For the creative woman, the lines between work and life are often blurred. Inspiration can strike at any moment, and having a space nearby that’s conducive to realizing a vision can be crucial.
Being surrounded by objects, treasures, natural curiosities and sentimental items can provide an extra spark when you need one.
But navigating a live/work space can be tricky. Keeping your personal life separate from work requires discipline; it’s not for everyone. This month, we visited three local artistic personalities who live in spaces where creativity is alive and well, to see how they managed to strike the right balance.
Every painter dreams of the perfect studio, and Abby Kasonik is no exception. Her dreamy, over-sized paintings feature layers of acrylic paint on canvas in evocative shades of blues and grays that pay homage to nature and science. After years of creating these breathtakingly large works in her basement, Kasonik realized she needed a new space to paint in. Building one on the open acres of her countryside property in Earlysville was obviously ideal.
“I had always dreamed of having a backyard studio that was mere steps away from my house, with soaring ceilings, and open space,” said Kasonik, who brought the project to local architect Bethany Puopolo and builder Bill Norton from Rockpile Construction. They came up with a simple clapboard structure with 22-foot ceilings, super-sized windows and not much else.
“At first, I didn’t think I wanted to have anything else in the space other than a floor and walls; I really wanted to keep it as bare as possible. But it was my mom, actually, who encouraged me to put in a small kitchen and loft area for a bed. She was absolutely right,” said Kasonik.
She’s attempted to nap in the sleeping loft but says that space is best suited as a guest retreat.
Being raised in and around Charlottesville in houses that her mom appointed in “hip and cool” ways, in addition to living with boyfriend Roderick Coles (owner of the eclectic Curious Orange shop), helped Kasonik cultivate unique elements to decorate the studio. “The people I surround myself with know what I’ll like. Most of the time, it’s something no one else will appreciate, like an oversized screwed-up piece of salvaged wood. Yes please!”
The aesthetic of the space is all about juxtaposition: “I love matching old, salvaged materials with new, modern elements.”
Evidence of this tactic includes a modern, stainless steel fan that hangs amidst 18th-century wooden beams salvaged from an Irish church, which she acquired from good friend Craig Jacobs, owner of Salvagewrights in Orange. Victorian iron fence encases the bed and desk in the sleeping loft, and canvas drop cloths serve as drapery panels strung across vintage lightning rods she bought for $5 apiece. Six enormous white paper globe pendants add a touch of warmth to the spotlights.
Another key atmospheric element is the abundance of enormous plants, trees, and natural curiosities that are spread throughout the space, successfully bringing the outside in. “My paintings are incredibly inspired by science and nature. I love collecting skulls, bones, plants, antlers and other things that catch my eye.” A showcase of her findings takes center stage, neatly organized across a long vintage farm table she found at Kenny Ball Antiques years ago. Her current obsession is with diatoms, a major group of algae that “have the coolest murky blue and hazy bits of color that are endlessly fascinating.”
The studio has been in existence for almost two years now, and her work schedule has adapted accordingly. “It’s a nice commute to the office. I’ll come out about 9:30 in the morning, and spend the day working there, leaving at about 5 o’clock at the end of every day. I make myself leave,” she says, despite the temptation to keep going throughout the night.
The painted white wooden floor has been left unprotected, and feels almost like a piece of art itself from the various, colorful paint splatters. There are no easels in sight; instead, Abby hangs her large canvases on the expansive wall and mixes paint on two custom-made wooden tables that can move throughout the space. “I’m making paintings now, but I went to school for sculpture, and hope to maybe revisit the medium. This space is conducive to a variety of creation and for that I’m grateful.”