I have had the privilege of working in my beautiful studio in the Hobbs Building for four years now. When Ayron and I moved to Kansas City, we lived with friends for four months before moving into a house of our own. I actually got my studio space before we even found a house, so it felt like the first concrete place that belonged to me in this new city. I found it on Craigslist, and it couldn’t have been more perfect, with a big bank of beautiful north-facing windows and a lot of space, I immediately began to dream about what it could be for my photography business.
During the next two years, I found myself in a space where I was desperately trying to prove my worth as a photographer. I struggled to make my business model from my previous city to work in Kansas City, because I knew less people and there was a dramatically smaller population of professional classical musicians in KC. I was finding my identity in my success as a photographer, and my world felt like it was crumbling. I would go out of town to photograph lots of people at once and return to a city where I felt disconnected. I found myself sliding in and out of a deep depression. There were times eight weeks would go by and I didn’t step foot inside of my beautiful studio. Little did I know God would bring me from that place of desperation to humbly submitting to the way he designed me.
There is no way when I signed that lease four years ago I would have told you that I would spend two and a half years in the studio nearly daily, painting. And not painting the way that I used to, for the intoxication of self-expression, but painting to know God and myself and my fellow man better. Painting to lean into the darkness, to understand it, and to bring the light into those spaces. It was because I had this studio that I had my first goal: to paint enough work to exhibit as an artist at the Spring 2015 open studios event at the Hobbs. I sold a couple of paintings while creating that first humble body of work and I sold my first painting in person the first night of the open studios.
This gave me the courage to open my Etsy shop and to continue to paint. I had the space and the equipment to document my journey and to take myself seriously in the face of all of the fears of starting something new.
Back when I was fiercely pursuing my idol of what I thought was a successful photographer, I said “no” to all other kinds of work in my life because I thought it would compromise my vision for success. I had bought into the ideas from the many seminars I had taken on business and photography, that I should say “no” to everything that didn’t serve my vision, and in doing so, I lost myself. I forgot that maybe I wasn’t designed to fit into a life or a business the way other people might be. Pursuing God’s vision for me has broken through so many boundaries in my life. I do still photograph beautiful people, but I also pour myself into painting projects and exhibitions, mentoring and teaching young women to become singing artists, and on Monday I am getting the opportunity to start teaching my first college music appreciation class. I used to struggle with who I was and that God made me to love so many things. I was paralyzed by fear, so scared I would make the wrong choice. I felt like I had to choose one thing or fail miserably. Somehow, choosing to lean into my gifts has made my world expand. I am very busy, sometimes a bit too busy. But my life is rich and I am able to use my gifts. And most importantly for me, my work brings me closer to God.
It is a reality, though, that accepting these opportunities means my schedule is now much less flexible, and having a beautiful studio space that is 35 minutes from my home is no longer practical. That, and I have felt the need to be a better steward of my business finances. For these reasons, I am giving up my dream studio space in the Hobbs to make art in a smaller space (my walkout basement) for the foreseeable future. When I first realized this was the direction I had to go, I was pretty sad. I have loved working in my studio, commuting with my husband to work, feeling like I have a set schedule and not being able to wiggle out of it. I have loved meeting with countless friends and clients in this inspiring space. My basement, though it has some natural light, felt like a closed, dingy, plain space in comparison to my spacious, industrial studio in the Hobbs. But partway through this year, I realized that making art in the space available in my home (we have only used our basement for storage) meant saving thousands of dollars and would gain me nearly 30 hours of painting time a month. It seems like a no-brainer!
However, I still had a dingy basement full of stuff on my hands. Ewww, look at that floor! (We had a flood in our basement this summer.) I have prayed a lot of prayers to not let my identity as an artist be wrapped up in the space where I create so I can let go of my space in the Hobbs without fear and with grace. Over the past two months, I’ve been clearing out my basement and transforming it into a space that I’m excited to go to work in every morning. I have always dreamed of working in a bright, all-white studio space, which is a big contrast to the natural wood and brick space I have called home in the Hobbs.
And I will still get to work in the Hobbs when I photograph people. A friend of mine has a studio in the building and will let me come in to use it for occasional shoots. How perfect is that? It’s like the best of both worlds.
There is still a drop ceiling in this basement. I am not sure if it is worth removing at this point, even if our landlord would allow it, but it would gain me about 8 more inches of breathing space. And I would likely paint the ceiling white, too, to keep the space vibe happening. I’m knee-deep in projects and the start of the new semester, so I will keep you all posted on what I decide there, but for now, I get to make art in what is essentially the loading program of the Matrix. Just kidding, but not really. I joked to Ayron when I got the last coat of paint on the floor that I was either in the Matrix or a spaceship.
I’m still working out lighting. There is a walkout patio off the basement, so my art space will be on that side of the room and I will be able to work in exclusively natural light on bright-ish days. That and it is still soft, north-facing light! Even though I despise fluorescent light, when it reflects off of a bunch of white, it isn’t so bad. My friend Caitlin is a fabulous designer and she is going to help me arrange and style the space once I get everything moved in, and I will do a full studio tour then. For now, I am just excited to work in a clean space that feels like a blank canvas. It is so different from my studio at the Hobbs, but I feel ready for a change and for a simplicity to accompany me in this next season of teaching more, painting for exhibitions, and pursuing my calling.
It has been a bittersweet season for the past four years. I know God has many more sweet seasons ahead, and I am excited to move forward. But I will always treasure the beautiful moments God has given me in this old furniture factory in the West Bottoms that I’ve called home.
I move out completely over the next two weeks, in addition to starting my new semester. Send me prayers, friends! I hope this Friday finds you all filled to the brim.