My worktable is the first thing that I see when I enter my studio, and it is the place I go to first thing in the morning. It sits under a big picture window that looks out on our back garden. My worktable is made of white-washed chunky wood, and I designed it with the help of my cabinetmaker, who did all built-in cabinets in this room two years ago. The cabinets are light and simple and have textured-glass doors that have a vintage feel that I love. The glass doors add an airy, light-filled feel to my studio.
On my worktable, I find the projects I am working on, my art supplies, piles of papers and fabric for collaging, little altars I set up for inspiration, little bowls of stones and shells, and gatherings from nature. I love to have fresh flowers and plants in my studio, too — either from my gardens or from a local market in the winter. They inspire me to always find beauty in the details and to be thankful for the gifts of nature.
Because my worktable is quite large, I have room on it for different projects. I can paint on one side of the table, create collages in the middle, and work on stitching projects and artist books at the other end. I keep a table lamp at one side and plants on an old rusty shelf right under the window.
“What is it I have to tell myself again and again? That there is always a new beginning, a different end. I can change the story. I am the story.”
— Jeanette Winterson
As I am writing right now, I have a dish full of paper clips that I rusted myself, a straight edge for tearing paper, old lids for palettes, scruffy paintbrushes, pencils and a water dish. And an old white pitcher filled with carnations and baby’s breath.
When I paint with encaustics, I bring out my encaustic station to my work-table. This includes a griddle, small tins of different-colored wax and encaustic medium, waxy brushes, a brayer and a scraper that was a ceramic tool and a heat gun. I always have the window open and have a fan going when I work with encaustics. This year, I am honored to be one of the instructors for Painting with Fire 2022 and am so happy that I get to share my processes and ideas with our students.
I love so much about encaustic painting. It’s luminous, timeless and mysterious. The smell of the beeswax is enchanting. And the mesmerizing process of applying layer after layer of colored or clear wax and hiding things below the surface is addicting.
“There is a beautiful thing inside you that is thousands of years old. Too old to be captured in poems. Too old to be loved by everyone.But loved so very deeply by a chosen few.”
— Nikita Gill
My studio faces the west, and I have the most beautiful light that comes in each afternoon and evening. I have tried to capture this light here in these photographs. It is filtered through the pine trees behind our property and through the maple trees in front of our back garden and closer to the house. Because I love to photograph my work and my worktable, this back lighting adds a magical feel to my shots. I love to capture the magic of my worktable and studio in vignettes and arrangements on the wall. And I love to share my photographs on Instagram and the way even an unfinished project is complemented by the other things around it.
For me, the remodeling of this room came at the perfect time; it was finished right before the pandemic in March of 2020 and gave me a place of refuge. My studio is my sanctuary, and my days are divided with time working in it and out in the garden. No matter if I am happy or sad, my studio fills me with peace, and my work seems to flow out from me, and I am captivated.
I decorate my studio with a combination of natural and man-made objects that are old and worn. Some of these pieces come to life in new artworks that I make myself. And some sit alone, or in a group or collections, just to inspire me.
Some of my favorite man-made collections are small vintage coin purses, old door hinges, old tin boxes, square nails, old paintbrushes, old book covers, vintage clipboards and decorative architectural pieces. My natural collections include shells, stones, beach glass, seedpods, sticks, and dried and pressed plants.
“When words are not enough, we turn to images and symbols to tell our stories. And in telling our stories through art, we find pathways to wellness, recovery and transformation.”
— Cathy Malchiodi
My favorite thing to do in my studio is to move my collage bits around and rearrange them into groups or piles. I find this process to be meditative and playful. Sometimes the pieces are fabric scraps that are partially stitched on or papers that were textured and glazed with a brayer and a Gelli plate. And sometimes the pieces are torn off a larger painting, making smaller abstract pieces that I love to use in my collages.
Every day, I take breaks every hour or two and wander outside to my gardens. Outside, my favorite thing is to water the plants by hand. I love the feeling of watching things grow that I have planted myself. I love the way the water droplets shine in the sun and glisten on the plants and trees. And I love being immersed in nature and being right there as the seasons change.
I also love to sit in one of our cozy red outdoor chairs and write. I write notes and poems and observations about nature, plans for future artwork and workshops and ideas, and favorite quotes and thoughts or ideas that will inspire me. Often these notes end up in my studio on my worktable, and even in my photographs.
Storytelling with Collage was my first book published. I was very honored to be able to take all the photos myself, and it was then that I really fell in love with using photographs to tell my story, especially those that I take on my worktable. Dancing on Raindrops is my second book, this time self-published, and designing it and watching it come to life was such a joy for me!
Sometimes, I do large canvases or work on different-sized blocks of wood that my husband cuts for me. These are a combination of acrylic paintings and mixed-media collage. At other times, I work on artist books; these are smaller and more intricate, abstract stories of my journey from this moment in time. I also love making assemblages, small talismans that I call Victory Shields or Alchemist Shields (named after two of my online courses), and adding stitching and found objects to my pieces.
On the wall behind me that faces the window and garden, I have things that inspire me. Actually, I have things that inspire me everywhere in this room! On this wall, I have a vintage window frame with chipped white paint, a few of my pieces and other vintage frames, old paint tubes hanging from a string and an artist book that I made before and after my trip to Ireland. It hangs on a vintage clipboard.
Leaning against the wall is a big abstract mixed-media piece that isn’t quite finished. This has simple rectangular collage pieces that I painted myself using deli paper and my Gelli plate and makes a beautiful backdrop for some of my other works. Vintage windows, drawers and clipboards — and these often decorate this space.
My cupboards below are filled with art books, magazines, boxes and baskets of scraps of fabric and paper and encaustic tools. I also have baskets filled with fabrics and paper for my collages and metal bits to use for collages.
Inside is where I make my art, and I move effortlessly from the inside out to the garden throughout the day. I love to garden and have been doing much more of that since the pandemic, too. Our chocolate lab, Molly, is always by my side. Outside, she loves to play! She has a large, kidney-shaped red ball that she kicks and chases around on the stones like she is playing soccer. She makes me laugh, and I love to play with her.
It seems as if I have dreamed of this studio and these gardens forever. All my life I have done my art on the kitchen counter or the coffee table, at the dining room table, at a desk in our bedroom or a table in our sunroom. But this room is my own special place and has a purpose … to be the home for art making, be a place that I can become more myself.