When you're working 9-to-5 in an air-conditioned office it can be easy to envy the free-spirited life of an artist. And you'd be right for feeling that way. After speaking with the talented (and very cool) Austin-based painter Alexandra Valenti, my theory that creatives are "living the dream" was proven to be true. She makes to her own hours, is surrounded by a community of artists who all support one another, works out of a 900-square-foot studio filled with art supplies and vintage furniture, and has a landlord who is none other than the renowned hotelier Liz Lambert (founder of Bunkhouse Hotels).
Needless to say, we're constantly inspired by female creatives here at MyDomaine HQ, so we're thrilled to continue this series that takes you inside studios where the magic happens and talks about how creatives design their spaces and how it influences their creative process—this female pottery studio will make you want to quit your job.
Even the artists are thrilled about these stories. "I am endlessly fascinated by how other artists work and what their spaces look like," Valenti tells me. "So much so that I have five photographs (and counting) of artists in their studios I'm having framed to hang in my studio and home."
So without further ado, take a peek inside Valenti's studio and read more about how the studio design inspires her work.
How important is the design of your artist space/studio for conjuring the creativity and inspiration for the work you produce?
"The design is hugely important for conjuring creativity. And that design for me is very simple: a large rectangular box with white walls, high ceilings, and lots of light. There's really nothing better. I've been in spaces that were really cramped, which limited me certainly by how big I could go with my work. The studio I'm in currently (for about two years now) is 900 square feet and has allowed me to finally create work on a larger scale, and that’s been a game changer.
"The studio is on a compound with five other studios, some of which include Thoughtbarn, an architecture firm, and Wild Sam field guides. There’s a large courtyard in the middle that we all share, and it’s beautifully landscaped. The property is owned and designed by Liz Lambert. If you don’t know Liz, she’s the hotelier and owner of Bunkhouse Hotels (San Jose Hotel, St. Cecilia, El Cosmico, Hotel San Cristobal), and it has her aesthetic all over it.
"The landscaping was done by Mark Word, who is responsible for all of Liz’s hotels. So directly across from my studio are two large plant nurseries that I can see through my large windows, which is pretty dreamy. This sets the tone for the entire studio."
What was the vision/direction for the space?
"I knew I wanted the center of the space to be clear of any furniture. All the organization and administrative stuff happens around the perimeter. I wanted it to feel as spacious as possible. And I also wanted to be able to stretch canvases on the floor as well as lay sheets of paper down to make art. (Basically, I imagined being Helen Frankenthaler in that famous photo of her sitting on all her work.)
I had one long desk built along one wall for computers, printers, drives, paints and drawing work. On the opposite wall, I hang works in progress. The work will stay up there for weeks at a time while I figure out the direction I want to go in.
Where are you based, and how has that environment informed your work too?
"I'm based in Austin, Texas, although I travel frequently to Los Angeles for my commercial photography work. Austin has been the one city where I've felt free to create and build my own voice. But more importantly, I've been able to create a daily life that I've always wanted: I live one mile from my studio, my favorite restaurants are blocks away, my friends and their studios are within a 10-block radius.
"Most of my friends are creatives: Interior designers, architects, graphic designers, creative directors, painters, woodworkers, ceramicists, etc. Their passion, drive, and the boundless pit of creativity is what keeps me on my toes and inspires me every day. And we are all very supportive of each other’s work. We go to each other’s shows, we visit each other's studios, and we will collaborate on work. It's pretty dreamy."
What is your biggest inspiration? And how does the factor into your artwork?
"I don't know that there is one single big inspiration, but rather I get a feeling that I can't quite articulate. I will let those feelings process internally, and in the meantime, I'll draw from architecture, interior design, art masters (particularly women), films, travel, and music to explore and inform that initial impulse.
"A good example of this happened when I was working on my first solo show this past February. The entire show was inspired by the film of Pink Floyd's Live at Pompeii that I saw 10 years ago. I was so struck by the monolithic structures at Pompeii and what came of that was an unconscious curiosity of ancient and crumbling cityscapes—the irregular and organic shapes of the ruins, the tones of the stones, and the mystery behind it.
"About one-third of the way into making work for that show, it dawned on me where it was all coming from. And that was interesting in and of itself, that my subconscious had been carrying this around waiting patiently for me to express it physically. This October, I will actually get to visit Pompeii for the first time, which is quite backward, but I'm curious to see if I'll want to keep exploring those themes."
What is your favorite piece in your studio and why?
"A large, mobile work table that was built for me. The top of the table is an old door I found at the City Wide Garage sale in Austin about seven or eight years ago. It's on wheels, so I can move it around frequently. I store watercolor papers, paint, rags, etc, on the platform underneath it. Not only is it a meaningful piece to me, it's completely functional, and I work on it every single day."
How did you decide on the color scheme?
"The color scheme is white. I've always wanted a bright, white studio. It's clean and helps me think clearly. My artwork, which tends to be very colorful, pops off the walls. There's also a lot of green from all my plants too. Because the plant nurseries are right in front of my studio, I'll buy plants from the Landscape Design company far too often."
What’s your favorite thing about the space?
"My favorite thing about the space is the feeling I have been in there every day. I feel full of possibility, passion, and ideas."