Thursday, March 19, 2015
Art and storage
I am a very, very fortunate artist. I live in an extremely large, historic house in downtown Columbia, South Carolina. It has unique zoning. The first floor is my business, Mouse House. Once upon a time, this was a full-service custom picture framing shop with up to 14 on payroll. Steve and I offered full-time employees a paid health insurance policy, a retirement plan, vacation days, and over-time pay. We were busy ... so busy that I once stopped sleeping for nearly six weeks. (I got really sick.) I worked from the time I rolled out of bed until the wee hours of every morning when I crept back under the covers ... seven days a week ... fifty weeks a year.. I am an excellent picture framer but I hated this exhausting life. Secretly, I dreamed of becoming an artist ... "when I grew up". In July 2001, I finally fired my head mat cutter. I was the back-up mat cutter. His hours and mine totaled 25 per day. I was in serious trouble and decided to forcibly downsize the business. It took two years to downsize, to find jobs for all the others, and finish long-term obligations. Finally in 2003, I got a studio at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios ... and simply went to work. Learning to become an artist is hard work ... but I work hard. It has been an amazing journey.
Now ... I still do limited custom picture framing (gotta earn a living!) but the business is restricted to the work my husband Steve and I can accomplish without employees. Over the years, lots of other things gradually changed as well. For instance, we no longer stock the thousands and thousands of antique botanicals and 19th c. prints we once did. Most of these things were hauled off to an auction house in Virginia and sold ... in order to make room for storing my artwork. The shelves that once overflowed with hand-colored engravings are now stacked full of art quilts, my Decision Portrait Series, altered and artist books, and a myriad of other creative work. The walls used to be filled with custom framed mirrors, merchandise for sale. We still have mirrors but many of the downstairs walls are now covered in my available artwork. Upstairs the walls are equally filled ... with our personal collection.
Virginia Spiegel ... now framed in a lovely real burl frame. Click on image to enjoy!)
I've done a bit of rearranging in order to hang our newest piece. This is Mysteries of Horseshoe Rock II by Virginia Spiegel. We recently traded and I couldn't be more pleased. Virginia has even listed the acquisition on her website! Thank you, Virginia!
Even as Mouse House changed over the years, the problem of storage has continued to pester me. So ... while Steve is in London, I'm tackling the upstairs storage room. Yes ... Steve went to see our son Mathias Lenz Dingman, first soloist with Birmingham Royal Ballet, in the company's London Coliseum performances this weekend. He left yesterday and returns at 11:30 PM on Monday. The first photo in this blog post shows what I managed to do today while manning Mouse House. Years ago it was a bedroom. Believe it or not, we only have a single bedroom in the house (which is nearly 4000 square feet). This room looked too horrible for me to share a "before" photo. Now, it functions much better as a location to store dozens of shipping boxes, all the unraveled thread and 130+ baskets that make up my Threads: Gathering My Thoughts installation, several bags of dissected and washed fabric from artificial flowers collected from cemetery dumpsters, an embarrassing amount of knitting and crochet yarn (I don't do either), boxes of vintage household lines, stacks of old damask tablecloths, and an enormous stash of recycled black acrylic industrial felt. Tomorrow ... I tackle another room. This one is downstairs but yet another room for my "art obsessions". I can barely get inside the door. Wish me luck!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 4:01 PM