18 months ago we completed converting our double garage into a studio. I’ve never had a properly-equipped and stocked dedicated studio before … this is a real step up. Most of the time that went into the conversion was the simple process of earning the money and paying someone else to do the work.
Back in the early ’90s I had a friend who was good buddies with Dame Elizabeth Frink. When Frink died my friend went to her funeral and came back raving about Frink’s studio. I said rather wistfully “How great to be so successful as to be able to afford such a studio”. My friend laughed and replied “No Jon, Frink was successful because she could afford the studio when she started”.
Well, I’m in the peculiar position of having to work a day-job which earns a lot more money than I need to live on, so the excess can go into upgrading my creative life. Here’s a couple of pics:
However, I’m still missing somewhere to exhibit my work: I’ve never worked in the context of white-walled galleries, although I have had some exhibitions in that tradition, but my old ‘venue’ (the nature reserve) is no longer accessible.
I’m thinking of building something in our garden that can be versatile – exhibition space for paintings, performance space, jam-round-the-fire-with-mates space. I’ve sketched out what such a structure might look like, though I have no idea at this point how I would go about building it:
Alas! After 20 years of living in “paradise” my landlady died and I had to move. The chocolate-box cottage backing onto a nature reserve gave me all I needed: studio, office, venue, group meeting areas, family accommodation, a spare room sublet to a friend, and neighbours we loved.
Very sad to leave one of the most beautiful places on the planet: views of woodland in one direction and the spires of Oxford in the other. It’s somebody else’s turn to enjoy it now.
The next step was hard: Oxford rents had gone through the roof, but house prices had become more affordable … but being self-employed meant a mortgage was impossible. Conveniently my little computer business that paid the bills suddenly collapsed so I got the first job I could find [as a software developer, which I swore in 1989 I’d never do again] and we could get a mortgage [which I also swore in 1989 I’d never do again].
Now I could move in with my new partner, but since she worked in Coventry it meant leaving Oxford entirely. There were further huge challenges: bringing together my kids – freshly traumatised from family breakup and leaving behind their beloved home – with my partner’s son – also traumatised for similar reasons – was hard. The new job plus commute added to the complications, while fixing the house absorbed the rest of our time.
The new place is not so beautiful but is far more practical, but most importantly (once we’ve paid off the mortgage in 16 years time) it’s ours!
But we’ve done it! 4 years later we have converted the garage to a studio and two of the kids have grown up and left home. Next task: build an exhibition space in the garden to show whatever I do next.
We had great fun with this mosaic in the fireplace. 250 person-hours and 40,000 tiles!