Monday, August 13, 2012

In the home studio with Sarah Burwash

As someone who runs a full-time, creative-based business from home, I'm always interested in hearing about others who are doing the same. There are many positive aspects to being at home, but there can also be drawbacks. On one hand it's so great to work in your pj's and on the other hand it's not so great to work in your pj's!

My next interview takes us to Nova Scotia, Canada, to the home studio of artist, Sarah Burwash. I first saw her work on Etsy's home page and was drawn to her beautiful and whimsical watercolors. Just having visited Nova Scotia last fall, I couldn't resist her "Harbour Home" print, in fact, I was her first Etsy sale! (Yay!)

1. First, please introduce yourself. What keeps you busy during the day?
My name is Sarah Burwash. I currently reside in Lunenburg, NS where I work full time from my home studio. I work in a wide range of mediums, most predominately watercolour. Drawing and painting is my main gig. I also do freelance illustration work. I have been doing quite a bit of work in ceramics as well (much experimentation and play at this point, but would like to really incorporate it into my my practice) and do some jewellery.

2. Please describe your art, what is your creative process and what inspires you.
My work is largely inspired by women's stories which I most often gather through books. I read a lot of journals, memoirs and biographies by women who were brazen and persistent in forging for a new social order. I am interested in investigating the changes in gender roles and our relationships to home, landscape and tradition. Most recently I have been diving into Anais Nin's journals, the book Women Who Run With Wolves and also the book Women of the Goldrush, which tells stories of women who hiked the Chilkoot trail up to the Yukon during the Goldrush. Stories of women challenging the norm and not excepting the limits set before them. I have more recently become interested in digging up my family history, more specifically my Norwegian history, very much intrigued by the rural lifestyles, the folklore and the landscape. I am very interested in storytelling with ambiguity.

Once a specific inspiration is sparked, I gather source material and collage together a composition which I draw out in pencil and then the rest is watercolour.

Ceramics is more spontaneous and intuitive, sensual, though sometime my story telling comes through in my ceramics. But ceramics is much about setting a mood, striking your senses.

3. What is a typical day for you? Do you keep to a strict routine or is your day fairly fluid? 
My days have been fairly fluid though I have been trying to keep more of a strict routine and prefer that. I find I am more productive with a set routine and don't get overwhelmed that way. There are so many different aspects of practice to keep on top of, that unless I lay it out and slot times, I can lose track of things. At the same time so many unexpected projects come up and I have been doing some traveling, so it is hard to stick to the schedule. I often have to prioritize certain projects which override my routine. Typically I get up around 6:30 and have a big breakfast with my fella before he takes off to work. Then I do some yoga (and push-ups!), water the garden and then get to work. I try and start my day with a drawing exercise to make sure I draw everyday and don't get caught up in the administrative side of my work. From there, everyday differs. A combination of drawing/ illustration/ website updates/ blog updates/ e-mail correspondence/ research/ writing/ applications/ pottery/ shipping etsy orders etc.

4. How do you avoid distraction (ie laundry, house keeping, errands, non work related phone calls, etc)? Or do you tend to give in?
It's a fine balance. Having a set schedule for the week really helps, slotting time for everything I need to accomplish and sticking to that and taking care of the rest after my work hours. Sometimes I need to clear my head when working on a project and running some errands or doing some cleaning can be a productive break. I really have been trying hard to take my 'work hours' seriously and stick to my schedule I have laid out. I remember a Pippy Long-stocking episode (do you know the show)? She is this wild little redheaded girl who lives in this big old house by herself. Since she doesn't have parents she has to discipline herself. There is one scene where it is bedtime and she is sliding down the hand rail banister while at the same time she is spanking herself and telling herself it is her bed time. I feel like that a lot!

5. Does working from home affect your art in any way?
It is really conducive to my work ethic, I think. I am good at being self disciplined and am driven. I also like to cook and make coffee and like having a kitchen close by to do those things. I like being able to wander to the yard and pick herbs for lunch or pick mint for my water. It makes for a balanced work day. I think the calm of working from home translates into my work.

6. How do you transition from "work" to "home"? Are you able to close your studio door and walk away for the evening? Is it easy for you to do? 
It's not too bad. My fella works a regular work week so I try and keep similar hours and then when he gets home I also finish my work day. But my work is my play so it is nice to able to work into the evening if I feel like it or need to. It is nice to be home and be able to work with my boyfriend's company near by.

7. Working from home can sometimes be lonely, do you miss working with other people such as in an office environment? Or do you usually interact with people (in person) during your day? Is this even an issue for you?
I don't find the work day lonely, I enjoy the solitude. I interact with the workers at the post-office most days and often visit the library and the librarians. Weekends are often social so the quiet week suits me well.

8. Please describe your studio space (is it a spare room in your home, in your garage, etc.)? Is it an inspiring space? What would you change?
I am currently set up in a spare room. It's big and bright. Until this summer I had studios outside of my home shared with many people. They were great and it was inspiring to have others around but I had less space and they were always a bit messy and cluttered. Eventually I plan to build a cob studio!

9. In a nutshell, do you enjoy working from home? What has been your overall experience?
Yes, I love it.

10. And the million dollar you work in your pj's, shower and get dressed or something in between?
I always get dressed for the day. It helps me get in the right mind set. Thooooough, It has been a warm summer so I have gotten in the habit and stripping down to my underwear in the afternoon and working in that, or just shorts and topless! Yes, that is a great thing about an at home studio.

Thanks so much Sarah! Please visit her Etsy shop to peruse her gorgeous prints!