Previously, I lived in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and my work was known as Blue Flax Studio. The Mountain West is where I was inspired to begin my jewelry and antique textile work. I was fortunate to have a large studio space on our property and also a charming little showroom in a thriving performing and visual arts center in the historic downtown. We lived near the Snake River within an easy drive to the Teton Valley and Yellowstone National Park. Then, after 16 years as Idahoans, we arranged a move to Washington state.
The decision happened quickly, without time to plan for the future of my creative work. I just didn’t see how I could transfer it successfully to the new location. Though I loved doing it, I thought it could be time to retire and try something less intense and demanding. My location was changing, and maybe I should as well. And so, I made a quick decision to sell everything before the move. One of the buyers was a personal friend and colleague.
As for how this sudden change unfolded, it was both exhilarating and difficult. I found the hardest thing was to close my little showroom in the arts center. Removing that first item from my display was truly agonizing. My precious piece of the historic downtown and the presence I had established there would vanish. The kind and accommodating staff, my artist friends, many customers and the open-studio events we hosted would only be a memory. Before it could sink in, I was walking away for the last time, and I could not allow myself to look back.
After the move to Washington state, I was without my jewelry and textile work for over a year. I thought perhaps I would get back into drawing, study interior design or maybe write a book. But nothing wanted to stick. I didn’t want to think of how much I missed my work and meeting my customers. Then, my friend who bought much of my collection called me to suggest that I begin working again. She said, “It is your work, and you are the only one who can do it.” She kindly offered to send some things back to me. I finally realized she was right. I had always poured my whole self into it. It was my vision, my way of making and my artistic identity.
“WHAT IF” are two words that motivate me.
Certainly in hindsight, I had questioned my decision to sell and privately wished I had not. But I tried to put aside thoughts of regret and loss. Why? Because I have always held a firm belief in the Silver Lining. Something good always emerges from a less-than-desirable situation if we are open to learning and growing. You have to wait for it and sometimes even search for it, but it makes the journey more interesting and meaningful. And I also believe that maybe — just maybe — the best is yet to come. By holding onto that belief, one can never give up on goals and dreams. Just keep on going; look ahead to see the blessing around the bend.
And so, my friend sent a first box of supplies and vintage items that I had lovingly collected over the years. It was like opening a time capsule of my previous life — an emotional moment, to say the least! I immediately got going. Later, we negotiated for other things. Without her caring and insight, I never would have seen my work again. I’m grateful to her for helping me find my way back to my art.
I rebranded as Denise Hagood Studio. It took months of effort to rebound from my artistic setback. But as usual, I was undaunted. No amount of failure could stop me from trying to get back to where I was before. I applied myself, engaging my curiosity, relearning, experimenting and bringing all of my self-devised methods into play. I patiently took many finished pieces apart and started over until I got it right. Once again, I experienced the intrinsic, timeless flow that only comes with doing something you love. The happiness this brought graced my life. I realized that I am foremost an artist and maker, and nothing seems to change that fact.
Although I prefer meeting my customers in person, I have an online shop, and I also sell with an out-of-state rep. Most important to me, for over 10 years, has been the Western Design Conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This event is always the highlight of my year, where outstanding creatives — from the realms of furniture to fashion — come together over four exciting days to exhibit and sell. The opening-night gala is the place to be, with a crowd of fascinating people.
Once again, I experienced the intrinsic, timeless flow that only comes with doing something you love. The happiness this brought graced my life. I realized that I am foremost an artist and a maker.
Like many artists, I find there don’t seem to be enough hours in the day to accomplish all that I would like to do. Blame it on the studio! The studio interior is a perpetual source of visual inspiration for me. Often something will catch my eye … maybe a faded antique floral fabric, a chunky jasper stone or a vintage dresser pull. Then I set my mind to creating a series of finished pieces with that inspiration. I focus on one discipline for several weeks at a time, alternating between jewelry and sewing.
My current studio is a suite of three rooms. The main studio has iron-crossed clerestory windows that admit light yet preserve privacy. Adjoining is an office that can be used for display when necessary. The library was originally a storage closet. We transformed the long and narrow windowless space to seem as if stepping into another place and time, with books, original artwork, wine and that ubiquitous dust. My sewing machine, although currently tucked in a corner of another room, suits me well for now.
Maybe — just maybe — the best is yet to come. By holding on to that belief, one can never give up on goals and dreams. Just keep on going; look ahead to see the blessing around the bend.
I like to surround myself with fabulous finds. Local secondhand and thrift stores are my go-to source for artwork, objects, lamps, frames, furniture, mirrors and dress forms. I look for small furnishings that can be rearranged on a whim. Library book sales provide important out-of-print books. Having lived in Europe for several years, I was stunned by the beauty of the home interiors, both antique and modern. The European touches in my own home evoke a sense of being there. Living with art brings an exquisite awareness of connectivity. Artwork doesn’t have to be valuable in dollars, but it should be abundant and always original. I am fascinated by what has gone before, reveling in a mix of eras and old cultural inspirations, from the American West to Mexico, Europe, Africa and Asia.
Living with art brings an exquisite awareness of connectivity.
The shrub-steppe landscape of southeast Washington state may not be exotic, but the vast open spaces resonate deeply with me and always have. I find magnificent beauty in the sage-covered hills, the basalt outcrops and the last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River. As an artist, working here remains a challenge in many ways. I have learned, though, it really doesn’t matter where you are located or the times in which you find yourself. If you accept and embrace the “WHERE” of your studio, inspiration and good artmaking will surely follow. The studio is a moveable feast. It adapts to the times of your life, and you can always reinvent and begin your creative work again.
Keep an eye out for Denise’s beautiful handiwork at www.WesternDesignConference.com/featured-artists/.