Friday, 24 April 2020
LESSON 01 / DEFINING Archive (Observation)

__ set up a “studio space” or place to work, think, collect
__ reflect on/collect/brainstorm/write about/list/observe/take photos of what is around you what you observe in your existing work or environment –dish pattern, facture, spaces, light, color, doodles, fabric, color, figures
__ observe 3-5 loose “themes” around these interests/observations (upload to classroom)

__ CreatingArchiveAssignment1
__ Jessica Stockholder and Ellen Gallagher, Art 21 (play, home, archive, collection)
__ Link to Google Drive for short (11 min) talk: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Sd4pNHT1RcL2nLVS9mViqD9u_5l36k6m/view?usp=sharing

as a reminder: 

archive is a collection of historical documents or records providing information about a place, institution, or group of people. in the context of this course, we are creating/defining archives that inform our work. this archive can help get you into the work with efficiency, write about your work, communicate to others (galleries, curators, friends, granting institutions) what lies beneath your practice, your habits and motives. archive is limitless and can be comprised of text, image, photos, shapes, color, magazine articles, binders, poetry and family ephemera. but it should be intentional. and measured, and helpful. we will address systems of organization. my examples are just that, and yours can look different.

over this short course will create a systems in which you organize your materials that makes most sense to you. this system can evolve, or change completely, but consider the variants — tumblr (digital), IPhone photos (albums), a private blog, 3 ring binders (old school!), shelves, small flat file, artist books, index cards. i see my inputs/archive as creeks feeding a river, so i keep several currents open–both physical and digital organization.

clear (app for text based notes, paid app, and i never buy apps, but i LOVE this one)
-your device’s photo storage (can be useful if you use and name albums)
-a private Instagram account
-simple website/blog

make sure you have a workspace. a studio is any space that we dedicate time and energy to a specific activity — in this case our studio practice.  it can be a kitchen table, a bathroom, a bedroom closet.  wherever it is, as long as you create the space and make the time, it is your studio! 

observe. look around you. take stock of your existing interests and archive. think about how your archive might be better categorized (or at all).  look at things around your space/home. check out family books, albums, ephemera, recipe books, letters, old drawings, etc. might you want to refer to them in the future?

take inventory of what is around you, what you love, what you find interesting. begin to document these, taking images of 10-20 items, shapes, objects, fragments, color blocks–whatever you are drawn to. do not worry about the “why”, go with your instinct at first. all work must be submitted to our online studio (classroom) by monday 27 april @ 12noon (nyc time) and all students must check back and comment on at least one other student’s work by 2p (nyc time). 

some content “streams” of my personal archive (examples not rules):
daily works on paper
-texts/print (recipe boxes, wallpaper, printed fabric, news clippings)
-organic shapes/ curves/scallops (iconography that connect to lineage and femenine)
-reading (poetry, fiction, language, words for titles)
-stripes related to the “grid” and (southern) architecture/systems

Corita Kent’s Learning By Heart
Recording Artists podcast, Helen Molesworth on Ruth Asawa

begin to think about a way to organize these observations/themes/habits physically (sketchbook, flat file, box, folder) and/or digitally (tumblr, device storage)


  • Melissa Dunn: I have a lot of physical bits, pieces, and scraps in my...
  • cary: Adjacent to that theme Jon noted of storing, (not) remembering & memory...
  • j o h n r o s: so nice to see everyone coming together here! i wonder all the...
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j o h n r o s
24 April 2020 3:17pm

i am jumping the gun a bit because i am really excited to start this course. i think about archive often. i use tools on my computer and on my phone… mostly built-in systems like folders on the computer and notes, photos and files on the phone. but really, there is nothing better than a crisp museum box full of amazing drawings, or fingering through an acid-free file in a special collection. i feel like my practice is predominately about archive. collecting. assembling. grouping. merging. accumulating. dispensing.

for the assignment / i have added photos of things around me in the studio — these are things in the building or in my studio associate’s spaces. i’ve archived in a shared album, an option on the photos app of my phone. its a great feature because i can delete the photos off my phone (something i do often to safe space but also just to purge) and they are still preserved in the “cloud” i have also shared some images of my studio and my attempts to “file” things on the wall.

themes / growth-organics; form-function; pattern-repetition; color-contrast.

25 April 2020 6:56pm

I am excited by John’s excitement…inspired by his organization by themes and implementation in the studio.

emma davis
26 April 2020 10:15am

John will know that I’ve had a big purge at the studio and at home (not least 5 bags of sketchbooks, plan chest drawers of drawings, random materials and furniture) but there is still a lot here… themes are probably sketchbooks and notebooks, colour palettes, drawings of dogs, A4 paper in various forms, paper generally, photo albums and scrap books. I also have diaries which go back to my early 20s (those from back to the age of 13 I had to throw away).

emma davis
26 April 2020 10:16am

I’m a notebook fiend

emma davis
26 April 2020 10:25am

I have set up an instagram private archive but I also use instagram to post images which are tangential to my own work but are what catch my eye during the day

Alexandria Roland
Alexandria Roland
26 April 2020 3:09pm

I’ve moved homes a few times in the past two and a half years, and so I’ve found myself struggling to keep an organized but transient studio. As of this moment I am working in a small space off of my bedroom (not the biggest fan of working where I rest, but I make do :)). Because of all of this, I don’t have too much physical storage, so I tend to rely on my phone for archiving research/content, but I also rotate ideas that I am currently exploring on my walls as well.

I’ve attached two screenshots, one of some details of my current space and the other of my categorized albums. I’ve also attached an image of some of the sketches and textured thumbnails that I have on my walls at the moment.

Themes that I gathered: spaces we call “home”- doorways, furniture, keepsakes; natural & amorphous shapes; interior vs exterior color palettes and textures; linear- grids/chickenwire and fabric as spacial definition

26 April 2020 8:27pm

Hey all,

So interesting seeing your postings. Will comment on those in a separate post.

This post is process-related and I’ll do another with my short list of themes and observation images

Process 1: mind map for assignment 1
Process 2: note making (by hand)

Process 3: notes (typed)

26 April 2020 9:58pm

Liminal places, spaces – inbetweenness
Juxtapositions & intersections

My notice board. This has been morphing across continents for about 15 years in many spaces And since I had never thought of it before now as an archive I have always considered it an evolving self-portrait or mirror. It’s arguably the most organized archive i have. I assembled this version when I moved my workspace into this new studio at the start of the quarantine (a perfectly timed coincidence). I did very fast and instinctively.
Everything else is a mess of notebooks, sketchbooks, bags, boxes with content spanning 25 years or so and multiple locations. Those feel chaotic. And overwhelming. Probably because they contain sizable quantities of writing, which is more often than the starting point of any project regardless of the resulting medium. But there is also notes from traumatic periods in there and a lot of raw feelings. So some are challenging to even dip into. The contents of the notebooks are chronological but they jump between themes. A lot of the sources come from past processes in one medium that I then dip back into later to use in another. e.g. what was once a performance piece gets revisited and remixed for a mixed media installation.

I took some observation photos of various things in the studio that caught my eye today and put them in a collage. I didn’t try to think about it. I’m not sure what I see in them as a collection but I’ll return to it in the coming days with fresh eyes.

26 April 2020 10:15pm

Retrying to upload PDF from earlier post… don’t know if the glitch was my fault but I deleted the attachment as it kept giving me a webpage crash message when I tried to open it.

Oh, while I am here, Jodi – I can’t see the 11 minute video you referenced this morning.

Anyway, if this works, the PDF is my notes from today’s process. Spoiler: it didn’t.

27 April 2020 10:51am

Good morning all! After being led to confront my existing archives by this class, I discovered that there is a wealth of both material and digital practices that I have been engaging with over the years. However, they are not very well organized. In the digital realm, I have begun the process of organizing my photos on the phone as suggested by Jodi. The vehicle for this organization is currently Albums in the photos app of my iPhone, but that may change to IG or tumblr in the future. The categories I’ve established are Studio (F405iArchive), Flat file, Materials, Exhibits, KY studio, Clarksville studio, and Art/Artist inspiration. My parents and my in-laws have been gracious in letting me work out of their respective barns on occasion so those albums contain images of work created in those spaces.

I’m looking forward to more intentionality with regard to the accumulation and categorization of inputs in the future. Jodi mentioned that this process can assist with telling our own story…ensuring that our work is defined by us and not others. That struck me and I’m looking forward to developing a more powerful and grounded narrative for my work based on the archive “building blocks” that I’m in the process of establishing.

27 April 2020 10:52am

Additional album screen shots…

Cherith Lundin
27 April 2020 11:59am

I walked around my studio this weekend and counted 17 piles of ‘stuff’ – no joke – mostly on tables, some on my studio walls. Give me a flat surface and I will spread out on it… A bin of old sketchbooks; piles of drawings; stacks of image clippings; found juxtapositions; flat files for both finished works on paper and fits & starts; etc etc. There is something about the horizontal spread that allows for surprising connections. It also keeps thoughts and images in sight for future reference. If things are packed away I forget about them. I’m lucky enough to have the most spacious studio I’ve every had right now, so it allows for the spread without getting too cluttered. But there is a certain mess I need on the tables, even while having clean walls to ‘work’ on.

Cherith Lundin
27 April 2020 12:05pm

I’m trying to figure out right now how to find an equivalent ‘spread’ digitally… I think I have too many folders on my phone/computer that are too specific, so things get buried. I use too many labels digitally, which separates things, isolates them in unhelpful ways… I should probably use instagram or tumblr more, and am interested in exploring private options after looking at some of what others of you are doing – I can’t deal with my ‘fodder’ being public…

Themes: light/corners, windows, walls/geometry/every day/in between

Screen Shot 2020-04-27 at 10.43.40 AM.png
27 April 2020 12:50pm

Jodi, that video was great and it generated an explosion of thoughts.
I’m a connective thinker so I find it nearly impossible not to see the threads of commonality that are running through our unique experiences and archive.

Several of us have made reference to having moved and been in a variety of workspaces. Our archives travel with us and the home/work line can be blurry, not just conceptually, but physically. Each time we relocate we have to adjust physically but I think also mentally and emotionally. The space shapes how we understand as well as access our archive. Digital archiving obviously gets around that to some extent but several of us I noticed are conscious of the literal space our notebooks and other source streams inhabit. And of the past spaces they have inhabited. Which makes me think about the memory they carry.

Like Andy, I am realizing I do in fact have an archive and a process but it feels disorganized and I desire to be intentional about it. For me it’s like the streams are full of potential energy I can harness. But I am also aware that those streams and how they have been harnessed in the past have meaning and feelings attached.
As I consider the various sources around me I know I risk devaluing them. That I disregard the extent of the knowledge they contain. From a feminist perspective that is dangerous territory & it is therefore a defiantly political act as a woman to place value on the knowledge I have stored in my studio.
I shared that thought with my partner (well known by both Jodi and Andy). He immediately put on his academic historian hat and observed that what I was raising and feeling when I look at parts of my archive that have been used by others in what started out as collaborative contexts are what Marxist theory calls the alienation of labor.
Experience has taught me that when I have shared from my source bank it has repeatedly been extracted in ways that alienated me from them. That doesn’t necessarily mean materially but it nearly always is. In the process of creating I become invisible. I get written out of histories I was contributing to. (I have a litany of examples and in my experience it is invariably gendered.) And so the challenge at hand for me is not simply to be intentional about this process but also self-assertive. To name the value my knowledge store has. To not see chaos but a rich treasure chest of ideas and thoughts.
And because those streams are often tied to complex and highly personal memories the extraction and the alienation can sting. So I am awakening to the realization that the archive – even if it is a disorganized mess right now – matters. It matters because it is laden with meanings I shouldn’t overlook or disregard. The value of it is in part made up of the experiences it represents. That how it has been drawn from in the past adds another layer of meaning to it.
I am realizing that I created and moved into this new studio space for reasons I didn’t fully appreciate. That my feeling I had become increasingly devalued was not just my imagination. And I had participated in that devaluing. And I was seeking to create a more protective, secluded space.
So yes, this is a bit revelatory for me. And empowering. Rather than feeling overwhelming, it feels full of potential and creative power.

Cherith Lundin
27 April 2020 1:27pm

Like Cary, I am really interested in the idea of work or labor in relation to the ‘keeping’ of a studio practice/the leading of a life. I’ve had Helen Molesworth’s series of talks bookmarked, but hadn’t gotten to any of them yet, so was thrilled to hear her talk about the entirety of life being work this weekend. For two separate reasons I have been distant from my studio stream this past year. One an intentional cleaning up after a string of exhibitions – quite literally, because I managed to get graphite powder on every single surface, but also a putting things away to clear the air, or so I thought. I cleaned up too much. Put too much away – turns out that wasn’t a great idea, and I even know better than to have done that.. ah well. The other is because I started working in a new space – the print studio at the school I teach at – and what started as a one month summer project turned into a whole year of work. This work is new and odd and doesn’t fit into my ‘stream.’ I really don’t know what it is about, except that I’ve had fun, and it has allowed me to create a new little river that I have been yearning for and didn’t know how to access. Now, I am back in my studio, and my task is to merge this new river with my larger stream and archive, with my history, while exploring what this all might mean moving forward. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to use this class to think this all through!

Alexandria Roland
Alexandria Roland
27 April 2020 1:58pm

I’ve loved getting to read through all of your posts 🙂 As an artist who is relatively new to understanding and defining their studio practice, it’s been exciting to read through each of your studio habits and pick up tips for my own. Like Jodi, John, and a few others I have been using my iPhoto albums to categorize my content, but Emma, I really loved your private instagram archive. Sometimes, I forget about pictures I’ve taken on my phone and they get lost, but being conscious about posting an image when it’s taken as well as keeping it in a separate archive from my personal photos might be a bit more useful for me.

27 April 2020 2:25pm

I’ve added Jodi’s talk above, but also, here it is:


j o h n r o s
27 April 2020 2:32pm

so nice to see everyone coming together here!

i wonder all the time… “what did we do before smart phones?”

emma has taken studioELL courses in the past and it has been wonderful watching her process cleaning up the studio. space seems so important, especially in more crowded spaces like nyc, london or nashville.

great seeing everyone’s collections and how you’ve considered access to them. great assignment illustration cary! will be great to see andy’s accumulation and categorization. alexandria’s experience is probably all too familiar to most of us… forgetting about pictures we’ve taken. i used to say, i take pictures so i don’t have to remember… i suppose in some way all of this memory builds. its there. how to make sense of it in a world of growing convenience and instant gratification? it feels in some ways archive is subverting that. i love that notion.

27 April 2020 5:19pm

Adjacent to that theme Jon noted of storing, (not) remembering & memory building, in my process over the weekend I kept a record of questions I found myself asking. (Not necessarily any of them needing an answer but it’s a practice I find helpful to thinking something through)
The last question I had jotted down was:

What sources do i store (hide)? What sources do i keep visible/display? What is the difference?

I can relate to having piles of fodder that build up around on table tops and I’ll often ask them, “what are you for?” Sometimes they never answer and eventually I put them away but I like to let them sit because sometimes there can be links between two or more piles and it’s only when I introduce them to each other I see they parts of a bigger whole, even though they started out as entirely disconnected pieces of “play“.

I’m mindful that what is happening in that waiting process might inform how I want to intentionally manage a better organized archive.

Melissa Dunn
Melissa Dunn
27 April 2020 9:05pm

I have a lot of physical bits, pieces, and scraps in my studio I go back to again and again. I keep categorized and in folders in vertical files. For more random physical resources, I use accordion files, although since about 2010 my phone has been where this kind of archiving happens. I actually have a blog on my website called ‘Accordion File’, but Instagram has filled that niche so I don’t post on it like I use to. I do like the idea of it being more of a catch all.

I always have a sketchbook I’m working in and the previous sketchbook is always nearby because I’m usually still pulling from those drawings in my paintings, which is what the tags are a bout. The red binder is my studio journal. I don’t write in it often, but I’ve had it for a long time and I reread about once a year looking for threads.

I appreciate seeing how people organize their photos on their phones! The phone is tool for me as well, but I need to spend some time on how I’d like to categorize them.