I’m fascinated by the trash cans in artist’s studios. They often have a rare level of truly disgusting filth in them, and usually some rotting yogurt or something too. Why, you might ask, is there a higher level of disgusting to many an artist’s trash can than others household or office trash cans? My theory is that artist’s use everything that could be used, scrap paper, things we’ve pulled out of other people’s trash (Hey! this is a perfectly good piece of foam/tupperware container/colorful piece of string!), sawdust, iron filings…and too, many of us are really tired at the end of a day, and so taking out the trash is generally not something I do very often unless its stinking or nothing more can be added to it due to being overfull. That last part is an exaggeration and I do know some extremely fastidious artists. Also, many studios have mice, or other small vermin and so some artist’s do not have the luxury of leaving their trash lying around. Also, about the yogurt, many artist studios don’t have sinks, and so there can be a pain in the butt factor to properly rinsing something out, that, at the end of your work day you can’t be bothered with.
Anyway, it’s often a unique kind of messy, the inside of an artist’s trashcan. Take a peek on your next studio visit occasion, or look at your own trash a little closer. Look in the trash of many households or offices, and you will see the commonplace items like dental floss, q tips, unwanted notes and packaging.
When there is a lot of one thing: plastic bread tags, rubberbands, tiny dots of hole punch litter, and other discards, both kids and artist’s take notice.
There’s a kind of abundance to something collecting, and it becomes a kind of texture or pattern that can capture the creative imagination. Likely, I’m overlaying my own worldview onto other artists when that’s probably not the case for many. And probably, I’m more of a lazy slob than most. Some people may only allow into their studio the highest quality materials and someone else takes out their trash. Others might only work with plants, or single objects, but this is my theory about artist’s trashcans.
As for me, there’s always been a desire to reuse what I already have, to make a new discovery in an unlikely place, and to work with what’s already around. I do this with the Death Books and my other handmade artist’s books, I did this when I made Help me [ ], do the thing. from bits of other art projects, when I collage, make most kinds of sculptures like the Three Variables series and Offering Shelf.
Here’s a piece of personal trivia for you: I have been coaching creative pioneers of many stripes, one on one and in groups for eleven years.
For some reason I’ve wanted deeply to compartmentalize this fact.
I’ve always loved the incredible, alive, one-on-one work of coaching, and it’s always felt natural and spot on. It’s been squirrely-feeling however, to share this openly. What I’m learning is that letting myself be more fully seen, sharing my fears and aspirations with people I trust, is grounds for closeness, intimacy and support, rather than judgement.
I call coaching the reflecting pool project, because I believe each human being is meant to be that for each other: a reflecting pool. It is a simple, beautiful and universal process: that’s what’s so rare about the space of coaching. We prize simplicity and reflection but find it very difficult to hang out in.
The coaching space is designed with a kind of feng shui about it. It keeps the lines clean and the airwaves open and clear. It’s a very disciplined form of communication; there’s a beautiful give and take in the way that my clients and I communicate with one another as their path through the sessions unfolds. What I do is quite rare, yet through the training and framework of coaching, it becomes a more natural way for my clients to relate to themselves, and to hold space for others. This work is sacred and its pure and it's powerful. No matter how hoaky the word coach might be, it’s a profound and transformative process we undertake together. Sharing this truth, being straightforward and honest about what I do, is freeing. I don’t have to cower. I don’t have to wait frozen under a little lettuce leaf like the bunny I found in my garden. His mom told him: You wait here until I come find you, don’t move a muscle, I’ll be back tonight. Theres a kind of faith in what that bunny’s doing. It’s a program running in the bunny. And at the same time, if I were to quote that as my inner voice: Don’t move a muscle, It would come from a place of fear.
Due to the bunny voice, I haven’t loved sharing this news, but here’s how I’m doing that now: I share what I do, I slow down, I take my time. When I take what I’m saying seriously, the other people in the room also slow down and hear what I’m saying and take it seriously also. I feel in a way like I’m waking up to myself in a more integrated form. I’m hearing messages in books and conversation right now that emphasize this sentiment None of it really matters, so make your own choices. We don’t get that much more time. Just take a stand for who you are and what you want, and don’t apologize for it. And don’t expect anyone to approve of you. And don’t worry because there’s only you here.
So that’s it. I’m a coach people, always have been, always will be. Deal with it. I’m here to serve, AND I’m making space for new clients.
Set up your free thirty minute conditional coaching session now while supplies last.
Learn more here.
Hannah Burr is a contemporary artist and author. Originally from Boston, she lives in Ann Arbor MI.