Where does art come from? How do artists create their work?

For the audience, finished artworks often seem magical -- made by artists with supernatural skills -- because the viewer has never visited an artist's studio, handled their tools, touched the materials, cleaned up the mess or witnessed their demanding work in progress.

I just finished a new project ("Seven Artists and a Toothbrush Factory") that offers a glimpse into the creative lives of seven generous, open and talented artists with studios in the Brushworks Arts and Industry building (a former toothbrush factory). My goal is to show where their art comes from -- from love, care, intention, skill, experience, clutter, disorder and most especially, hard work. I had the great privilege of watching them in action over a four-month period in 2016-2017.

Although these artists create using very different media, their studios share some surprising similarities -- a hot plate for heating soups and drinks, a small library of reference books, stacks of empty yogurt containers, a music player, and wall-to-wall clutter.

A huge thank you to these artists who so generously shared their time, space, passion and creativity with me:

Emily Rosenfeld (jeweler)

Frances Kidder (painter)

Grant Figura (printmaker)

Justine Barrett Figura (potter)

Lynn Peterfreund (printmaker)

Mike Fitzpatrick (silk screen)

Terry Blanchard (seamstress/painter)

This week's photo is an "action shot" of Justine adroitly throwing a clay pot. Watching her carefully fill a rack with seemingly identical pots -- using only her hands, a small piece of curved plastic and a short wire -- actually does look like magic. The lumps of clay seem to shape themselves while Justine simply nudges them in the right direction.


Brushworks, Florence, MA; January, 2017

I like this POTW because it captures in a single image so much of what I'm trying to show -- the scruffy environment, the raw materials, the specialized tools and the skillful technique. I also find this image visually interesting because of the earthy color palette and the "flow" -- how the viewer's eye is first drawn to the "star" (Justine's hands) and then to the "supporting cast" (the blurry spinning wheel, smudged apron and spattered floor). Hopefully, this behind-the-scenes glimpse into where art comes from will remind us how special artists really are.

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