This month we travel to Tasmania, Australia to visit with Rita Summers whose studio is attached to her gallery.
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?
My studio is a public working space attached to my gallery. This is where I work on projects and do the business side of things on my computer, as well as welcoming customers and visitors. The name, Gone Rustic Studio & Gallery, really says it all, including its location in a small country town in Tasmania, Australia.
Gallery looking toward the Studio
The building used to be a garage or service station, which my husband restored and converted in 2004. The studio was once 2 small rooms – an office and a car parts store. This was completely stripped out, relined and re-floored, with an extra window added to provide more light.
Exhibitions often spill into the studio area, and people are intrigued to also see what I’m working on when they visit. Sometimes it seems like I don’t get much done on my projects when it gets very busy! Locals often call in for a chat and a cup of tea or coffee, so it is quite a social place at times.
Gone Rustic has recently been recognized as a social enterprise business, and was a case study last year in research undertaken by the University of Tasmania. A social enterprise business offers a service to the community which is not publicly funded and is not an incorporated organization. My arts-based social enterprise business is privately funded by my husband and operated by me. Retail sales, workshops, group sessions, exhibition launches, and a kit sheds and homes agency all help to cover costs.
I am a qualified teacher, and my major subject was art. From an early age I loved to draw and had an interest in sewing. I used to make all my own clothes, but when I discovered quilting I gave up on dressmaking! I had to teach myself in the beginning, because there were no quilt shops or classes near where we lived. I wanted quilts in my house, so that was the motivation. Since about 2005 I have worked on combining my arts training and my sewing skills to create a wide range of fiber and mixed media work, including art quilts, books/journals, sculptural or 3-D artworks and so on.
What do you have in the room? machines, supplies, fabrics, paints, etc. Anything that might surprise the rest of us?
You’ll notice from the photos that the studio is equipped as a work space not just for me, but also for small classes and groups. There are hanging rails on the walls which are sometimes used for exhibitions, but in between are used to display some of my quilts. I have several sewing machines, including a Janome Memory Craft, a Husqvarna Viking, and an old Husqvarna which is my ‘workhorse’.
There is a fridge and a microwave, a CD player, and storage for current projects and patterns. There’s also an old kitchen dresser (restored by my husband) for crockery. Other equipment includes an electric jug, an urn, 4 irons and an ironing board, and a bench-top oven stored under the sink. I often take it out and use it to bake cakes for our Rustic Ragamuffins stitching group when we meet. The smell of baking really adds to the atmosphere!
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)?
My sewing threads (I don’t have a huge range) are either in a drawer or on a rack which is shaped like a sewing machine and hangs on the wall. I do have quite a large selection of embroidery threads and perle cotton, most of which I keep at home in several storage boxes (I do a lot of hand stitching in the evenings while sitting on the couch). All my threads are organized by type, and then by colour.
I have a separate walk-in storeroom next to the gallery for my fabric. Fabric is stored in plastic bins according to colour or type, and on shelves. My really small scraps are organized in shoe boxes according to colour. Some plastic bins also store needle felting fibers and supplies,wadding ( batting), UFO’s, and so on. Hand dyed cotton fabrics have their own bin, as do retro and vintage fabrics.
The storeroom also holds my completed quilts, textile art and mixed media works when they’re not on display. They have their own bags and tissue paper to protect them while they’re in storage.
Silk and wool fabrics are stored in stacked suitcases in the hall at home, including those that I’ve dyed which haven’t been used yet. A desk in the dining room holds my collection of commercial dyes (liquid and powdered). This might seem like a strange place to keep the dyes, but both my kitchen and laundry are too small! I usually dye my fabric either in the kitchen or outside. I use either local plants or commercial non toxic dyes, depending on the fabric and the project.
Another desk, also in the dining room, holds all my drawing supplies, sketchbooks, cutting mat, tins of rusty nails and keys etc. (for my mixed media art), as well as stamps, ink pads, punches and a heat gun. I also have a portable tool kit and a filing cabinet stored behind the dining room door!
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’ve mentioned the dining room and the hall; there’s also the stack of boxes behind our bedroom door, and the art and craft books in the cupboard in the spare bedroom … my husband knows all about them, though!
How much horizontal surface do you have, and is it ever enough? Do you have to move piles of stuff to cut anything bigger than a fat quarter?
There are 4 large folding tables in my studio at the gallery. Two of them are pushed together to make one large table. Previously our dining table, and even the floor, were often covered with quilt blocks being arranged ready to stitch, or in layers ready to baste. I must have a very patient family because they never complained and even showed an interest in what I was doing! Then again, my husband was an art teacher, my daughter loves working with fiber and textile, and my son is now an art teacher, so maybe they thought this was normal.
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 usually clean up after each project. However, I often have to tidy up the studio when there’s a class or a group scheduled, or if I need to get ready for an exhibition launch. I have baskets for works in progress which I tuck under the tables so I can easily get them out again afterwards. I can’t work in a cluttered space – I need to be organised to be able to work effectively. I think this is because I don’t usually have a very definite plan when I start creating. I prefer to let the materials guide me, as well as my thoughts and responses to the issues I’m expressing through my art. I need a clear head and clutter would be a distraction!
Anything more you want to add about your studio, organization, working methods, etc., please do.
I love creating. It is integral to my life. I am so blessed to have such a supportive husband and family, and I’m grateful for my studio space and gallery every day. I especially enjoy sharing it with others in various ways and hope that I am making a positive difference for our local and wider arts community in the process.
Thank you so much for offering me this opportunity to share my studio and my arts practice! It’s been a challenge to put into words what I do and where I do it, but it’s been an enjoyable and affirming exercise. I am passionate about my art and I hope it shows!
To find out more, please visit my blog at www.gonerustic.wordpress.com and visit the ‘about’ page.
Thank you Rita for a most enjoyable tour. My studio has never looked that neat, and I’m envious of the separate walk-in fabric storeroom.
Next month: Sandy Wagner