For the first studio tour of 2009, I visited the workspace of artist and illustrator, Lora Jost. I first met Lora when we worked together on a poster for the River City Reading Festival and I was so amazed by her illustration that I asked if I could visit her studio to see her workspace and more of her beautiful art. Lora uses several unique techniques in creating her work including scratchboard, ceramic mosaic, and collage. Her pieces draw from personal experiences and collected stories which are depicted with elements of beauty, whimsy, darkness, and joy. From her artist statement:

“I am drawn to experiences that are mundane, whimsical, and socially urgent. I like to mix these themes, and find how they link in spirit. I hope that viewers will identify with the stories my pictures tell. I hope that my art, in some small way, deepens our collective appreciation and compassion for each other and for life itself.”

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Heather Smith Jones is a Lawrence-based painter and mixed media artist. When I first started doing my studio visit series, her name came up again and again in conversations with other local artists. I had seen some of her work at local gallery shows and we had met a few times through some mutual friends, so when I had the chance to hang out and visit with her in her studio, I jumped at the opportunity! She is an extremely kind and gracious person and allowed me to interrupt her on a recent Saturday morning to give me a tour of her work space.

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Studio 804 is a design/build program at the University of Kansas School of Architecture and Urban Planning. It provides hands-on designing and building opportunities for KU architecture students in their final semester of their degree. Focused on service leaning projects, Studio 804 has built a number of low-income housing in the blighted neighborhoods of Lawrence and Kansas City. Their efforts not only provide a service, but also help to elevate the awareness of architecture and urban planning in those communities.

Studio 804 prefab house
Photo courtesy of Studio 804

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Justin Marable is a printmaker who works out of his studio which is located in a historic and charming neighborhood in Topeka, KS (update: Justin is now a Lawrence, KS resident!). His works are primarily silk screens that explore the element of rural decay occurring in the heartlands of America. However, this isn’t to imply that the works are unattractive in any way. In fact, the colors and compositions of his works are rich and beautiful and most everyone who is from the area connects to the imagery and colors of the Midwest. He has huge body of work and is clearly passionate about what he does.

From his artist’s statement:

The history of a place, as well as its land and inhabitants, are all vitally important in defining a community’s environmental and social conditions. In my prints I romanticize this idea with the use of rural landscape and landmarks. These rural devices serve to emphasize the ever-growing abandonment of small towns and farmland of the Midwest. With the medium of serigraphy, or screen printing, I can express the man-made qualities of rural architecture with a photographic stencil technique.

Justin is also a super nice guy and was recently kind enough to invite me over to take a look at his studio and talk about his work and his process.

Print 1

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KPR sign

This studio visit features the live music studio at Kansas Public Radio on the University of Kansas campus. This state of the art recording studio was built into the new KPR building when it was constructed in 2002-03. From the website:

Various acoustical elements were designed into the room to ensure a good sound such as adjustable curtains, floating floor, non parallel wall and ceilings, and insulation to isolate the studio from outside and interior noise. KPR hosts musical artists from around the world for special live performance recording sessions which are mastered by our own professional sound engineers.

Every recording I’ve heard come out of this studio sounds wonderful and it can accommodate a variety of groups from a solo piano to a large jazz group or a choir. I was able to stop in for a visit while the chamber group Allégresse was putting the finishing touches on their debut album which is coming out later this year.

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Airplane against the sky
On Thanksgiving Day, 2007, I took a tour of Joe Malin’s garage-turned-studio for the inaugural DESIGNOJEK studio tour. Joe lives and works in Plainville, Kansas, a small town about 80 miles from the geographic center of the United States. He was born in a farmhouse his father built right on the outskirts of Plainville and has called Kansas his home all of his life. After retiring from a career on farms and oil fields, he put his welding skills to work again and started creating sculptures made from scrap metal, bolts, nuts and various other items lying around his shop. Although not formally trained as an artist, he creates wonderful pieces of folk art that have immense character, meticulous attention to detail, and fascinating historical significance. Also a modest man, he chuckled when I called his work space a “studio” and would likely correct me if I called him a “sculptor”, but his love for what he does and the care he puts into his wonderful pieces makes him as much of an artist as anyone.

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