Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Digging Up The Past.

Studio closet 'before'
For the last month or so, I've been in closets, drawers and the attic.  Excavating.  Recycling.  Cleaning, donating and reorganizing.  It all started innocently enough when I opened one drawer and discovered my physical therapy equipment from my broken wrist almost 10 years ago. 

My wrist is strong enough to throw clay now.  It healed and so did I.

Granddaughter wearing one of my daughter's sun rompers

Next came the attic.  Oh, I have dreaded opening it up for years.  Every time I heard a weird sound at night, I'd see squirrels eating my books or making nests in my children's baby clothes.  On dark and rainy nights, I pictured streams of water turning all my photos into mushy piles of mold.  But with the birth of a new granddaughter, it was time to see if the toys I'd so lovingly boxed up could be passed on to a new generation.

Up into the attic, my husband climbed.  My dread turned to delight.

My son's two favorite toys and robot overalls

The boxes were sealed and dry.  Books came down by the dozens and just needed dusting.  Toys, too!  There were boxes of wood blocks, Brio trains, My Little Ponies and the best of all, a wooden bead roller coaster.  Baby clothes were warm and dry and ready to wear.  Ok, they needed to be re-washed and some needed to be donated but both my 'kids' have a nice box of baby to toddler clothes to use for their children.  My husband found some pictures from his first radio job.  But I left my high school yearbooks boxed up for another day.  

Oh that, closet under the stairs.

Ad for Portland Radio Broadcasters

I wrote a whole blog about my closet excavations.  You can read it here.  It was quite a dig but in the end, well worth the effort.  I've since gathered up all my bigger oil, acrylic, watercolor and pastel paintings and put them in the back of the closet behind the Christmas decorations.  It's a great space for them and they are all together for the first time in years.  Now when I open the closet, it feels so fresh and light.  

Space, really is the final frontier, especially in my studio.

The piles of old studio stuff ready for recycling

I shuddered when I confessed to several friends the horror hidden in my studio closet.  It was so bad, that I had to push things inside so I could close the doors.  I've always thought of myself as a no-clutter, organized person, so this was growing into a nightmare in the closet for me.  Yesterday, I thought I would be able to pull some handles, and get the closet cleaned while they dried, then put the handles on the mugs.  Wrong!  

The closet took all day.  And again, it was a trip into my past.

A collection of old paintings and pastels

This time, I dug up my journals, sketchbooks, watercolors and acrylics. Some sketchbooks were my 'toys' I played with on weekends or vacations after my day job in advertising.  Others were from my early Mom days, then onward to art school classes and studio ideas which turned into art pieces I've shown in gallery shows.  
"Two Faced" A fiber art piece with embroidered drawing of Katherine Hepburn on one side, abstract on the other.

There were fiber art pieces from my 'Pieced Imagery' class.  Drawing and painting class assignments.  Stacks of old print and watercolor papers. A few masks along with drawings of all my mixed media pieces and copper masks.  Binders of slides of my older gallery work.  A box of masks made by children in my mask classes.  Photos of me in the classroom during my artist in residence. Lots of art materials from pastels, paints and paper to copper, screening and beads. Some were definitely ready for recycling but others were happily rediscovered.

Lost and found projects.
The misfit shelf

One shelf was my land of misfit pieces.  There were quite a few clay busts in there along with some copper work.  It's the first shelf I see when I open the closet and, I realized today, makes me sigh. It's my 'should' shelf.  I should finish them.  Paint them or make bodies for them or get bases for them or...  

Maybe their not lost at all.
Clay sculpture: male and female faces, lion and raven

Taking all my misfits out of the closet, I was forced to touch them and really look at them.  Really, really see them.  And what I saw weren't misfits or unfinished work at all.  I saw finished work, ready to go out into the world with just a few little adjustments.  They were ready.  But I was not.  

It's hard to let go, isn't it?  

Maybe that's why I've been in and out of all those dark closets.  Digging up the past, I've found a lot of dirt and dust and memories but I've uncovered a lot of surprises, too.  Like awards and pretty baby outfits and precious toys, books and, yes, some unfinished projects and some that are ready to go out into the world.
Studio closet 'after' can see the floor!

Maybe, so am I.  It's time to let go of the past and move onward.

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