Inside the Studio with Mary Harding

Welcome to Inside the Studio!

Each week one of our contributors gives you a sneak peek into their studio, creative process or inspirations. We ask a related question of our readers and hope you’ll leave comments! As an incentive we offer a free prize each week to bribe you to use that keyboard. The following week we choose a random winner.
Congratulations Michelle W.! You have won a set of heart pins in your choice of finish:  6 in Sterling Silver or 10 in copper, antiqued or shiny or a mix of both from Rebecca of Songbead and The Curious Bead Shop.  Please send Rebecca an email with your information so she can mail these out to you!!
Today we visit the studio of
My studio is inside of an 1850’s dairy barn.   There was a time about 20 years ago that we had an operating dairy farm.  Where I work in my studio was once where our beautiful Jersey and Holstein cows lived. 

photo of our cows in the field in the fall

And before we lived here several other families had Holstein dairies housed inside.   So I feel that my studio has very good Karma.

I thought you might enjoy seeing some pictures of the structure of this lovely barn that has been saved from the fate of many in this large rural county in Northern New York.  All the work  has been done by my wonderful husband and with the help of friends. 
This first picture gives you a glimpse of the very large beams that were used to make this barn.  The part that I am in is just to the right of this section and is actually the older part of the barn.  

This picture is taken from the oldest part of the barn.  Those burgundy doors lead into my studio.  They are kept latched to keep out dust and cats etc.  They also give me a much needed level of privacy and quiet.  If you look up at the ceiling you will see more of the rough hewn beams that were used to build the barn.  Also of note is that the ceiling is fairly low about 7 feet.  Right above the burgundy double doors you can see one of the very large  beams. The ceiling height at the top of the double doors is about 6’2″.  Not sure why the ceilings were so low but it did help keep this part of the barn warmer and allowed for more room above for storage of hay.
Another view of the very large rough hewn beams.  You can see the axe marks on the edge.  They were roughed out by hand.  Note how they are given additional support from the steel posts under them.

Upstairs or above my studio and this part of the barn, my husband is making a book store.  This is the area where  we used to store two thousand hay bales.  Notice the dark wood above the shelves.  The large beams have been integrated into the book shelf structure.

an upper level in the bookstore to be

Back to my Studio

My studio set up.  This table closest to you is where I do the hand painting and glazing of my ceramic beads, buttons and pendants.  I try to keep this area very clean.  Clay can be quite messy and the dust from clay can cause serious lung problems.  It is best to wear special small particle mask protection and clean up dry clay with a wet cloth so the dust is not dispersed.  Dust bits can also get into the clay glaze and distort the surface of a piece.
Here is a picture of one of my ceramic kilns.  All three of my kilns have digital controls which  means that a ceramic clay firing program has been keyed into the computerized controls and will go through the steps of the firing without out any help from me.  In the past kilns had to be  turned up for each step of the firing and then turned off at the end.  Many potters have gone over to the digital method but some still prefer to hand manipulate their kilns and use actual Orton cones to determine when the clay is ready.  All ceramic clay needs to be fired i.e. heated up to its chemical maturity in a kiln.  Clay matures at temperatures that are much  higher than can be achieved by a kitchen stove or a toaster over.  Ceramic kilns are built to handle these high temperatures and are made with a special kind of ceramic brick that can withstand these hot temperatures.  For example, one of the clays that I like to use which is classified as an earthenware clay needs to be fired to at least 1820 degrees Fahrenheit  to mature.  Many ceramic bead artists use stoneware and porcelain clays and these require even more heat to mature:  about 2200 degrees Fahrenheit.   
Recently I have been working on making a number of toggle clasps and hearts.  Some of these will be going to the Bead Cruise.
All of these  have been fired 3 times in my digital kiln.  Each firing has a special purpose.  The first or bisque firing it to initially harden the clay enough so that it can be colored with glazes.  I like to do a second firing after I  have used stains to color the white clay and add contrast to my image.
These 2 hole beads are drying in a food dehydrator and then will be sponged off to remove rough spots and put in the kiln for that initial bisque firing.  These bead seem  hard at this stage but they break easily and if they come into contact with water they will dissolve into mud. and just wash down the drain ( not a good idea for your plumbing.)
These beads have been through that initial bisque firing and then have been stained and fired a second time. Now they are ready for the hand painting and the final glaze firing.
Leaves which have been hand painted and are awaiting the 2 coats of clear glaze  they need before the final glaze firing.
Now that we have had a tour of the barn and  my studio, I have a question for you.  As you can see my studio is not inside of my home.  I love that it is in a  place that can handle messes and keep the clay and glazes away from my living space. I also love being able to focus totally on my creative work when I am in my studio as there are few distractions and I can’t exactly double and triple task while I am there.  On the other hand, on days when it is very cold outside, or when I have a lot to do in the house, I think I would like my studio to be in my home.
Where do you think is the best place for your creative activity? and why?
  Tell us by leaving a comment below and I will enter your name to win ONE of my ceramic leaves like the ones above.  But of course they will be all glazed and bright and shiny.  Like these below.

ceramic leaf pendants by Mary Harding

Thanks so for stopping by.  The winner will be announced next week.

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45 Comment

  1. Nicole DeMore
    March 1, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    I'd like to say that I have a bead room, that I have a wonderful area in which to create, but the fact of the matter remains that I do not. The space in which I create is limited to the bedroom since it has the most space and the best light(small apartments are not really fun).

    My creativity comes from absolutely everywhere though, and I'd like to think that I just work on concentrating it into some physical piece of beadery in my room.

  2. Susanm
    March 1, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    I don't have space in my house for a designated craft space 0 I like to work on the table in our family room/dining area off our kitchen – lots of bright light and no matter what the season, I can look out into my backyard. Right now it's covered with snow – lovely and peaceful.

  3. Julie
    March 1, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    Love the tour! I definitely wouldn't want my studio in the house. We did move the studio a few years ago into the third bay of our attached garage from our barn down slope from the house since the snow in the winter made it treacherous coming and going. Having it in the house would mean way to much cleanup.

  4. uglibeads
    March 1, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    That is an absolutely beautiful studio space! So much character! My workspace is in our living room (we live in a studio loft so there aren't many options). I do enjoy seeing it as a reminder that it's there whenever I feel like workingโ€ฆ but I dream of having a separate room that's just for me to create in.

  5. freshbakeddesigns
    March 1, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    Oh, Mary. This is one of my favorite posts about studio spaces so far. I loved the digital peek into your special place and learn about it's past and present. And learning more about the clay process of your gorgeous beads. A spare bedroom (post children) is now my studio and the huge windows on one wall is my favorite part besides the space. Gotta have lots of natural light to lift my creative spirit.


  6. Beti Horvath
    March 1, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    Loved your tour. I can see that for your type of work, a studio away from your living area would be ideal. I would just like to be out of the living room!

  7. Erin S
    March 1, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    Your studio totally rocks! I would love a separate space for my studio, but that is not possible for me, so I use a spare bedroom. It's great to have a space in the house, because I can just run up there any time for something quick. But the mess is an issue, as are fumes and spills from paint, patinas, solvents, etc. So it's a trade off.

  8. kerensky
    March 1, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    Thanks for sharing your creative process and wonderful studio space with us. Wow, it is just gorgeous. I prefer to make lamp work beads in the dedicated studio outside of my home. When torching undisturbed, I think more clearly and can creatively relax. More importantly though, I like to keep the bead making fumes out of my home environment. I assemble my jewellery in one of our spare bedrooms. This really works for me as I can combine this with my family commitments, and dip in and out of it as necessary. I think that even if I could combine all the elements of what I do in one place, I would still have a dedicated jewellery making space inside my home. I like the spontaneity that this brings.

  9. Carol Briody
    March 1, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    Your studio is fabulous. The craftsmanship of the barn is truly something we don't see everyday. It must inspire you to live and work in such a beautiful place, as I can see by your lovely pieces. It's amazing that it was not so log ago when we lived in a world without technology invading (beepers and texting and tweeting). While I've spent most of my career (wow, 30 years!) away from home in the hustle and bustle, I find my wiser self longing for a place such as you've created. I vote for your way of doing things! Carol

  10. Rachel Jones
    March 1, 2014 at 9:16 pm

    Wow, I wish I had a space like that! Beautiful work, your pieces are just gorgeous! Weirdly enough, my preferred place to do jewelry is not at my desk, but rather sitting in bed. I had hip surgery last April, and have not recovered, so if I don't keep my leg elevated somewhat, it swells and my hip gets really sore, so if I sit on my bed, I can prop it up with pillows and make as much jewelry as my hands can handle! The only downside is that I have to get up and go into the kitchen if I need to hammer any of the pieces, but otherwise, I manage to get things done with a minimum of discomfort. Thank you for letting me share!

  11. Liz
    March 2, 2014 at 12:13 am

    Love your studio and your gorgeous beads. My workspace is my walkout basement. A couple of years ago I found a great deal on 6 large desks from a local company that was liquidating their office space. My husband installed these on the wall space beneath the windows and surrounding the fireplace. The idea at that time was that each member of the family would have their own study/work area. However, soon I claimed the whole space…setting up work zones: sewing, bead storage, beading, photography and display. So I love that I can walk away and leave things set up:)

  12. Gayle Wigley
    March 2, 2014 at 1:03 am

    I need to be within close range of the studio or it is "out of sight, out of mind". If I was home all the time, a studio away from the home would be great, though.

  13. Liona (Blue Merlin Creations)
    March 2, 2014 at 2:40 am

    What a neat studio tour! I'm always interested in where other artists work. I work at my kitchen table. All of my beads and supplies are stored above our kitchen cupboards. Our kitchen is very light, and it means I can keep an eye on my children! I have dreams of an actual studio, but that will be years from now =)

  14. Shaiha
    March 2, 2014 at 2:41 am

    My studio is down in my basement which works well for me as the only time my husband comes downstairs is to do laundry. Though I do wish that it had more light, the room works well for me because I don't have to go out in the weather. Eventually I would love to retire to a warm place where the weather wouldn't mess with me and perhaps then having an entirely separate location might work for me. One with big windows.

  15. Divya N
    March 2, 2014 at 7:28 am

    I would love to have a studio and would prefer if its joint or atleast close to my home as I do my best work in relaxed settings. For now I contend with my couch and dining table for my work and terrace to take pictures as I live in a small apartment

  16. kilnfiredart
    March 2, 2014 at 8:00 am

    What a beautiful building to work in. At the moment I've taken over 2 bedrooms, utility room and dining table, so it's time to move out. I'm hoping to have a garden studio built this summer

  17. Sharyl
    March 2, 2014 at 8:13 am

    What a gorgeous place to work and create! I love the bookstore area too! My studio is currently in a much-too-small room in the house. The room is mine-all-mine, but I constantly work outside of it because I don't have enough space. It's also easy to get interrupted there because I'm just down the hall. I hear the phone ring with nuisance callers and go to answer it. I think a separate spot very near my home would be a luxury! …or maybe a larger room just a little further down the hall! ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for sharing this, Mary! –Sharyl

  18. Kristen
    March 2, 2014 at 11:36 am

    I love old barns and your studio is great! When my kids moved out,I converted one of their bedrooms into a studio. It has three large windows and beautiful views with lots of light. My husband installed a dedicated circuit for my enameling kiln and I have tables against every wall. Now if only I could be neater! It is truly my happy place. I like being in my house but I do get distracted easily.

  19. Kathy Lindemer
    March 2, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    You are very lucky to have a large, gorgeous,mand special place for your studio. I am lucky to have 2 spaces that are spare bedrooms. One space is in Delaware and the other in Florida. My challenge is to actually do something creative with those spaces. I just pile my work on my tables and dig my beads out of plastic portable bead cases. It works but not very glamorous.

  20. Becky Pancake
    March 2, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    Thank you for the studio tour. Your space is amazing. I do my beadwork in my lazyboy chair with a fabric covered board across the arms. My metalwork I do at the kitchen table. For my torchwork I go to my shop. My husband and I restored classic cars so the shop is geared for that. I am slowly trying to make my own space out there.

  21. Sarajo Wentling
    March 2, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    Wow, what a cool space! I love old barns and I'm intrigued that your husband is working on a book store upstairs.

    Love those leaves…and I'm excited that some of your goodies are finding their way to the Bead Cruise!

    I don't know that I have strong feelings about having my creative workspace in the house (the only thing I've ever known) or outside. Sometimes I wish that I had more of a dedicated studio that I didn't have to "clean up" when company comes over though!

  22. lake ave
    March 2, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    Favorite place? Front porch at the river watching the water flow by…especially when I am privileged to be making art with my young nieces….passing it along as a gift in the way that it was given to me by my mother and my grandmother…Mary. You are my hero! Love, l.

  23. PyxeeStyx
    March 2, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    Oh, Mary, you're barn is absolutely magical! No wonder such beautiful creations come out of there. My perfect studio is right there. Except instead of a book store (although I love the idea) my bed would be in that loft. I saw an episode of "This Old House" when I was a kid, where they refurbished an old barn and converted it into a home. I have been fantasizing about converting a barn, or firehouse, or schoolhouse, or any cool old building ever since. And the red doors… the absolute perfect touch. My studio space is in my apartment. I live alone so there are few distractions. And my muse never sleeps, so having to travel to my creative place when I wake totally charged with an idea at 3 am just wouldn't work. Thank you for sharing your beautiful creative space ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. Chiara Jucha
    March 2, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    For the longest time, my workspace was the coffee table, the floor, the dining room table. All of my supplies for jewelry and knitting were all over the house. I dont have any extra room here. With some creative thinking on my husband's part, we divided the office into two sides – one side has the computer and such and the other has my custom made jeweler's bench plus storage for all my "stuff". I still do the knitting in the living room, but the jewelry is primarily done in my new work area. It is much better but I would love to have a real studio so I could have things like a kiln and sink dedicated to messy work!

  25. Ann Schroeder
    March 2, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    This building is beautiful inside and out! I like the idea of a space outside of the home, but nearby. I do feel lucky that I have a whole room. I love the idea of the upstairs bookstore!

  26. sandi m
    March 2, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    Mary, Your barn story and the cows remind me of visiting the dairy farm my relatives had in Wisconsin when I was a little girl. Love all that beautiful barn wood in your studio. And a perfect place to work especially with the type of work you do.
    As for me, my 'studio' is in an extra bedroom where generally everything is hidden from the rest of the house .. except for those time when I fuse wire in the kitchen to be near a water source.
    Thanks for also sharing your bead process – one really appreciates the steps it takes to make those beauties.
    'One of these days, Spring will arrive…'

  27. Debbie Rowe
    March 2, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    Well, this Winter it would have been nice to have your studio inside the home. But I think otherwise it is nice to have somewhere to go and create. It would seem to clear one's head.

    I found it fascinating how you balance the beads on those sticks for drying/painting. Such a great idea and I would not have thought about it in a million years!

  28. Natalie -- NKP Designs
    March 2, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    I turned my son's room into my studio when he moved out … I also invested in a good quality air filter because of the clay particle issue. Keeping it dust free is most important and those clay particles are not visible to the naked eye and can stay suspended in the air for days. That being said, while my studio is dust free, it is often very messy with other things. Love your workspace.

  29. Lynn
    March 2, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    I loved seeing your barn/studio with the beautiful beams and wood throughout—what a luxury having such a wonderful place for you to create your lovely beads. I work at my dining room table and sometimes in the kitchen—the only places available since this is a small house. I would like to have a small workplace with lots of drawers built into a corner of the kitchen but it hasn't happened yet. The dining table is chaotic but it's what I have for now. The beauty of your beads is amazing and I would love to hold one in my hands.

  30. Cory Tompkins
    March 2, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    Your work space is dreamy!! I would love to have something like an "above the garage" studio…attached to the house but separate and spacious. Right now I am in the dining room and very cramped.

  31. Mackin-Art
    March 2, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    I have a designated "workroom", but I seldom actually work in it – it's more about storage and having a place that I can spread out all the bits and pieces that might go into a project and then close the door on the mess. I prefer to actually work on my comfy chaise in our small sitting room, not isolated in my workroom.

  32. Elizabeth
    March 2, 2014 at 10:48 pm

    My creative process happens where and when I am calm and have been for a few days. My mind has to declutter in order for me to start "making".

    What a lovely blog post!

  33. Jeanne @ Gems By Jeanne Marie
    March 3, 2014 at 3:52 am

    Mary – Thank you so much for sharing your amazing creative space with us!
    I'm in the process of setting up a studio in a spare upstairs room. (formerly office). I need a dedicated space for soldering and etching. And I needed to get everything off the coffee table.
    However, I do find that I still do a lot of my beading, knotting and wirework in the family room.

  34. lindalandig
    March 3, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    I loved seeing your studio, Mary. It is wonderful. And how cool that your husband is opening a book store up above. A perfect combo, imo.
    My studio is in a spare bedroom and I feel lucky to have a space of my own. Ideally, I'd like to have a room in the house, plus a separate space, perhaps in a garage, where I could do my torching.

  35. Chris White
    March 3, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    Thanks for letting us in to see your historical art studio. It must be a fantastic space for creative designs and inspiration. I think you are lucky to have such an environment to work.
    I believe there are always positives and negatives in any work space. To have such a place as yours, is worth its weight in gold.
    'continued success to you and enjoy your studio to the fullest!

  36. Cheryl K Roe
    March 3, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    I create in my finished basement ( Son's old bedroom). Although it is very small, I feel fortunate to a dedicated temperature controlled space. So many lampwork artists work in unheated/non-air conditioned space. Someday I hope to have a separate space somewhere on our beautiful 3 acres. But I thankful to have what I have.

  37. Mitzi Ackerman
    March 3, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    Hi Mary! I do have a craft room which houses all of my interests…beading, knitting, sewing, and so on. It is nice having one designated room to hold everything, but I find myself wanting to be upstairs in the sunroom and not tucked away downstairs. So…it would be a toss up between working in a studio versus home. It is very nice to have the two options!

  38. From an Open Heart
    March 3, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    My work space is a corner in the basement that the original owner made into his workshop. It has abundant table space, awesome lighting, and lots of storage area. There is a sink nearby which is great for me as I like to experiment with painting over metal and clay. The one thing I really miss is daylight as the closest window is several feet away. I picture a future space bright and sunny with lush greenery in view. A girl can dream, can't she? ๐Ÿ™‚

  39. beadrecipes
    March 4, 2014 at 9:50 am

    What a beautiful creative space!

    My jewellery-making workspace is on the dining room table, and my beads tend to spill out of my bead storage to all available surfaces (much to my husband's dismay!). While my kids are small, it is just easier to work inside. Maybe that will change at some point, as we do have a "bungalow" in our back garden which we use as our spare room and spill-over storage. One can dream …

  40. Stories They Tell
    March 4, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    Mary, thanks for the great tour of your artistic space– can't wait to come visit in the spring!
    I like having my studio in the house but I do tend to check my e-mail too often and the phone is a pain. I am planning to move most of my shop out to our workshop in the garden. Now that we have a working wood stove out there, we can keep it toasty in the winter. I envy your lovely space. Maybe you can spare Jochen to come and help with our old barn– I'd love to put my studio in there.

  41. Ann
    March 4, 2014 at 11:38 pm

    I have a space of my own in the loft area of our house, but I find that I tend to work on "pieces in progress" in the living room in front of the tv with the family around. I think them through at my desk, but they take quite a bit of time to make (bead weaving), so they travel out of my "office".

  42. Dzign by Jamie
    March 5, 2014 at 2:13 am

    Wow, what an amazing studio space. Love all the rough hewn lumber.

    My creative space is my spare bedroom. I also have a studio space outside that's not quite finished, and it's kind of snowed in with our four feet of snow we've gotten this year!

  43. Colleen
    March 5, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    Currently, my workspace is crammed into my bedroom along with everything else. If I had a choice, though, I would like to have something like a large room above a garage with skylights. Connected to the house but out of the way.

  44. Jenster
    April 26, 2014 at 9:45 am

    You are blessed to have such a inspiring place to create . I have a office / studio which really is a converted spare bedroom . My day job is raising funds for blind people but surrounded by all my beads and findings makes it less of a office and more a place of contentment . One day I would like a room with more of a view possibly a conservatory with limitless light . I enjoyed your tour ~ thank you

  45. Despina
    April 27, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    The armchair with the portable side table/bench by my window ๐Ÿ™‚ Your workspace is simply amazing, a distant dream for me…


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