Since the advent of telecommuting, it’s not unusual for people to work at home.
But few have made their homes the center of their work lives as extensively as Steve Vachon and Sue Davis of Fort Wayne.
Both Vachon and Davis are artists – he’s a potter who makes large raku vessels in sleek, Asian-inspired geometric shapes, and she’s a painter/watercolorist who also makes found-object collages and jewelry.
Most days, you can find Sue, 65, in her studio, in what used to be the home’s living room, while Steve, 63, works in his studio, which occupies the basement with two kilns, a wheel, drying racks, work benches, and shelves filled with finished vessels and supplies.
It never occurred to me to not have a studio in my house. To me, it’s like not having a kitchen, says Sue, whose studio overlooks a wooded lot just off Wallen Road with flitting songbirds and daffodils and crocus just starting to bloom.
As local artists open their home workspaces to the public Saturday as part of this year’s fourth annual Rural Studio Tour, the couple will showcase a home that they’ve truly made their own.
For one thing, the art in their home goes well beyond what’s in progress in their studios.
The two, active in the Orchard Gallery artists’ cooperative, are inveterate collectors of pieces by other local artists, as well as kindred spirits they’ve met while exhibiting and selling their wares on the Midwest’s summertime art fair circuit.
Their eclectic taste gives their home the feel of a gallery, though an unstuffy one that invites lingering.
In Davis’ studio, much of her collection is what she considers nature’s art – geodes, fossils and other rock and mineral specimens.
She says she was a rockhound from an early age, and much of her jewelry is fashioned from stones she’s found, especially along Lake Michigan. The carefully sorted stones sit in tiny plastic bins on her work table.
I’m one of those kids who have always picked up rocks, even out of the driveway, she says. With the beach stones, I’m always thinking, Where was it, and how did it get here?’
You know, it’s millions of years old. How did it get to my feet for me to pick up? It’s just a magical feeling, she says.
In the kitchen is a bookcase filled with dozens of small pieces of pottery and sculpture from many of her Orchard Gallery friends. The wall behind the finds is painted purple, an odd color, Davis acknowledges, but one that brought out the colors in the assorted items.
It made all of them look new – and united, she says.
More artwork, including a sleek, crackled white raku vase by Vachon, are displayed on shelves, the fireplace mantel and in a wall grouping in what has become the home’s living room, now that the front room houses Sue’s easel, work table and supply cabinets.
The room is a study in sage green, steel blue and light gray, the color of the weathered barn wood paneling that lines it. The two say they let their artistic sense of serenity in design come to forefront.
The room’s major accents are two Asian pieces – a screen behind an armchair in a far corner and a large, square trunk of a coffee table with a gold-leaf lacquer finish painted in a floral design in teals, greens and red.
Vachon says the couple found the piece years ago at an Oriental rug and furnishings sale at the Coliseum. Davis thought it was too expensive, but her husband bought it for her as a surprise.
We’ve never regretted it, he says – even though Davis adds that it took five years to find upholstery fabric to blend with it.
Vachon says over the years, he’s built many of the shelves and storage units in the studios and the rest of the home himself. Three years ago, the couple tackled redoing the kitchen, painting dated walnut cabinets and appliances white and the walls turquoise and laying a light oak laminate floor.
I’ve always liked to make things. I think it’s part of being an artist, he says. To me it’s that I like the challenge of figuring things out, trying things out. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t work as well, but I like to try.
Vachon says it’s beneficial for him to work at home because he needs to keep a close eye on his clay pieces as they dry before firing.
During the tour, he hopes to demonstrate the dramatic process of firing raku – glowing hot pieces are taken from the kiln at 1,800 degrees and allowed to cool, with a resulting crackled glaze.
Davis says the two collaborate on some pieces. She laughs as she calls her husband her enabler, in that he’s willing to drill holes into the stones she uses in her jewelry and is always providing her with scraps of clay and clay tiles for her work.
But the two tend to retreat to their separate spaces during the day, she says, coming together for lunch and dinner and to run errands. The nice thing about working at home, they say, is there’s no lost time in commuting. Plus, they can work whatever hours they like.
But, they add, it’s easy to lose track of what day it is and work all the time.
That’s maybe the only drawback.
We’re not good at – since the studios are here and we’re here all the time – we’re not so good at checking out on the time clock, Vachon says.
But, his wife adds: We try to schedule a couple of weekends a year to just go away somewhere – just to be away from home.