On arrival at Polly’s studio I find a minor disaster has already struck. In the process of retrieving an archived image of a print for inclusion in a book being produced to commemorate 20 years of the Norwich Print Fair, plastic flowers have cascaded down from the top of the filing cabinet and vases broken.
Polly used to have a studio at St Etheldreda Artist Studios well known in Norwich as a studio complex in St Etheldreda Church in King Street. She then moved to the cellar space at home that had been recently vacated by her interior architect husband before moving upstairs to the front bedroom. Using a space within the house as a studio came to end when a whole plastic pot of acrylic gloss bounced down the stairs and exploded at the bottom causing dark blue paint to be splurged far and wide.
The aforementioned husband then set to work designing a studio that would fit in the back garden. This design was manufactured by a shed making company and erected in the spirit of an American barn raising with friends and relatives rallying for the installation process. At that time Polly was primarily a print maker and sculptor with the new studio offering space for her printing press which is adapted from an old mangle. Now the studio was operational it was then decreed that the artwork should now stay in that space and not migrate into the house. On the back of that, Polly decided that garden equipment would not have place in her studio so an addition by way of an adjoining shed would house these items. The interior furniture – benches, filing cabinets and a beautiful wooden plan chest – were rescued from art school clear outs or were donated.
Polly spends on average 3 days per week at her studio and being located in the back garden makes early mornings, late nights and short stints possible. Accessing the back garden studio via the house involves, as Polly puts it “passing through the tyranny of the house” and all the domestic tasks that loom there.
As Polly’s work moved from printing and sculpture, to sculpture and photography the printing press was worked around and then utilised as a shelf before it found its new home folded and tucked away in a corner. Polly’s studio contains many many objects and she said “there was a point when I was arranging the studio rather than making the work. Its personality was taking over”. This type of curating of space will be familiar to many practitioners and has its uses – there is a sense that re-working a space allows for a thinking processes to be kick started. Polly has recently taken her work away from the busy visual distractions of the studio to reflect upon it, utilising a flexi-space in artist run project space. This offers a distance from the place of production and moves the work towards an idea of an exhibition.
To close our visit I asked Polly about how she felt about inviting people into her studio. She was very clear about taking care when considering who and when people would have access to the space. When she developed a body of work for an exhibition at Norwich Arts Centre she commissioned Krzysztof Fijalkowski to write a catalogue essay. He visited her studio as part of his research for the essay and she remembers clearly the look of astonishment on his face when confronted with the quantity and variety of objects contained within the heaving shelves.
Polly compares a studio visit to looking in a diary or an artist sketchbook – it is a hidden world that sometimes becomes accessible in certain circumstances.