgiving holiday, part of me had hoped to ignore the fact that the Mt. Baker Historic Tour of Homes had once again rolled around, as it does every two years in my neighborhood, and with it a vital opportunity to throw open the doors of my studio on a Saturday morning and welcome an art-friendly public to enter and explore it’s contents. But I couldn’t ignore it. I also couldn’t deny that when I do go ahead with these things, however impromptu, I always feel energised and refreshed by the surge of interest in my work, lively discussion and the chance to make new and fruitful connections.


So, heeding my past experience, I picked myself up out of my turkey-soup induced malaise, and rallied for a low-key, mini-exhibition in the studio. In a few days time, I did the necessary facebook-hawking, sign-painting, flyer-posting, deep-cleaning, and last minute curating that goes along with creating a successful open studio experience.

This year’s event did not disappoint. The extreme cold kept the numbers down this year for sure. Several other artists and craftsmen in the neighborhood had likewise opened their doors, and I had it on good authority (a neighbor’s daughter, papoose in-tow) that the turnout was fairly low for them too. This seemed likely due to the cold and to the fact that there were fewer houses being showcased on the Home Tour this year, along with higher ticket prices, hence fewer tourists all around. However, notwithstanding the shortage of passers-by, mid-afternoon found a lively buzz in my little studio on 34th and College.


The lower numbers seemed to add to the frank, spiritual timbre of the day, allowing for more meaningful one-on-one interactions with friends and neighbors who stopped in, as well as Home Tour participants who were just passing through, and had followed the signs to my door. There was coffee pouring, prints being thumbed through and edifying conversation bubbling up into the rafters. A perfect Open Studio scene.

Best of all, a series of new works, which had barely begun to take shape within the last week, quickly became the hit of the day, generating interest as well as sales. These works are so new that I hadn’t originally intended on showing them at all, but a surge of inspiration at 3am led me to take a leap of faith, and see if I couldn’t find a way to present them confidently, and integrate them in with my other work. It was a good decision.



These small works were as fresh for me as for my guests. Even close friends who are frequent visitors to the studio had never laid eyes on them. They gleamed on the newly painted walls like the still, frozen day. They were images from my Portuguese heritage; my grandmother’s mysterious past back in Hawaii in the 1930s and 40s; barefooted figures under palm trees; tan women with children swaddled in white, locked in time in the crisp paper and nailed, tactfully, and tacked--or sometimes clipped--to balsa blocks, boards and bits of painting-prep. Made up of miniature ink drawings and delicate assemblages of wood, they felt to me as cool as ice crystals and as warm as the scrap-book memories from which they were born. This was just the beginning; a welcome portent for further work to come.

It was a good day. I must remind myself to do these things more often.