By M. Diane McCormick; Photography by Haley Harned
Few things seem more romantic than the idea of an in-home studio – a place to create, a refuge from the world. Three area artists and a writer know that the creative life has its rigors, but the joy of stepping into a studio all your own makes the sacrifices worthwhile.
Linda Billet, glass artist
In her Hummelstown studio, Linda Billet melds specialty and repurposed glass into stunning artworks. Her designs are inspired by nature, or they have fun with pop-art icons like Oreos and Converse All-Stars (lindabillet.com).
Billet’s brother-in-law, a contractor, built the studio under the rear deck. On the outside wall, Billet fashioned a mosaic in blue glass. “My commute to work is walking down those steps,” she says.
Three kilns accommodate works of different sizes. Glass sheets are grouped by ROYGBIV color in slotted, wheeled cabinets. Custard cups hold beads and shards of expensive specialty glass (“I’ll save every little snibble,” Billet says). The large stainless-steel sink is a restaurant castoff. Billet wipes glue off her hands with a piece of carpet tacked to the underside of the work table.
On the Artist’s Life
With the full support of her husband, Rob, Linda Billet walked away from a job as a letter carrier and into a career in glass. “Sometimes I’m in here, especially in the summer when the birds are out, and I think ‘I am so lucky.’ It’s a cement block building, but I just love it in here.”
Melissa Greene, writer
Shaken by the events of 9/11, Melissa Greene felt called to her life’s work – “to break down the fear people have of writing.” From an airy Lancaster loft that doubles as her home, Greene teaches Write from the Heart, workshops where children, teens, men and women write in a free-spirited, non-intimidating environment (writefromtheheart.us).
Artists’ salons inspired a studio that sparks imagination through color and visual appeal. Large windows overlook trees and greenery. Whimsical items – a vintage Ferris wheel, an antique wind-up horse named Sparky, a bouncing sculpture called a “boinger” – invite writers to release their inner playfulness. “It’s aimed to be a gentle refuge for sensitive and creative people,” says Greene.
Novels and books on writing are stacked in cubed shelves that double as a room divider. Workshops are held at a square table, and a mobile of gingko leaves dangling overhead casts moving shadows on the table top. Rugs define spaces in the one-room loft.
On the Writer’s Life
Greene teaches her students to observe their surroundings and get in touch with their inner-selves. “Without that awareness, there’s no writing. Self-awareness and awareness of the world is where we begin in our writing lives.”
Ralph Hocker, painter
Ralph Hocker paints in a first-floor bedroom in his Boiling Springs-area home. It’s set up to accommodate Hocker’s three mediums – oils, acrylics and watercolors (sevenlivelyartists.com/hocker.html).
After Hocker began pursuing painting in retirement, his wife, Sylvia, relinquished her scrapbooking studio with the north-facing window. “It’s neutral light,” Hocker says. “Perfect for a studio.” The quiet space overlooks the rolling fields of a horse farm. “They usually have a couple of big Percherons that come down here,” he says.
The tilted surface of a drafting table is handy for laying down paper for watercolors and sketches. For oils, a small easel stands on a large wooden cart. Brushes are kept in crocks and mugs. Three canvas bags – one for each media – are loaded with supplies and ready for plein air sojourns with the Seven Lively Artists, which Hocker belongs to. “You have to take just what you need – no more, no less.”
On the Artist’s Life
“A studio is here. It’s going to be here tomorrow. It’s going to be here the next day. I paint a lot. The only way you’re going to get better is to keep painting.”
Tara Chickey, painter and jewelry maker
In the Victorian row home she owns with her partner, Moviate founder Caleb Smith, Tara Chickey surrounds herself with things that have character – one-of-a-kinds that can’t be replicated (tarachickey.com).
Chickey’s third-floor studio looms high above the street in Olde Uptown Harrisburg. Light floods in from a bow window that offers a view of a giant green ash tree. Vintage chairs – one in black webbing, the other in 1960s orange – sit by the window. “If I don’t have something comfortable, I tend to not want to be in the space. You need to feel cozy.”
Chickey set up spaces for several disciplines. “It’s nice to have my painting station and my printing station and my jewelry station,” she says. The shallow drawers of a green metal cabinet are labeled according to art supplies – litho ink, oil pastel, wax crayons. Plastic organizers holding “lots and lots of yummy beads” are stacked in a cabinet refinished by Chickey’s dad, who helps with framing and other crafting needs.
On the Artist’s Life
Chickey visits her studio every day. “Even if you’re just sitting in your space, you’re there and you’re part of it. Sometimes you get inspired, and sometimes you don’t. You just allow yourself to roll with it.”