Starting up a studio anywhere can be a real challenge – in an expensive city like Seattle even more so. But Deborah Schwartzkopf and George Rodriguez are two community-oriented artists who made it happen using innovative tools like Kickstarter and old-fashioned hard work.
Ceramistas Seattle is the name we have given the umbrella under which our collaborative efforts toward projects, events, and exhibitions happen. We each have our own separate careers, ideas, web pages, and ways of working, but in the end these all come together to propel our home, life, careers, and interests forward. We have a patchwork-quilt life. Each opportunity adds to the whole.
Price reduction on Deb Schwartzkopf’s best-selling DVD!
Once you’ve mastered the basics of handbuilding and throwing, it’s natural to want to experiment and come up with a style that is all your own. Sometimes is it hard to know how to get from point A to point B though. In her DVD Pieces and Patterns, Deb Schwartzkopf shares simple ways of working with bisque molds and thrown pieces to create interesting and unique forms.
We are so excited about the potential of our new studio spaces! We have room to make lots of work—even big work, host workshops, and develop our studio assistant offerings. Ceramistas Seattle is located just outside the Seattle city limits. We moved in and started working here in May of 2013. Our new home/property has two studio spaces in separate buildings and a kiln yard.
Our two assistants and Deb work in the daylight basement of our 1947 rambler house. It is 1200 square-feet, has 8-foot ceilings, cement floors, partially finished walls and ceiling, and three giant windows looking out onto the lush, backyard veggie garden. In this area there is a packing/shipping room, photo-shoot area, tool wall, and an area for finished work set up on clean shelving. There are additional cabinets for storage of event materials, an information board for opportunities for assistants and a group event/work schedule calendar, and flex space for short-term assistants to work, presentations to be given or overflow for projects.
The adjacent shop building is 600 square feet and has 13-foot ceilings, cement floors, and is still largely unfinished (although we are slowly insulating it and finishing the walls in between events). George works in this building. He framed and hung double doors when we were building the kiln yard so that the car-kiln floor can roll into the building and he can build directly on its surface. Off of this shop structure, and between the two studio spaces is the 500-square-foot, covered kiln yard with three electric kilns and a gas-fired car kiln. We built the shed ourselves and funded it with a Kickstarter Campaign, “IGNITE: An Essential Kiln Yard.”
These two spaces are in flux in terms utilizing them to their full potential. Since we are new to the facilities we are still streamlining our work flow. Our future plans are extensive. We would like to build small living quarters for our assistants to ease the expense of living in Seattle. We would like to build a loft in the shop building for storage of work and materials. We would like to put in running water and bathrooms in both work spaces. The list goes on and on. It is an incredible process and it is difficult to balance with the demands of deadlines. With decided effort, we protect our studio work time and energy for making.
George and I have found it helpful to have separate studio spaces. Before, we were working in a tiny space together. Now we both have the elbow room we need to spread out. We may choose whatever music fits our energy level, and set up a work-flow that supports our making process, personality, and head space. We still share kilns, lots of tools, and even collaborate on making once in a while.
Our studio assistants help with everything from putting up drywall to rolling slabs, from pressing out sprigs for George to spreading mulch on the gardens, from mopping the studio to entering emails on our mailing list, from painting studio walls to helping set up at sales events. They occasionally write for the blog, work on the website, take images of our work, or assist at workshops. It is a lot of hard work. They help us in so many ways. In exchange for their work they receive an 8×10 foot workspace, experiential-based learning opportunities, access to materials and kilns, and meetings with us to discuss their work from a technique, idea, or professional development perspective. It is a work/trade relationship.
To learn more about Schwartzkopf and Rodriguez’s careers, presence in their communities, and how they get their work out there, make sure to read the entire Studio Visit article in the March 2015 issue of Ceramics Monthly.