My art studio has been in business for 7 years now. Over and over when there is a group of kids making art with me, I have noticed three types of people who come to my studio: The Maker, The Accumulator, and the Observer.
My studio is a 500 square foot space with three walls of bins mostly sorted by color. 80% of my material offerings are recycled objects – metal, wood, ribbon, rope, yarn, string, rubber, leather, buttons, fabric, paper, hardware, plastics, dismantled shoes, computers and kitchen appliances, all rescued from potentially being sent to the landfill.
When people come to my studio, I review the options for what they can make using the above Decision Tree (some day I will draw an actual tree) to help with the overwhelm of looking at so many possibilities. Then I give each one a basket and let the materials speak for themselves. Often the undecided artist will be motivated by a certain object to build a sculpture, puppet, mobile or diorama based solely on the materials they have fallen in love with, despite their original idea.
I make it clear that they do not have to use everything in their basket. That explains the many “miscellaneous” baskets that exist, when I don’t have time to sort each individual bit by color after a session.
The Maker focuses on a project which may be something they had decided on before they came, or arrived at based on my Cheat Sheet. Over an average of an hour-and-a-half, the Maker usually completes it to their satisfaction.
The Accumulator will usually try to select a project involving a container (I call them my Blanks) so they can fill it up with as much “stuff” as possible, under the auspices of making a treasure box. I sell FLOOF Maker Kits (formerly called “Take-Home Paks”) by the ounce, so the option of taking home extra materials to start a new project always exists. The materials involved in their project while in the studio are included in the cost.
Then there is The Observer. This person is either a reluctant participant who came as a sibling or a guest to a party but is not really interested in making anything. Often they have had a “bad” experience with art in the past, where someone has told them their work wasn’t good enough for one reason or another. Either it did not conform to the viewer’s expectation of what a particular thing should look like, or the viewer’s expectation of what that person was capable of executing. Or the person was someone who had trouble with the social engagement that a group art experience engenders.
Sometimes The Observer will just sit quietly and watch, and sometimes they get motivated enough to suggest materials or ideas to another Maker. They never seem bored. Maybe they just couldn’t figure out what they wanted to make in the time allotted.
Either way, I have a sign now on my shop door that says “NO SMOKING, NO FEAR, NO JUDGEMENT”. I always hope that The Observer will return on an individual basis to work on something of their choosing.