It’s all about balance for artist Rebecca Niederlander. Her wire sculptures resemble intricate scribbles floating mid-air and rely on the careful distribution of weight to keep aloft. With her husband, daughter and the demands of an artist’s community called Broodwork, a slightly different, but just as intricate balancing act occurs in the rest of her life.
How long have you worked from home? And where is home? I’ve worked from home since early 2001 when we bought our 1959 ranch house in Eagle Rock (a Northeast Los Angeles neighborhood). My work is a body of suspended wire mobiles that were inspired by watching my studio get built. As the electrical wire was unwound from spools there existed this amazing tension that both remembered the experience of being tightly wound on the spool, but was also open to new formations. I became mesmerized by this simple medium that reflected the whole of life’s experiences so inherently.
My clients often tell me that they want to live with sculpture but had found it hard to place large weighty objects in their homes. My work is accessible for most any domestic settings. So the phrase working from home always makes me smile, since I want my sculpture to “work AT home” as well.
My other work is Broodwork: Creative Practice and Family Life. After having my daughter four years ago, I got even more curious about the practices of other creative people and how they organized their lives as they parented. This eventually lead to founding Broodwork with Iris Anna Regn. Our research showed that there was a large unnamed community of creative practitioners who found an unexpected perspectival shift after becoming parents. It wasn’t that their work took a massive shift, i.e. designing kids clothes or writing “kid rock”, but that their output reflected their new status as the responsible generation with an increased social consciousness and a heady optimism of investment in the future. The work was also frequently was done in small increments of time in home spaces to be nearer their kids.
Describe your studio space. How is that space connected to the rest of the house? Do you share the space with anyone? My studio is a 840 sq. ft. two-storey studio building at the back of our lot designed by architects Jack Burnett-Stewart and Julia Strickland. It is connected to the main house by a meandering decomposed granite path. The first floor of the building is my messy physical working space. It has 11 foot tall exposed joist ceilings, white walls, and a cement floor. The space under the stairs was designed as two four foot wide shelves that slide on rollers so I can store a lot of work and supplies under there. My husband designed a track lighting system for the first floor that incorporates regular track and gooseneck track. Since my sculptures are designed to fit into the particular architecture of the site, the gooseneck track really helps me figure out how the shadows will occur. Natural light comes in through double eight foot tall glass doors.
The second floor is the writing, thinking, reading and meetings space. It has a much more domestic feel with birch floors, lots of windows, a peaked ceiling and is shamelessly decorated with books. It is the truest respite space I have ever had and I adore it. I can feel my breathing slow down as I settle in up here. My husband sometimes telecommutes, so he has a Built Studio table that serves as his desk on that level with a nice docking system set up for his Mac.
It is quite wonderful to have a separate building to go to, but one that is only 100 feet away.
How do you keep your office/studio organized? I’m thinking here of the physical space but also your computer. Are there any particular programs you find really useful? In terms of organizing my different job hats, I’ve separated the different types of work into the different physical spaces. There is no computer in my studio. My work desk and Mac is in the guest bedroom of the main house, so that’s where I answer email, fiddle with Photoshop, work on websites, etc. I maintain my personal site from that computer using an old Adobe product. The Broodwork site is done with indexibit, which is great. Better still is that I share responsibilities for the Broodwork site with my co-founder, Iris Regn and with Juliette Bellocq. Juliette’s company, Handbuilt Studio, designed the site.
I listen to music constantly, so one of my favorite technologies is a system called Squeezebox that uses iTunes to play through any stereo or computer in the main house or studio. Totally brilliant. I should get stock for all the people I tell about it. Most phone calls are done from my iPhone, so I can be anywhere and am often in the backyard. I’m too honest to say my studio is organized, but I do know where the orange 12 gauge copper conduit is most of the times.
Is there any piece of furniture you covet for your studio? I’d love a two-set Celeste sofa. And I need to get more organized tool and gadget storage.
What would you change about your own workspace? Nothing really. Although sculpture takes up a lot of square footage, and it would be nice to have more even more space, I wouldn’t trade any of my green space for concrete.
What do you most love about your space? When we first looked at our place I fell in love immediately with the backyard. The original owners had been arborists, so the lot had about 20 mature fruit trees. Since my work has always been inspired by doodles and patterning, finding exquisite patterns in roots or branches or leaf shapes bring out the happy geek in me.
I also love going up to the second floor of the studio and looking out the big windows into the trees. I love the huge doors that make for easy transportation of sculpture and bring that garden into the studio. But most of all I love how my proximity to green space keeps me honest. I am constantly reminded of the inherent superior elegance of Nature. What I am striving for in my work is the sort of balanced tension that Nature accomplishes. Someone recently said my work was like looking at nature after man and I’m still processing that idea.
How do you strike a balance between your work and your family-life? Balance is a funny thing. I make suspended works that rely completely on balance. I often think this is because finding balance is one of the hardest things to do, so the most rewarding to achieve in any means. When Iris and I created Broodwork we wanted to provide a showcase for the intensely fabulous work that was being made in the midst of the demands of family life. We figured someone had found a good balance, but to be honest, I can’t say I’ve found it. I have an amazing husband who happily shares parenting with me, and who picks up the extra bits if I am at the edge of a deadline. I do the same for him. I guess ample communication is a big part of the balancing act.
Many of the creative people I know in LA didn’t grow up here, so our families are in other locales. I know it is a cliché, but it really does take a village and part of Broodwork is networking with other families. That is why our exhibits often involve programming at least one family-oriented event, so families can meet one another.
What inspires you? Things that reach out like an arm, a branch, a building, or an idea. Travel. Honesty. Beauty. My daughter’s laugh.