Yesterday I wrote about how important it is to me to have a room of my own to work and play in that allows me to let my hair down and be myself. If you had a chance to read that post and take a look at the pictures of my studio, you might wonder how an actual person could fit into that mess. I know that after I posted those pictures it was one of my first thoughts along with “Oh my! You’re letting other people see that mess?”, and “Do you suppose you can cram anything else into that space?”
So today, I’ll let you in on a little secret, that isn’t really a secret to anyone who’s been to my house. I can be a little messy when I’m working…… OK – I can be quite messy when I’m working………. Alright, alright – I am a slob.
Here’s the cycle. It starts with a lovely clean studio where everything has its place and is obligingly waiting there for my attention. I come in and wander around and admire the studio’s neatness, how clean the floor is and that I can practically dance in there without disturbing any stuff. While I’m dancing around, I notice an idea sidling its way into my attention and I pick out a plate, some ink, a couple of brayers. I might start looking for an image that I remembered seeing in a pile somewhere (who cleaned up in here and where did it go?) or I might start drawing over by the window (oh – how sweet to have counter space just waiting for me!).
Ink is mixed, plates are inked, ink is pushed and wiped and spread. I pull out the glue for my chine colle, the scissors, a number of brushes and cloths to manipulate the ink a bit more. I am now dancing a different dance; the samba of the maker, the rave of creativity. It is a wild dance, this laying down of color and image. It is messy and childlike and fun. It has its origins in fingerpainting and its restraints from the rules of school. I am pulled by ideas, emotions and my senses while my intellect helps with the choreography. I might work on two or even three plates at the same time, letting ideas talk to one another and influence each other’s paths.
When plates are ready, I press them. Prints are laid out on any spare surface to dry. Used plates are inked again using the leftover ink as a starting point for the next print. I might go on this way for days or weeks until …it’s time to clean.
Often there is a break between the mess making and the cleaning up. There are books to be read and weeds to be pulled and the need to take some time to recharge the creative batteries. But at some point I have to face the chaos that I left behind. I pick up, I wash and sort plates. I put everything neatly back into place and vacuum the floor. I touch my books and remember what lies inside of them. I pick up the jars of ink and admire the color as I wipe them down. Brayers are wiped and laid on their backs in order of size and brushes are scrubbed with soap and water and sorted according to their use.
Sometime later, I will wander in again and admire the studio’s neatness.