Behind the curtain: A glimpse into the studios of four New England Wax artists
It’s one thing to see a piece of art in a gallery, but what is the bigger picture – so to speak – of the artist and how she works? We asked four of our New England Wax artists about their practice and to share an image of their art studio to glimpse behind the curtain.
What is your favorite thing about your studio? The smartest thing I did for my New England studio was install radiant heat in the concrete floor. Not only does it keep me very comfortable but it also gently dries all the cold wax pieces I leave on the floor.
My studio is a slab structure added to back of my house from fifteen years ago. 16’ x 30’ windowed on three sides with a ramp from the driveway to a door on the short side. One solid wall was reinforced with plywood under fiberboard in order to hang heavy objects. The short wall opposite the doorway has a sink and a long cabinet for storage. One corner is used as a design studio and personal office. All other tables and storage shelves are on wheels for ultimate flexibility.
What is your process like? Are you a morning person? Best at night? Do you meditate or do prep work? I usually start working after lunch and will stay in the studio till nine or ten with a break for dinner. I always have a book or podcast playing as company. I only listen half way but I have been known to replay bits that sound interesting.
Anything else you want to share about your process? The sculptures I make are process-driven. Using hot wax, I assemble the sculptures into shapes the medium allows me to make. Using a general idea of what I want to build, the final result has a lot to do with how the shapes and patterns fit together. Ultimately, I do a lot of repair on the sculptures because they are ridiculously fragile and need new surfaces after I attach parts to them.
I usually have several pieces going simultaneously. I set my sculptures on shelves in my studio and will grab one off the shelf if I feel the need to change it. This results in an inordinately long time to actually finish a piece.
Lately, I’ve been reworking old paintings. I love doing this because I’ve gotten better at using the materials and I like that an old piece provides an interesting underlayment for a new piece.
I am also a tremendous saver of stuff. This is bad. I end up accumulating so much that I have no room to work. I have to make a heroic effort to stash things away in order to move ahead with new work. My problem is that whenever I pick something up in my studio I think how I can reuse, improve or incorporate it into something new. I am easily distracted, hence this is why I like deadlines.
See Ruth’s work at her website.
What is your favorite thing about your studio? My favorite thing about my studio is that it gets southern light! The old saying that artists love northern light is not true for me—I like to sit at my table with the sun coming right into my eyes and on to the piece I am working on. The bright light helps me to see what is happening with the wax as I fuse it so I can get the surface just right.
What is your process like? Are you a morning person? Best at night? Do you meditate or do prep work? I work in my studio in the late morning after I have had time to exercise and eat. Exercise is one of my forms of meditation and it gets my head in a better place for taking on the challenge of making art. I go into my studio every weekday whether or not I “feel” creative. I try hard not to over think what I am doing and allow myself to experiment and try new things. Usually, one painting leads to another. I tend to work in series format and will keep adding paintings to a series over many years, as well as revisiting series that I haven’t worked on in a while. That being said, I took the summer off from painting this year, (because I was hosting my son’s wedding) and it has been very challenging to get back into the swing of it and to feel confident with what I am doing.
Do you listen to music or podcasts? If so, what is it? I listen to classical music and to lots of podcasts. My favorite podcast right now is 10 Percent Happier with Dan Harris, which focuses on mindfulness, meditation and Buddhist philosophy. I also love Hidden Brain with Shankar Vedantam, On Point with Megnhna Charkrabarti, Intelligence Squared, and almost anything NPR has turned into a podcast, such as Fresh Air with Terri Gross.
See Willa’s work at her website.
What’s my favorite thing about your studio?
My favorite thing is the north light and the view of the sky. My MetalScapes paintings are, in part, about nature’s vastness. When I enter my northern lit studio and look out the large windows to the open sky, I am reminded of this.
What is your process like? Are you a morning person? Best at night? Do you meditate or do prep work?
I am an all day and all night person trying to (although not succeeding at) bring balance to my life. I am also a perfectionist. It’s a curse because it takes me so long to complete a painting but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I find great pleasure making each painting perfect and complete. This takes a tremendous amount of mental energy. To offset this, and give my mind a rest, I practice TM Meditation.
Do you listen to music or podcasts? If so, what is it?
I listen to audiobooks about different subjects and political podcasts alternating between both while I create. I enjoy non-fiction and biographies because I am curious how people navigate their live.
See Charyl’s work at her website.
What is your favorite thing about your studio? The light! I love that all my favorite things are around me. These trigger inspiration and memory for my work.
What is your process like? Are you a morning person? Best at night? Do you meditate or do prep work? Morning is my best time, but once I dig into a project, I can work into the night. I work in batches – first prep work, then the work itself. I will set work aside for a day, week or even months to let it set in and see what else I need to do.
Do you listen to music or podcasts? If so, what is it? I finally broke down and got a subscription to Audible.com. I have been listening to a lot of Sherlock Holmes lately. I have not read many classics since high school and college. Revisiting them in an audio format has been fun. I get lost in a story, which for me, is a good thing. It drowns out that pesky inner critique who is like an unwelcome guest at the party.
See Kimberly’s work at her website.
Wonderful blog Kimberly! It’s always fun to see behind the scenes where artists create! Thank you for organizing with a few of the N.E.W. wax members! Love the addition of the video!
Thank you, Stephanie! It was fun to put together! If more members are willing, I would keep this theme going!☺️
Thank you Kimberly for this blog post. I love seeing how various artists work. Despite the many similarities our differences show up in our work.
Thank you! It’s so true, Ruth! I find it so fascinating on how we approach the creative process.❤️
I love seeing and hearing about other artist’s processes and studio set ups. Thanks so much for this post Kimberly. It would be nice to include all our NEW members in a post like this.
Thank you! I agree! It would be great to have more of our members share their studio set ups and process. Thank you for being willing to be share! I will ask about this at the next meeting. ❤️
Thanks Kimberly. I really enjoyed reading this and learning more about how different members work, and think!
Thank you! I learned a lot too!
I do so enjoy seeing the behind the scenes working places of artists. The order or the disorder is always another step in understanding the process that allows the creatives to produce. Thanks for this peek.
Thank you, Dona! It is so curious to me to see how other artists work and how they fill their time as they create. Grateful for this glimpse as well!
Great post, Kimberly! It’s so interesting to see what happens in other studios, how people work snd what they are thinking. Thank you to you and the artists you interviewed!
Nancy! Thank you! Great to read your comment. I love the work you are doing now.
Yes, I absolutely agree on how interesting it is to see how other artists work. ❤️
Great post! I’m laughing out loud about some of Ruth’s comments; too close to home! I too learned a lot from this post. Thanks you Kimberly and committee.
Haha! Right, Nancy! Me too! I have too much stuff, but what do I let go of? Thank you for reading.
Wonderful post. Thank you for sharing a bit about yourselves.
Thank you for reading and commenting!
What a fun read! It’s so helpful to know that I am not the only one who struggles with similar issues, like collecting too many things, and trying to produce the “perfect” piece every time! Thanks Kimberly!
Thank you, Heather! And yes, even though we all work “alone” we are more “together” than we realize. ❤️