Experiments and Developments in Studio Furnishings

Note: If you're looking to read things about the mysical/revered/ineffable creative process, there won't be much in this post for you. If, on the other hand, you geek out over minuscule technical developments and love seeing how other people function on a practical level in their studios, then read on!

The first big deal in the studio is that I replaced my many-years-old Liquin squeeze bottle solution. Backstory: I love Liquin, but I like to get it in the big 1-liter glass bottle, the top of which gets all gunked up over the course of opening and pouring and closing repeatedly. Plus, you have to shake it like an uncooperative ketchup bottle. I actually emailed Winsor & Newton a few years back, asking if they knew anything about Liquin's interaction with plastics, as it's a petroleate. They had no idea; I was on my own. So I got a squeeze bottle made of that sort of gummy soft plastic. And it worked fine, for a long time.

Old Liquin Bottle (Deceased)

Old Liquin Bottle (Deceased)

There was clearly some air communication through the walls of the container, causing a skin to form, but in the basement studio, where the temperature was really controlled and the air a bit humid, it wasn't much of an issue. Scene change to NYC, cue heat wave. The skin formed so fast that it was just a waste, and then the squeeze bottle split up the side in a final throe of death.

In search of a new bottle -- and quickly -- I came upon an almost-empty ketchup in the fridge, contained in the new Top-Down bottle from Heinz. Thank god for food packaging innovations (I'm only half sarcastic here). It's kind of perfect. The plastic is rigid, not gummy, but squeezable. (I don't know my plastics, but the recycle code on it is 1 and it says "PETE" below. Does that mean it's PET plastic? I don't know. I could probably google it, though. The previous squeeze bottle didn't have a code.) And of course it's meant to stand upside down so it's always ready to dispense. And it has a valve! Actually, the valve has been a bit problematic, because the Liquin has been wanting to separate lately, perhaps because of the heat, but I'm finding a good violent shake does the trick. And the best part is: no skin has formed yet. Even through our patch of 100-plus-degree days. I think I've found a winner.

Heinz Top-Down Bottle Repurposed as Liquin Dispenser

Heinz Top-Down Bottle Repurposed as Liquin Dispenser

Second on the list of neat experiments is a custom oiling-out formula I put together. On the wallpaper painting, I was having a terrible time with glare on the darker edges. Even using my photographer's even lighting we couldn't get it to photograph sufficiently well. Furthermore, this is one of those things that I just have to troubleshoot because it becomes a problem on all my work. Not having had a very good technical painting education, I hadn't heard of oiling out. But, thanks to YouTube, I had subscribed to Gamblin's feed, and they had recently put out a video on the topic. (I was on a YouTube kick for a while, so I watched that, and about a million other things, including Art21's new series, which is totally worth a look.) A good artist-friend of mine had also passed along the tip that Lavender Spike Oil was supposed to reduce shine on dark areas when used as a medium. So I hodge-podged together a recipe for my own oiling-out solution, hoping for a finish would be even and maybe a little satin.

Collection of Painting Mediums

Collection of Painting Mediums

My recipe is as follows:

  • 1 part Odorless Mineral Spirits (1 small pour, maybe a tablespoon? two?)
  • 1 small lump Cold Wax Medium (lima bean size)
  • Smash and stir til dissolved
  • 1 part Galkyd
  • 1 1/2 or 2 parts Lavender Spike Oil

Then you brush it on evenly and rub it in with a cloth (cheesecloth, ideally) using circular  motion.

It definitely seemed to help considerably. Now the painting is at the photographer's again, and I'm awaiting results. She may still have to use polarizing filters to get it just right on film, we'll see. But I have high hopes. And already the in-person experience of it is improved, the colors glow and the corners don't glare. (Storing the leftovers in a tin can with plastic wrap, however, was a failure. I got a glass jar with a rubber seal for storing future batches.)

Development number 3 involved a trip to Ikea. The Brooklyn store is kind of a hell-hole, and that's not just because I'm partial to the Portland one. But we drove out over the Brooklyn Bridge, and coming back into the city the view was just beautiful, so the trip was arguably worth it just for that. It's funny to realize that there's a lot of the city I haven't actually seen, despite having traveled past/through it, because I'm so often underground. It feels like a strange treat to be in a car.

Anyway, we made the Ikea trip because I've had my eye on the Bygel cart since before I moved.

New Painting Cart

New Painting Cart

It's very compact, not too rickety, and only $30. Hard to argue. I also got some glass shelves to use as palettes. It's so nice to be mixing on glass again. Plus, I have my desk area back, now that my palette and brushes are all loaded onto the cart. I can't help but miss my old painting cart, with it's 4 swiveling wheels and hugeness, but for my current space this is a vast improvement.

The last and most recent development is that we finally got sufficient air conditioning installed to deal with this heat wave. And it's been glorious. I can finally paint without dripping sweat, and without my paint literally drying on the brush. Oh, a/c, how I love thee.

Fall has... Fell. Felled? Fallen?

I recently printed up a small run of birthday invitations for a friend's daughter -- my first custom design for a child. Expectedly, it's quite different doing a youth design compared to doing a wedding, but what surprised me more was how different it was to do a design for a specific kid, rather than just for "kids." Normally I think of kid-oriented design to be too saccharine, too bright, or overly Swedish-inspired for my taste (I get my fill of swedishness working for the big blue-and-yellow box) but this design came out a little edgy, I think. Or maybe a little 80s. I couldn't help but fall back into memories of Paula Abdul songs and that unforgettable skate rink smell (ancient chewing gum ground into little black spots on the carpet + icee machines + preteen hormones) at the mention of a roller skating party.

In other news, I have a new silkscreen print in the Family show at Launch Pad. Like much of my work, it came about spontaneously and left me to figure out what it was about on my own. I'm still not sure I have a good answer for that, but in order to title it I interpreted it in relation to the Family show. In Latin. It's called Excisum Meus Fratres, Puer Sola Ego Sum, meaning (I think), "My Siblings Having Been Lost, I Am An Only Child," which makes reference to the fallopian pregnancies that preceded and followed my birth, rendering me, irreversibly, an only child.

And last but not least, I've had two pieces accepted into a recent graduate show at Portland State. More details to come...

Studio Office Remodel, Part 1

The past couple of weeks I've been gearing up for a wholesale mailing blitz for my 2010 Valentines. (I know it seems early -- and for the real world, it is -- but give it a couple more weeks and you'll start seeing Christmas merchandise. The drop date keeps inching its way earlier and earlier. Pretty soon 'Christmas in July' will just link up with Christmas in December without any break in between. My point is: in the world of seasonal retail, September is not too soon to start thinking about Valentines Day.) Deciding on this year's colors, laying out my order sheet, running copies, printing color and design samples, and so forth.

I ran into a snag when my color printer ran out of ink. I was pretty sure I ordered 2 cartridges last time I ordered, so I thought, I must have a spare sitting around here somewhere. After it failed to turn up in all the predictable spots, I figured maybe it was time to clean my desk. There was a good chance it was buried in the 6 inches of stacked/falling/piles of paper.

My studio office. Note how the wall of the window well blocks off any light that might make its way into the office area.
A few hours later: a mostly clean desk but no ink cartridge. My desire for said ink cartridge (which it turns out I never ordered -- the second cartridge was the black one) morphed into a desire for a better office in general. I had been really craving some natural sunlight in my workspace, since I spend an awful lot of time sitting in front of the computer during gorgeous days.

I had been toying with the idea of a remodel for a while, sketching out ideas to make use of the strange, angular space my desk was in.

So the next morning I started ripping things apart. Meanwhile, of course, I was still in the middle of getting materials ready to mail. This was not going to be a quick remodel (quick remodels require detailed plans -- I barely had plans at all) and I have a hard enough time shutting my computer down at night. Besides, we had just gone to Everyday Music, and I had a stack of new (used) cds, and I can't work without music anyway. So I just stacked everything to the side.

Unplugging is for losers.

That was all a couple days ago now. Now I'm in the thick of the hard part. It's not easy to frame out anything when you can't attach anything to the walls (concrete). I can secure things to the exposed beams, or the staircase (although I'm not sure I would really call that 'secure') but everything else has to function on tension and gravity. Oh, and nothing's level. That's been fun. But I am making progress.I dropped $100 on some solid wood countertop from Ikea to use as the desk and worktable portions, but that's the only part that has really cost anything. The rest is recycled or scavenged. Much of it from the original framing that was in the basement "bonus room" when we moved in. (It wasn't much of a bonus, unless you like fire traps.)

More to come. Wish me luck.

Hello, world.

Okay, so I'm blogging. For "all the wrong reasons," like increased google-ability. And because I'm sitting with a beer and waiting for a screen to dry, and... everybody else is doing it.

Also, it's potentially a really great way/place to collect and share all of the lovely things out in the world (and by world I mean internet, of course). Like GingerAndGold does. And like Design*Sponge. I've recently gotten into reading design-y blogs and can finally see the value in them. So I guess I'm a convert.

Plus, I have to have somewhere to direct my self-satisfaction over the small improvements I occasionally make to my studio. Adrian is sick of hearing about how much I love my new wash-out booth (see photo).

It's the shower curtain from our old apartment (the house has sliding glass shower doors... which we broke... beside the point) hung from screw-in eyes from the beams and then packing-taped to the laundry sink on the outside. It's pretty ghetto -- my whole studio is -- but necessity is the mother of invention and it works like a dream. I also put a pressure nozzle on the end of the sink hose, which is fantastic.

P.S. This is genius: I may have to work my employee discount and get me some. Like I need more places to stash crap.