It's interesting to have my studio now in a residential neighborhood. For most of my making years, I have had a studio in a fringe place, on the edge of some urban industrial area with shady dealings and lots of concrete expanse. Once I had a studio in a tiny second bedroom of my own rented place in Gloucester MA, and for a year I rented a friend's back bedroom in JP. Now I am nestled in a type of smaller pole barn structure that resembles from the front a one car garage, behind a modest home, in a circle of nine modest cape houses on a cul-de-sac. It's quiet, there is green space just outside the window - the wilds of my neighbor's yard, and the looming trees of a small wooded lot we can walk in.
Our little cul-de-sac which in french means draw string bag, brings people together, like a draw string pulls the bag closed and closer to itself. Especially as in the last two years, we were grounded, a little cabin fevered, and often gathered out front to socialize, instead of going out places because of covid.
My neighbors John and Kayla, on our blended front lawn one day just after we'd moved in (spring 2020), asked about my work. I shared about the books. As Kayla asked for more detail, her face lit up and realized that my book was on her bedside table - a gift from her mother-in-law who found it in a local shop. Kayla now has all of my books now in a prominent spot on her living room shelf - a deep honor and a tiny thrill.
Kayla is a pediatrician, we had just become neighbors, and from that moment, it felt like, for both of us, a slightly magical neighbor match. Since then she has had her first child, whom my husband and I have taken out for strolls, changed diapers and put to bed, her father has come and helped install the wood stove here in the studio as we built it, and Kayla and her mom have become a big fan of my calendars.
Recently while I was doing some gardening and her mom was visiting, her mom asked shyly if she might see the studio, so the three of them came over, Auggie in the stroller, Kayla and her mom, and took a peek.
Its a big, active mess in here, but it was really amazing to hear them debate which month in my calendar was their favorite, to hear Kayla describe the kind of completely abstract painting she's drawn to and might buy from me when they move to their new home in New Orleans a few months later, and to experience what it feels like to have neighbors this close.
In fact, my stepfather just came to visit us from Boston and spent his last night watching the college basketball final game with John, til midnight in the house next door, because we don't have a TV. There are many other neighbor stories I can tell, but my point here is, art making is also relationships, vulnerability and being seen. I am having whole new experiences as a first time home and studio owner, being in a midwestern town, and prioritizing community above many other things I might have before.
1. My solo show at Barickuda Gallery closes this Saturday, October 22 with a Q & A and talk. The gallery is open from 4:30 - 6 pm, and I'll start talking at 5 pm. We'd love to see you. More details here. If you'd like to see the show but you're far away, I'll do a livestream on Saturday on instagram which you can watch by simply going to my insta feed (instagram.com/hannahburrstudio) on Saturday during those hours. Or, leave a comment here and I can send you a PDF of the work in the show once its down.
2. There are still a few calendars left but they're going fast! I've been selling them at local pop ups and on my shop, where shipping this year is included. I will bring some to the closing event where you can also get them this Saturday. Here's where to buy them online.
I wanted to share a little bit about woodworking with you. When I built my studio we made a decision to take the front ten feet of the garage and turn it into a wood shop. This makes for a rather inelegant entryway, but fulfills the need for me to have a place to put the chop saw that I've dragged around for twelve years, and usually just stepped over on the floor. Sawdust makes it really tricky to work in a studio if you paint or have any other tacky surface around. My wood shop is fairly simple and thrills me to no end. There's a drill press that I inherited from my father-in-law Gerald Marshall, there's the aforementioned chop saw, that now gets used all the time. It sits on a metal folding table that someone gave us while we were walking by their house one afternoon. I installed these orange wood racks which somehow make it all official. Even though wood sometimes falls on me in a cascade, I'm grateful that it's relatively organized up there.
I use a wood shop as an artist to build various supports and structural bases, and I use it a lot in my home life as well. I've done a whole lot of projects, not the least of which was the studio build itself. The studs for the walls all got cut here and when we were building the space; then, the whole space itself was the wood shop. Next up is to build some kind of a shed so that I don't have to tiptoe around a lawnmower and two bikes and all of the gardening and grill stuff that fills about a quarter of the wood working space.
I wear the glasses (in the photo above), also my father in laws, when I'm working with power tools. I really love them. They're probably 50 or 60 years old. They have no prescription in them. For me they create a sense of continuity with my elders. Also in the wood shop are many of my father's tools and my father-in-law's tools. Because my grandfather and father were both woodworkers professionally I feel a deep connection to them both. My father-in-law was an optical physicist and for quite a lot of his life worked as a consultant. Like me he had many creative aspects of the work he did as a self employed person. Both when my father passed away and when my in-laws downsized to a retirement home, we inherited many tools. When I go up to Maine every year, I often add some strange gem at the Liberty Tool Company to my collection like a graphite line scorer or more clamps. I love to pick through the stuff in their creepy haunted space!
The woodworking projects, most of which happened during the pandemic include many firsts in wood. I learned a lot about myself as a woodworker in the process and continue to learn and make new things as we renovate corners of the house.
I'm going to share in images a few of the projects I've completed. I'm as astonished that I made these things! Thanks for tuning in to this look at what goes on behind the scenes. PS. I don't have any plans I can share because I am a sloppy, undisciplined craftsperson.
Rain Barrel Stand
Low gateleg table
THIS IS HOME
May 27 - June 26
Gallery B in Castine, ME
A four woman exhibition opening Feb 3 2023 at the Ann Arbor Art Center.
Curated by Thea Eck.
Janice Charach Gallery
West Bloomfield MI
Jan 15-Mar 1 2023
Works of pure abstraction by 18 artists including five new puffies!
Make your own hand sewn book from the papers left by a loved one.
If you feel overwhelmed, confused or just plain excited by what's afoot in your life, and would like some excellent clarifying space and tools, try a session with Hannah! She's been a coach for 15 years. First 30 minutes is just to see what it's like...
Hannah Burr is a contemporary artist and author. Originally from Boston, she lives in Ann Arbor MI.