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Making room.

Byline: Christine Sherk The Register-Guard

Back when Eugene painter Margaret Coe was a mother of two young children, she recalls, she worked in a small room far enough away from the nursery to keep her tools out of their reach, but close enough so that she could hear the kids when they stirred.

"I had formal nap times after lunch and that would give me two, maybe three hours, to paint. I did that every day," Coe says.

Through the years, Coe also has rented studio space at various sites in Eugene, and now she is set up in the upper level of a two-story double garage, which sits adjacent to the home she has shared since the late 1960s with her husband, Mark Clarke, also a painter.

While they share the home, Clarke and Coe do not share the same home studio space. Clarke is comfortably ensconced in the home's basement, where he has been painting for years.

"There's a certain comfort about it. There's a ratty chair down there, and I love it."

There are limitations, of course - storage space for finished work, for one, especially in a home with two painters in residence. "We don't really have that figured out," Clarke quips.

But where Coe and Clarke paint is enough for them, really, to retreat on a daily basis.

"You have to make it function in your life," Coe says of any home studio space. "It really has to work in your life."

Nancy Gant, a glass bead maker for her own business, couldn't agree more.

"I first worked outside," she recalls about when she became hooked on firing glass after taking a class at Eugene Glass School years ago. "Being a past hardware manager for Fred Meyer, I had a plumber's torch. So, I got that torch out and I was in the back yard using it to melt glass. I was fascinated that I could actually melt glass!"

From the back yard, Gant moved into the garage of her north Eugene home, keeping the door open while she worked with the same plumber's torch. "I didn't know enough about ventilation and fire, so I would work with the garage door open, and I would deal with the cold and the wind."

Then, when Gant's youngest daughter moved out of the home, things fell into place. She converted a bedroom into a home studio, learning how to accommodate a glassworker's blow torch that heats up to 2,000 degrees when she's melting tubes of glass into her designs and miniatures, as well as fitting in a kiln that fires the glass at about 1,000 degrees. "It gets really warm in that room, but I love it," Gant says. "I'm in there every day. Every single day."

For anyone wishing to fulfill the dream of carving out their own creative space, Gant, Coe and Clarke offer some thoughts and advice, based on their experience creating studio spaces and adjustments they've made in the process.

Rooms to call their own are what many creative people dream about, whether they wish to retreat into the space on weekends to find a separate peace or whether they make a living at their art and find hours in every day, as Gant says, "to play."

Follow Christine on Twitter @CSherkRG. Email

Studio setups fit in for artists

Studio spaces:Mark Clarke, Margaret Coe

Taking the leap: Coe and Clarke always have tried to make a living as painters, supplementing their income with teaching positions and in Clarke's case working for the University of Oregon's art museum before it was the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. "At one point we even had a private gallery in the basement," Clarke recalls about the space where he now paints.

Adjustments made: When Coe created her current studio space in the 1980s, she spent money she'd earned from an Oregon Arts Commission grant to put in flooring and walls. Over time she "hired somebody to put in an industrial fan, so that was a really good idea."

Lighting the space: Clarke admits jokingly, "A lot of people think I'm a moody guy because my paintings are so dark, but they're not dark until I take them out of my studio." Without natural light in the basement, Clarke works with a couple of flood lamps and two fluorescent tubes. Coe has a little bit of window light in her studio, but the lighting isn't ideal, she admits. "It does have a hanging strip, which is nice for focusing light on things hanging on the wall. And I also have fluorescent tubes."

Getting organized: Coe has specific work areas within her space, such as a drawing table, her easel and where she mixes her oils. "I buy things in gallons, so I have a gathering spot for that. And a place for framing supplies." Clarke also gave Coe a tool chest in which she stores the things she doesn't use that often. The couple's biggest challenge is storage for their years accumulation of artwork. "It's tempting to drag everything into the front room (of the house) and stack it up," Clarke says with a laugh. Paintings are stored in Clarke's basement space, in Coe's studio, as well as in a special storage site beneath the home.

At work in the space: Clarke sits down more often now when he works, not only because of the low ceiling and low lighting, but because it's more comfortable. "I never used to sit down and paint. I always stood up. But with the limitations down there, I find that I'm sitting a lot more." Coe moves around a lot and works at all hours. She uses wall space to display works in progress. And she often wakes in the middle of the night to work. "I'm just thinking of each day as a 24-hour period; and in that 24-hour period I want painting time. I've been doing that for years."

Advice for others: "It's nice to have something close by, but you have to ask questions," Clarke says. "Like if you're going to be doing large paintings, you're going to need a lot of space. You need space to step back and take a look at what you're doing. I don't have that kind of space. I really never know what I've painted until I have a show!" For artists with young children, Clarke believes that proximity is more important than size. "You have to find a space that fits in your life and isn't interfering. You can create space out of the garage, basement or an extra bedroom, and just figure it out. Make the right decision about which space to develop."

Love about their space: Clarke loves the easy accessibility of his space. "It's a real easy place to get to. Both Peg and I have done a lot of landscape painting out on the landscape. But it's so easy to get down into the basement." Coe agrees. "After I remodeled this space, I found that I could pop in at any time and it just worked with my life. That is just the absolute truth about these artist's spaces; they are part of our lives."

Studio space: Nancy Gant

Taking the leap: Gant worked for 30 years in retail management at Fred Meyer, working at her glass art on the side for about 10 years before she decided to make glass beads full time. "I started selling my beads right away. I thought of my bead money as play money. I would put it back into buying equipment or taking more classes. But it was probably about 10 years before I decided that I could make an income from glasswork."

Adjustments made: Gant put in tile flooring that she could sweep easily. "That was a pretty big change for that room. You have to ask, do you do that in a bedroom of a house that you might want to resell some day? But I wanted the studio, so I didn't worry about that." Gant also had to install a propane tank on the outside of the wall. "You can't have propane inside the house, so I had to plumb through the wall." She also had an electrician install a 220V outlet to provide more power for the kiln and put a fan system in the window.

Lighting the space: Gant's studio is west-facing, and so "most of the time if the sun is out it's too much sunshine. I have some of those sticker shades on the windows. In the wintertime when there are no leaves on the trees, I have to work either really early or really late. In the summer I can work almost any time because the leaves block out the sunlight."

Getting organized: Gant modifed a technique she saw at the Eugene Glass School. She stores her glass rods in cut lengths of PVC piping that are stacked on "a grill rack, which is sturdy enough to hold the weight of the glass." The tubes are organized by color. "If you can get to it easily, you can be more productive," Gant says.

At work in the space: "I had to have the torch be comfortable so that I could sit there for a long period of time. I wanted it at a nice height. I had to have a comfortable chair. And then I had to have access to what I needed to use. I set the glass around the bench where I work kind of like a painter's palette, so I can reach easily when I'm working for anything that I might possibly need." One drawback for Gant? "I get really hot." To cool off, Gant takes breaks from the room, leaves on the fan and if necessary puts on the AC.

Advice for others: "Try to decide as big as you want to go," Gant advises. "If you want to go big, go big at the beginning. Decide what you want to do at the end and set up for that. If you set up a little bit at a time, you'll spin your wheels a lot. Or you'll repurchase things bigger and better further down the road."

Loves about her space: In addition to loving that she can work any time she wants, whether she's sketching out new ideas, or feeding the kiln, Gant also says, "I really love that it's a collection. In my studio I have piles of memories." There are glass plates representing one grandmother who collected similar ones, miniatures to represent another grandmother who created mini dollhouses, paintings from her mother, etchings from her father, things from friends. "It's a collection and it inspires me."

- Christine Sherk
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Title Annotation:Home Life
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 18, 2015
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