As an angsty artist teen growing up in Boulder, Colorado, I impatiently waited for the city's Open Studios tour each year. The event kicked off with an exhibition at the library and the distribution of dreamlike catalogs filled with local art. My family planned our explorations and would head on a grand art adventure, touring studio after studio. While I can't remember a single artist's name, images of their works and their workspaces are perfectly preserved in my brain. I think about them often. They inspired little, impressionable teen-Emily.
Much to little, impressionable teen-Emily's delight, my house was part of the Arvada Art Studio Tour last weekend. This free, public event invites the community to check out 18 different art studios across Arvada, ranging from guest bedrooms to separate, dedicated spaces like mine. I cleaned up the studio and rearranged it into a mini-gallery, hanging up a collection of my most recent works to show off. This was a relatively terrifying idea--strangers, neighbors, friends, anyone would walk into my studio and say things to me about my art while I was standing right there. I tried to keep in mind teen-Emily and hoped that I could offer some inspiration to the general public who meandered through my space.
In June, I had my first piece accepted into a juried show. This piece (Footnoote to Howl I, pictured above) went on to win Second Place in the exhibition. Yay! You might be thinking, Emily has been making art for a long time. Why is she just now showing work in a juried show? You probably aren't thinking that, because you, strange internet person, are not judgy and negative. But I think about my own professional, artistic delays all the time. Here's why it took me awhile.
There are two different homey environments that have been sticking to my brain-ribs for the past several months: the Earthship I stayed in with my siblings on our mini-road-trip to New Mexico last November, and the treehouse at the Hostel in the Forest that Linden and I called home for two nights in Georgia this past January. These spaces each have their own special kinds of magic.
Here's the thing: I have this list of "BIG GOALS FOR THE MONTH" that are large, recurring things I would like to accomplish once a month: things like reading a book, completing a large home improvement project, and writing a new blog post. If you're a longtime reader, you know how well that goal has been going (hint: BADLY). I personally benefit from reading many blogs, instructions, and musings on the internet. I believe to my core that we must be creators and consumers; yet I incessantly consume, consume, consume the hearts and stories of others, but I struggle to share my own. It's big scary.
These are six 5x7 texture studies I created in August based off of several visual samples of tree bark I found at local Arvada parks...small works, but these pieces hold enormous significance for me.
I've been largely--almost entirely--absent from creating my own art (and from this, my own website and blog) for over three years, with the last work of mine that I would consider to be significant being completed in early 2015. Long-time readers, friends, and family will immediately sync this date up with another one of great significance in my life: the adoption of teenage daughters, who moved into our home in January 2015. I've been tumbling into motherhood ever since, struggling to find a balance or a grasp on how to be both artist and mother, creative and caregiver.
My sister, Shenandoah Davis, released her third album, Souvenirs, earlier this year. Shenandoah (or Shenni, as she is known to her family and past acquaintances of her pre-20s) asked me to create an illustration inspired by the lyrics from her album; she sent me all of the words to her songs and left me to sort through the poetry and see what image I would pull out.
I originally posted this project on Instructables for their Lazy Life contest (I won!) and wanted to also post the instructions here: however, there was a lot of amazingly creative and productive discussion in the comments over on Instructables, so be sure to check out the notes from other makers who tackled this blanket and found some other fillers/ideas. See the Instructable -->
Targeted advertising has me pegged--I was recently scrolling through facebook when an ad for a "relaxing gravity blanket," claiming to be "like Advil PM for your whole body," grabbed my attention. The blanket, weighing in at 15, 20, or 25 pounds, promises more restful sleep, to ease stress and anxiety, and help your mind and body relax...all by laying under the heavy blanket.
Weighted blankets have long been used therapeutically for people with sensory sensitivity or restless leg syndrome, as well as to increase focus (particularly in classroom settings). Newer studies are finding that these heavy blankets increase serotonin and melatonin levels while also lowering cortisol levels. Your mood improves, and because the weight minimizes movement during sleep, it helps your body stay in a deeper sleep for longer.
I have several family members who struggle with sleep and/or anxiety, so weighted blankets sounded like an amazing solution. I was sold--but yikes! This blanket carries a price tag of nearly $300. I set out to make my own with a budget of $50, using plastic pellets for the weight.
The inside of the backyard artist studio I built is my new favorite place in the world, and I am so excited to finally share my space with all of you! Taking pictures of it was super fun; when I was looking through the photos, I had this moment of Wow, I really made this? How did that happen? Is this real? The studio took a long time--October '16 to June '17--but now that it is finished I am in disbelief. I still feel like I don't know how to build a studio, yet here I am sitting inside the studio that I built.
If creating a space like this is one of your dreams, I want to say right off the bat that you can do this. I had a professional run the electricity and family help with the framing and foundation digging, but other than that this entire structure and everything in it was finished with the hands of willing friends and with skills learned from the internet and library books. The permit office also offered tons of wisdom on what wood to use and specifics of local building code.
The studio build has been consuming my spaghetti brain for well over a year now, and look! I built this! With the help of a few lovely friends, my backyard art studio is finally complete.
Originally I had planned to keep posting detailed progress updates throughout building my new studio, but, oh man, life. It has its own ideas about things.
If you are hoping to build a workspace on your property, I would be happy to give you more step-by-step thoughts and instruction--just shoot me an email email@example.com or comment here. Otherwise, continue reading for process pics and good times.
PERMIT was this monstrous, scary word I had avoided in all of my previous home projects. At our home in Florida, I would research residential code and skate just underneath the requirements for permitting (or, in the case of running electrical to my backyard shed studio, seek help from genius friends and plan to claim official idiocy if the need arose). My permit-avoidance strategy worked until my current big project: designing and building a backyard artist studio from the ground up.
When we bought our lovely little brick home in Arvada, the backyard was outfitted with a rusting metal shed flanked by gnarly tree bushes and lined with diagonally-embedded bricks. Now a spoiled backyard artist, I knew this metal tetanus heap was sitting on the hallowed ground of what would one day be my new den of creative wonders. I also quickly discovered that in order to create this palace of art, I would need to get permits.