Views of the rooms, in assorted sizes and locales, where several Tacoma artists make their work.
Photos by Aaron Locke
Eugene Parnell times and paces production in his Puyallup Avenue space to take advantage of privacy — or the lack thereof. His studio is located behind Ice Box Contemporary Art, which attracts a steady flow of gallery-goers. He finds that he’s tidier here than in previous studios, which is not to say that random objects don’t pile up. “I like having the room to leave items lying around that might find their way into my work,” he says. An antique birdcage, a vintage tricycle and a collection of Instamatic cameras are examples. In addition to having ample room for his sculptures — like the exotic beast (an Indian Gharial) in the foreground — Parnell also enjoys a great view with spectacular northern light and “an endless cornucopia of stuff parading by on train cars.”
One of the best things about Becky Frehse’s new studio in the F. S. Harmon Building, west of downtown, is that it’s relatively free of distractions — unless you find the sight of a passing train engineer distracting. “I’m on the second floor, at eye-level with the guy driving the train as it rolls by,” says Frehse. “Sometimes we wave.” There’s great natural light and ample space to spread out and work on a variety of different ideas. “I’m a mixed media artist, so naturally I’m a pack rat,” she confesses. A red tutu hanging from the rafters has appeared in a still life, while an old painted chair has been a constant in various studios over the last 20 years: “It’s like an old friend.”
Artmaking in most mediums involves solitary practice. Not glassblowing, which requires a “hot” studio and a crew of collaborators. That’s what makes M-Space, a rental facility for glass artists, such an invaluable resource. Joe Miller, the principal owner, puts it plainly: “Glassblowing is equipment-intensive. A 2,000-degree furnace is involved: That’s not something the fire department wants to see in your basement.” A typical day for Miller and company begins around 7 a.m. Fire up the annealer and get the shop ready for the first artist of the day, perhaps Oliver Doriss or Diane Hansen — both are among the noteworthy artists who blow here. Miller’s own studio is adjacent to the hot shop. He’s a metal sculptor — and he works alone. Grad school at Pilchuck and construction experience prepared Miller for his sideline as a glassblowing-equipment maker.
Having a studio apart from, but attached to, her living space in Old Town (on the bottom floor of a three-story house) means Lynn DiNino can mix up her dusty and wet concrete medium and not have to clean it up until she’s finished — which often takes months. “Almost the entire lot here is covered with a concrete slab, so I can work outside,” she notes. “Also, I can drive 100-pound bags of cement and sand right up to my studio door.” Inside her renovated studio, nearly floor-to-ceiling windows provide a sense of connection to the park next door. The picture below of the artist posing with a self-portrait in pink concrete attests to her wry sense of humor.