I recently treated myself to a new scanner which allows me to begin making digital copies from my 35mm slide collection, of which there are several thousand images, many snapshots of people & places, but more importantly those which document the work, mostly as jewelry produced in my studios during the last four decades of the last century.
The desire to view & share all those images without setting up a screen & projector long ago identified the need to bring my archive into a more usable format. The machine is a document scanner as well, so the first experiment was with a newspaper clipping from 1963 describing the studio I had in high school… the first of numerous working places I had been wanting to write about.
So I can begin what will become a series describing the list of a dozen or so studios which have been my creative life’s bailiwicks. I intend to treat them one at a time since each represents a period & place with sufficient history to warrant a discreet article.
The summer before my senior year at Colby Community High School in NW Kansas, my grandfather “gave” me the farm’s old well house for a studio. This was a two story building with an 9’X9′ approximate footprint, built of a kind of burned red clay hollow tile/brick which used to be common before “cinder/concrete block” became standard. The exterior of which was stuccoed.The building had no roof because the upper area was filled wall to wall with the redwood tank which held the water produced by the adjacent windmill. By that time an electric pressure pump system had replaced need of either of these tall structures which were landmark/icons on the flat plains, marking for most of a century, each farmstead.
This was the view going toward my home in Kansas… a dozen years ago ago… the Kiva had been torn down long before that…
[…remember that you may click, & click again, on the images to enlarge them…]
Since I first entered what was to become my inner sanctum by climbing a ladder & scrambling onto the tank’s cover, I whimsically dubbed it “The Kiva”, that being a Hopi word I understood to include meaning entering… what I now know was a more subterranean room, through a hole in the roof… I was a romantic kid who even then made free with words. The name stuck, even when I’d left for college & the building became a play house for younger siblings & cousins who still know it thus.
My kid brother, Gary, helped me begin disassembling the tank which was build rather like a straight sided barrel of tongue & groove staves bound with iron straps. I must assume it had been put together before the walls had been laid up around to enclose its volume. When all had come to pieces again, I sawed a 24″X24″ opening in the floor & built a permanent ladder so I could climb between floors on the inside. He also helped get 3 big [4″X8″] beams lifted into place, but if I recall he didn’t grok patience for my plans required detailing their use … I remember doing most of that work myself.
My nascent-decorator-self imagined the fancy cut details on the cross members which were thus tapered to construct the coffered effect of the ceiling. I cut into the walls with a masonry saw to open two high windows & began detailing it into a comfortable escape into the privacy I never knew in the too small house full of too much family 50 feet away. I now joke that this was a project fueled by youthful testosterone!
The article, was written by my friend Virginia Theimer, with whom I kept touch until her death a couple years ago. I’ll let it tell more of the story from that perspective. She complimented me on the occasion of our 20th class reunion by calling the one person she said she was curious about… neither of us felt very connected to the class we’d come up with in that rural community which we’d both long outgrown. She was a writer & editor of children’s books, so both of us had made careers from our early interests. There is even a hint toward my interest in bells as I drew a bell I remember buying in an import store in Denver one family vacation… a Japanese wind chime hung from one of those beams under the eaves… fifteen years before making my first bell!
The barn, which was one of my favorite subject for drawing & paintings is seen here in colored chalk as background for the BARN bell which it inspired years later. It too changed when the wonderful gambrel roof was blown off in a straight wind… not one of the cyclones the plains are famous for! The roof was rebuilt as a simple gable & the entire building was covered with corrugated metal, losing all the character I loved.
These mementos & my memories are all I have left of my first studio. I intend to share more about the spaces I’ve made for my working life, even as I do not have photographs of many, as I have not always had a camera. This list of GRB studios is an early working tool to help me organise future posts. I need to develop a corresponding time line… my memory is fuzzy about dates for some:
• The Kiva… Colby, Kansas [1962-64] • Race Street…. Denver, Colorado [1964-67] • Downing Street One… Denver, Colorado  • The Haunted House… Denver, Colorado [1967-68] • Pearl Street… Denver, Colorado [1968-69] • 11th & Downing… Denver, Colorado [1969-70] • The Highlands… Bryant Street, Denver, Colorado [1970-74] • AUm — Tlacquepacque Village, Sedona, Arizona [1974-75] • Copper Bottoms… Sedona • Upwillow… Sedona, Arizona [1977-87] • Studio 3… Sedona, Arizona [1987-88] • The Aerie Garret… Sedona, Arizona [1988-90] • The Bothy… Occidental California [1990-96] • The Cabinet… Seattle, Washington [1996-98]
• The Mews… Seattle, Washington [1998-2000]
• The Hold at Souncliff… Vashon Island, Washington [Current]
This last scan shares a piece of calligraphy I made for the Sedona Open Studio newspaper, which the artists published monthly for several years to publicise our tour. It fictionally describes Michaelangelo’s studio, seeming a simple celebration of the complexities these places of “study”. Over the years I’ve experienced the wonder & curiosity these places engender in others… & even in myself. They become intrinsic to the mundane work & sometime magic of the artistic processes. I celebrate studios!