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  • Rebecca West

Interview with Liz Chalfin

1. Where is your studio, and what does it look like? How do you find materials and resources to make work?

I have 2 spaces that I work in. My own private studio is in the basement of my house. It’s about 500 square feet, in 2 rooms. One room has a small etching press, tables for inking, a drawing table, my computer and files and storage for art materials. The other room has flat files for storing prints and big tables for working/framing, etc. I love having a studio at home because I can work there at odd hours and the commute is so easy. I am also the director of a large community printmaking studio (Zea Mays Printmaking) and use this studio for plate making and printing large prints, which I can’t do on the small press I have at home.

I buy my art materials from art suppliers and get in on group orders from the studio I direct. I also make it a practice of re-using as many materials as I can, including re-using metal plates for etching. I have a separate bank account for my art - in which I deposit all the money I make from selling my work and use that to buy materials. I try to keep it all separate from my household expenses.

2. How do you balance your art practices with other jobs, art or non- art related?

I am lucky because my money making job (Director of Zea Mays Printmaking) puts me in a creative environment every day. I am always around people making art work and it is always inspiring. That said, the balance is a real challenge. Finding time to make my own work is tough. I devote one day a week religiously to making my own work. I call it sacred Monday and it is the most consistent practice in my life. I also try to get away for at least 1, 2-week residency each year. In a good year I do 2. I find that removing myself from my daily life and immersing myself in my work is so helpful. I can focus and dedicate all my waking time and energy to creating new work. This usually sustains me for the year - I return from these residencies with ideas and projects that I work on throughout the year in smaller bursts. I also have a gallery that sells my work and the pressure to bring them new things is really helpful. I am married and have kids, so balancing that has been a life-long challenge. I say that you can have it all, but not all at the same time. I think it’s important to recognize that it’s ok to have times when you are less productive (like when kids are little). I remind myself that all aspects of life are fodder for art making. Living in the moment and being present with whatever you are doing is a practice that carries over into art making.

3. What opportunities for professional development have been most helpful to you?

working my day job in the arts for my entire career has helped me network professionally. Exhibiting in group shows has led to gallery representation. Staying connected with other artists who introduce me to people has also been really helpful. residencies and travel have been invaluable in moving my career forward.

4. If you could meet yourself fresh out of college what would you tell/ warn yourself about?

I would encourage myself to go to residencies and network with other artists - warn myself that the work/art/life balance isn’t easy and to carve out time to make art an important practice in daily life. I would say to follow your instincts in terms of what you are making - not to get caught up in trends, but to stay true to your own artistic voice. I would tell myself to join a community of artists, whether a studio, collective, crit group - to keep connections like those you make in school going.

5. Can your share process of getting your work out in the world (types exhibit planning process)?

I enter juried shows where I want the juror to see my work, i have a gallery which sells my work, I participate in group portfolios and share my work at open portfolio sessions at conferences, etc. I say yes to a lot of opportunities to show my work. I know a lot of younger artists who use Instagram as a marketing tool quite successfully, although I don’t use it for that purpose.

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