I had a meeting a few days ago about a potential project this summer. I have meetings about potential projects all the time. What made this one interesting was that we didn't talk so much about what we'd create, but about how to be creative. This would be for the employees at an ad agency. We discussed my particular brand of creativity and how I got to where I am in my work. The trick is to structure a day so that all 150 employees in the local office can walk away with a new insight that they can apply to their own work, build a greater sense of community within the group, and produce something so totally awesome that they're truly inspired. That's a tall order.
As I think about my creativity and what's inspired me, I think of all the time I've spent looking at other people's artwork. Not the artwork of other "balloon artists", but the people that work with other media. I've spent time working with other media myself. My favorite experimental medium was glass. I went into it thinking that glass could take on some of the same shapes as balloons. I thought for sure that I understood what was involved in making things from globs of molten silica. I learned I was completely wrong. But, I was truly inspired by what could be done and what I learned about glass. Suddenly, I was trying to use balloons to get new shapes that I had never considered before. I've gone through that with other media as well. I'll pick something up, experiment and come out trying to mimic, using balloons, what I learned from each new material. Note I said "trying to mimic". In reality what I create is almost always entirely different than what inspired the attempt, and that's what I find most fun and exciting about the process.
I want to take my work to a new level. I want to continue to be inspired by other artists. I want to work in a location surrounded by other artists. I'm happy to say, I found just such a work place. For a long time I've wanted an art studio to work in. I've had an office at home for years, and I create wherever I go, but I feel like so much of my time is spent in isolation. I've been lacking that studio space amidst an artist community. Starting in June, Kelly and I will finally have a studio to work in. It's in the Hungerford Building on East Main St in Rochester. This is an awesome location with plenty of space and plenty of other art studios with artists willing to share. I'm really excited about having a place that I can actually build stuff without concern for cleaning up my tools as soon as I'm done. It's a place that will always have room for me to take photos of my work so I'll be able to record more of what I do and get back to writing more books. I'll be able to host small classes and jams without searching for new locations every time. I'll give more info about the studio soon. I need to get myself set up there first. Then I'll invite everyone to stop by.
An outside project
This talk of inspiration through other media has me wanting to talk about a current obsession of mine. This has nothing to do with the art I create to sell or the work I'm known for, except that I've been far more excited about it than anything else I've created recently simply because it lets my mind wander in new directions. My daughter recently asked for a dollhouse. ("Recently" is a relative term that can only be fully appreciated by someone that's attempted to build a dollhouse. It refers to a time just before I began this project, however I realize many people would not call 6 months recent when talking about a request from a 7 year old.) My dad started building dollhouses a couple years ago and Morgan plays with them whenever she's in NYC visiting. Now she wanted her own. Conveniently, my dad left an unopened dollhouse kit in my basement that he figured he'd build some day. I decided to take on this new challenge. I work with my hands. I figured I could do this. It turned out to be like my experiments with glass all over again. In case there's any question in your mind, let me assure you that wood is completely unlike balloons.
If you've never built a dollhouse, you might be wondering what the big deal is. After all, a kit is a kit. You punch out a few pieces from die cut sheets and follow some instructions to end up with a nifty model. Well, as it happens, that's quite an incredible understatement. There are simple dollhouses that are basically wooden boxes with dividers in them to make up a few rooms, and then there's this Victorian house kit that Dad happened to leave in my basement that contained the words in the unbelievably inadequate instructions warning that "this is not a weekend project." Add to that my lack of interest in following recipes. When I make something, I always want it to be mine. This isn't about being too lazy to read instructions, or thinking that they don't apply to me. I just wanted this to be my project and wanted, from the beginning, to customize it. That is what an artist does, right?
So what does an artist do to customize a prepackaged kit? Well, paint seems like the obvious first choice. Not wanting to stray too far from my usual medium, I did stick with latex paint. But that's still not good enough. I got a little carried away with the wallpaper concept. Only one room is papered right now, but I'm happy to say it's with wallpaper of my own creation. There just didn't seem to be suitable wallpaper out there. I also decided that lighting was important in any house, and the dollhouse lighting kits out there just seemed to be way over the top in cost. So I've been experimenting with my own LED lights and wiring. I'll get the wiring finished to my liking, put all the siding on, and then start hanging artwork on walls. Morgan's already made a bunch of furniture herself. She's helped with the house painting, and when she saw me making wallpaper, she decided to make flooring (think of it as hand drawn wallpaper that she thinks would make for great carpeting). I don't know if this will have any impact on my other art any time soon, but it's been fun. Morgan and I will probably keep tinkering with it for months to come, getting it just right. Who knows, maybe I'll find time some day to do another. What I really want now is to get back to glass stuff. Maybe there's a glass artist in the Hungerford that does flameworking and can help me make chandeliers.