Posted 01 January 2014 - 02:41 PM
At present, my relationship with clay exists in both public and private studios. I work at a studio along with about 45 hobbyist clayers and a team of 15 studio assistants, a few of whom are working on a semi-production level. At home I have an incomplete studio set up on a three-season porch: wheel, wedging table, clay storage, drying rack, storage for finished pots - no kiln or glazing setup. April to October I do almost all my wheel work at home and transport my greenware to the community studio to fire. In the cold months I rely on the community studio for the entire process.
I spent the summer after my first clay class working in a small shared studio. A sculptor working in wood and a ceramicist had a studio and took pity on my clay withdrawls until I moved back to school. I pitched in for rent, produced a lot and kept very little. It was rare any of us were in the studio at the same time. It wasn't the most equipped studio, but it kept my hands muddy and I picked up a few tricks from my much more experienced studio partner. Reflecting on this experience continues to give me perspective on what works best for me in terms of size of studio, the need (or lack of need) for the social community component of a workspace.
I've done it all three ways, and I look forward to the day I have a fully-equipped, entirely private studio. It's not that I don't play nice with others, I just know I work better, and enjoy the process more when I'm solo. I enjoy the community space for teaching and taking classes, but to get any real quantities of work produced I do much better on my own. That said, I imagine that a step along the way to my dream studio in the woods (with a mini ramp, of course) will be a return to the semi-private setup like what what you're considering.
Some important factors for me would be:
- Not partnering with a friend. If a friendship develops with a studio partner, that's great. But what's on the table is business. Mixing friendship and business can work, but can just as easily ruin one or both. I'd post an ad and treat it like hiring a co-worker.
- Set clear expectations about your standards for cleanliness, studio etiquette and the size footprint a studio subletter is buying into. For all the positives about the small shared studio, the guys whose names were on the lease had little concern clay dust. It irritated me to no end and scared me, frankly, but all I could do was encourage better practices. The validity of my requests was acknowledged, but no changes were made, nor did I have any power to demand changes.
- Get it all in writing.
- Start with a short-term trial period. 2 or 3 months should be enough time to figure out if it works or doesn't.
- Don't be afraid to break up. Hopefully you won't have to, but go into it knowing you might.
Christopher Vaughn Pottery
Functional stoneware forms
handcrafted in Burlington, Vermont
On Instagram @chris_throws_pots