First Friday Studio Tour – Karen Musgrave

This month we are visiting Karen Musgrave of Naperville, Illinois.  She has graciously answered our questions and shared pictures of her studio and beloved dog Meg.

Do you call it a studio or sewing room? To yourself, to friends and family? Why do you think this is so? Difference in starting point between quilting and art? Thinking of this as a business rather than a hobby?

I call it a studio and encourage anyone who creates to have a space and to call it “a studio” even if it is a card table in a corner. It helps everyone around you and you too take what you do seriously, lets him or her know that it’s important to you.  For many years I did all my creating on a rickety card table that was set up between my washer and dryer. Thankfully the light was directly above. I am still amazed at how much I was able to accomplish in stolen moments between loads of laundry and sleeping children. I think it is important for all of us to both feel and show that what we are doing is important because it is. While I believe there is a difference between art and craft, I feel that creating anything is good. It puts much needed positive energy into the world.

By the way, my main studio is the second largest bedroom in our home. It’s on the second floor and faces north.

I feel that a quilt can be art so I don’t feel that there is a “difference in starting point.”

For me, quilting is both a business and a hobby. Actually my life’s mission is to change the world for the better with quilts. I do this with my teaching, lecturing, writing, curating and now with my group Crossing the Line: Artists at Work (CLAW).

What do you have in the room? Machines, supplies, fabrics, paints, etc.? Anything that might surprise the rest of us?

I have everything imaginable in my studio and it is stuffed full. Virginia Spiegel once asked me to describe my studio in five words (not an easy task). I decided on stimulating, messy, memory-filled, packed and fun.  I have my Bernina 1530 sewing machine, lots of fabric, books, a bulletin board covered with things from my travels including a dried pomegranate from celebrating Easter in Armenia, drawings, etc., drawers full of rubber stamps, lots of  containers with beads, and books.

My collection of bird feathers and the bowls with rocks and beach glass might surprise some people.  I have a small handmade painted chest that has the bowls with rocks and beach glass (collected while living in Aruba), a heart-shaped Raku pottery rattle and a carved wooden spoon. I refer to as “my shrine to thread” since I have some of my thread is on a rack above it. I have Tibetan prayer flags from my friend Carol Each hanging across the three windows in the room. I love the funky clock that my husband gave me one year for my birthday.
How is your “stuff” organized? How do you organize your fabric? By color? Amount? Any separate categories (batiks, hand dyes)? How do you organize your thread (color, weight)?

I try to keep like things together. My fabric is basically organized by color with the exception of hand dyed, silks, linens and Day of the Dead fabric. Smaller pieces of fabric are stored by color in an old chest of drawers that belonged to my dad’s legal guardian, Robert. My thread is either on the wall (colors I use often and go through quickly) with the rest is in plastic containers under my cutting table. Rubber stamps and supplies for them are in a chest of drawers I bought from Ikea many years ago. It’s really heavy and tough to move. In the drawers in my ironing station are fusibles, some trims (others are in plastic containers), polymer clay and lots of miscellaneous goodies. My beading supplies are in my closet as well as a few of my books.

Do you have anything, supplies, more machines, etc. tucked away in any other rooms of the house? How many other rooms? (My husband likes to talk about that one.) Has a family member or significant other ever accused you of “taking over” the entire house? If you have a separate building, we want lots of pictures.

I have quilts stored in two linen closets and one bedroom closet. I have my paper and painting studio space in the finished part of the basement and a painting and wood working area and a place to be messy with fabric painting in the unfinished part of the basement. When my oldest son moved out, I made the guest bedroom my office and converted his bedroom into the guest room.  I’m lucky because my family embraces my taking over the entire house.

Do you straighten/organize as you go, putting each fabric away as you cut, or do you clean up after a project? How many projects do you work on at a time and how do you keep them organized?

I do not clean up as I go. When I am in a creative mode, I am very, very messy. My messiness use to be really difficult for my husband (a chemical engineer) who needs order.  However, I have to clean up now (didn’t use to be the case) in between projects. I am finding that the older I get the more organized I want to be.

I have always worked on multiple projects at one time. I like that I can let things rest and work on something else. I usually have around five projects going at once. When my design wall gets too full, I know it’s time to not begin anything new and focus on finishing.

To keep organized, I use containers and tote bags to store projects so I don’t have to go hunting.

Anything more you want to add about your studio, organization, working methods, etc., please do.

Don’t worry about having all the bells and whistles. There is no right or wrong way, just whatever works for you. Pay attention to how you work so you can figure out how to facilitate the best environment for you. Think zones. Remember to have fun!

My chocolate lab Meg was the best feature in my studio for more than ten years. She loved fabric! She would dig around in my scrap bin, find a piece she liked and carry it around. When the doorbell would ring, she would run into my studio, grab a piece of fabric and give it to the person who walked in. It always made people smile. My friends use to try and entice her to give them certain piece but she would never give in. I guess she knew best. Unfortunately, she died of liver cancer and I still miss her. My black cat E.G. does not like her picture taken (must take after me). She loves sleeping on fabric so you can find her in my studio often. She loves sleeping on quilts while I machine quilt.  However, when she sees the camera, she runs the other way!

Thank you, Karen, for sharing both your words of advice and your love for Meg.

Next month: Sue Andrus

3 thoughts on “First Friday Studio Tour – Karen Musgrave

  1. Excellent, Karen. I always learn something from you. Loved the way you display finished work; the masks are fantastic. As is the thread shrine. Meg was adorable. What a beauty. I, too, work on many things at once and your design wall (and its location) are just a great idea. Loved your space!

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