The Journal Gazette
Sunday, June 16, 2019 1:00 am

Finding their creative space

Artists' studios reflect their personalities

Dannon Schroeder | For The Journal Gazette

What does a reclaimed office room, an attached two-car garage, a downtown business space and a member-driven DIY organization have in common? Well, it's where the magic happens ... and by magic, I mean art.

Some Fort Wayne artists opened their sacred spaces to us to share what the layout is like in their studios. Some are as chaotic and expressive as the artist's inner thoughts and others are organized like a personal supply store.

What is common about each is that the space is necessary to the success of the artist.

The room

Snuggled downtown is a reclaimed office above the Macedonian Tribune. Spaces are rented to businesses and professionals. The space is a sanctuary for Heather Miller and allows her the freedom to make a mess and not care about much else in the process.

Miller, an artist and educator, creates multimedia paintings in the 125-square-foot space with high ceilings and faded white walls. The floor is covered with industrial canvas and layered with everything Miller may need to create her dimensional paintings. It is chaotic.

Buckets, bins, brushes and bags are strategically scattered. Glitter, paints, glues and various hues cover the drop cloth as if it were an intentional work of art. For Miller, who has downsized into this smaller space the last year, says it is all she needs to be creative and express her soul to the world.

“The limitations that this studio places on me have been helpful in pushing me to throw training and tradition aside,” she says. “I have enjoyed living within a mess, tossing scraps and materials about with no regard.”

The business

The Hedge print shop on Broadway is the working space of Julie Wall, an artist and entrepreneur who manages the business and creates from the space.

The storefront opens up to a small retail section that features Wall's handmade creations and fine-art prints.

Farther back, working space encases everything a professional may need to design, fashion and print. It is a dream studio that Wall built up from a hollow shell to accommodate her needs.

The 14-foot exposed ceilings magnify the 1,100-square-foot space that appears to be organized down to the pen holder. Shelving, bins, racks and drawers are systematically used throughout the space. Besides the common printing materials, the drawers also hold tree seeds, preserved bugs and dried leaves that provide inspiration through their textures and patterns.

Organization is key for an artist such as Wall, where locating a tool or material is critical for business.

“Being organized outwardly helps me keep track of my deadlines but also allows my brain to feel freer when I'm creating,” she says. “I get distracted by messes and when I need to be as productive as possible, I like to have a clean space where I can access all of my tools and supplies easily.”

The garage

Not all artists require a precise and well-drafted professional studio space. For local muralist Jerrod Tobias, a two-car garage attached to his rural family home does just fine.

With a north-facing door that opens to a fresh breeze and country sunset, Tobias has modified his garage into a studio that allows him to do the planning and designs for his large-scale paintings that can be seen throughout the city.

Folding tables and reused furniture align centrally as an office space with a mellow and eclectic vibe that matches Tobias.

A wood-burning stove was installed to keep the work flowing year-round as most murals are an extended process. With public art being done only when weather permits, Tobias spends the inaccessible winter months proposing and planning projects. He also commits this time to the production of fine artwork for interior spaces.

The walls are covered with Tobias' colorful gallery work that he produces between mural projects. The large door, open spaces and immediate access to his home and family are what is most valued in this studio space.

“If I have the means to make work and make a living, I am achieving my goal in life,” he says. “I have everything I want and need, anything else just makes it more expensive and less sustainable.”

Like Tobias, many artists are known to work from home due to the additional costs of renting space.

The public space

As more creative opportunities arise, many cities, such as Fort Wayne, offer Makerspaces that accommodate artists such as sculptor Sayaka Ganz.

Ganz needs more space than, say, an artist that is painting or working digitally. Her reclaimed plastic sculptures average about 50 inches in the longest dimension with her largest work reaching 16 feet. Artwork this size requires assembly in multiple pieces to move.

She works between multiple studios such as TekVenture, The Build Guild and her private basement studio at home. Her rented space is similar to her home studio with storage containers stacked along most walls. A collection of materials is needed for the sculptor who essentially has her own supply store within her home. Containers are organized with color-coded plastic pieces that are the building blocks of her works.

The difference between her studio is the limitation of space and what can be created and still fit through a double-wide door frame. As beneficial as the multiple work spaces may seem, Ganz mentions that traveling between the studios and remaining well-equipped is challenging.

“I would love to have everything in one space instead of being split between three spaces right now. I just spend so much time driving between spaces. When I am searching for something specific that I cannot find, it becomes very time consuming.”

When it comes to an ideal studio space, Ganz's desires align with the majority of artists. The most commonly sought after features are raised ceilings with the ability to hang work, more square footage to spread out, storage systems on wheels that could be accessed from all sides and bright, natural lighting.

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