Lisa Call, the noted textile artist, recently posted about her studio habits; you can find her post here. If you don’t read her blog, it’s worth checking it out. She is a very focused textile artist and she generously shares her mindset on why she does what she does to advance her art and to grow as an artist. Here are my answers to the questions she has posed about working habits:
Is your studio at home or a separate space?
I live in 2 states, and in each state, my studio is at home, and that works out great for me. If I had to go somewhere else to work, I would not get nearly as much studio time.
How big is your studio?
My North Carolina studio is really large; it measures 33 ft x 25 feet and it enables me to work very efficiently because there are a variety of stations which are set up for specific purposes. Since each station has a dedicated function, I don’t have to spend time putting equipment away or getting equipment/supplies out. My Ohio sewing room (I can’t call this space a studio) is very small and overcrowded. I haven’t measured it, but I’m guessing it measures roughly 10 ft x 14 ft. It has dormer ceilings and that makes it feel even more claustrophobic in there. It doubles as my office, so I don’t have the luxury of having dedicated stations that serve specific purposes. In truth, I have started to really spread my fiber work into other rooms in the house. We have a finished basement that houses an HQ16 sitdown model set into a large cabinet. I have also spread into a spare bedroom on the second floor that now houses an embroidery machine. I don’t have the logistics of all this “outreach” worked out, though. I don’t have my thread selection in these other places and that is not working well for me since I am totally a thread person. Here’s a shot of the sewing table in NC as it looked earlier today:
If you’re wondering if I usually have so much crap on my sewing table as I’m working, the answer would be “yes!” Here’s an old picture of my cutting table. I’m posting it because it’s clear in this photo, and I was too ashamed to post a picture of what it looks like today:
Typically, how many hours a day do you work in the studio?
I average 4-5 hours per day, but in reality, there is a huge variance from day to day. I have some days where I spend 10 hours in the studio and on days when I work at hospice, I get up early to have 30 minutes of studio time before work but I’m too tired at night to get back in there. I am happiest when I’m in my studio so I generally try to organize my day to maximize studio time.
How many days a week?
I am in my studio 7 days per week. If something happens and I can’t get in there everyday, I feel on edge, like something important isn’t being fed.
Do you listen to music while you work?
Not very often. When I do, it’s usually very loud. I am not a person who enjoys music being played quietly in the background when I’m sewing or creating.
Do you watch television while you work?
You bet I do! I was weaned on television! I love having the tv playing in the background of whatever I’m doing, and the more trivial the show, the better. Currently, my favorite thing to play in the background are any of the “Real Housewives of….” franchise! Actually, almost anything from Bravo in the background is entertaining! I can’t actually watch the show, but it’s nice having it play out in the background.
Do you answer the telephone while you are in your studio?
Yes, if it’s not a telemarketer.
How often do you take breaks?
It depends on what I’m doing. If I’m doing something I totally enjoy, I can work for 4-5 hours without a break. If I’m frustrated with a piece or doing a technical part of the creative process that I’m not wild about, I may take a break every 20 minutes or so. For example, I can sit and free motion quilt for 4 hours and feel great physically and mentally the whole time. Conversely, I can only quilt in straight line types of designs for about 15 minutes without my neck feeling really tight and my brain feeling very edgy and anxious, so I take very frequent breaks when doing that kind of work. My work has changed a lot in the last 9 months. Ever since programmed embroidery has become part of my life, my work routine has had to accommodate it. This means being interrupted frequently to swap out threads, re-hoop a project, etc. I am loving the effects I can get with embroidery, but sometimes I long for the old days of being able to sit at my machine and just FMQ without interruption.
Do you have any over-use issues with your hands or any other body parts?
Both of my wrists are in trouble, my left more so than my right. I have carpal tunnel syndrome but I also have a problem with recurrent tendonitis in each wrist. When this gets really bad, I have had a condition called Guyon’s Canal Syndrome and this has been far more painful to me than the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Most of the time, I can manage this but when it flares up, it is somewhat disabling to me.
If so, how do you manage them or compensate?
I sleep with both of my hands in wrist splints and this has helped me tremendously. When I have a flareup, I use the wrist splints during the day as well. I will rarely have to use Advil. When the tendonitis has been severe enough to case enough swelling to initiate the Guyon’s Canal Syndrome, I have to take steroids. I’ve been told I need surgery, but I’m not ready to concede that yet. Knock on wood, but I haven’t had any issues with my neck or my back, even with sitting and FMQ’ing for hours at a time. When I exercise, I spend a lot of time stretching afterward, and I think that’s helped to keep me flexible.
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