I left my studio at the beginning of May 2018 but up until today, most of my stuff are still there. As of the moment I'm trying to complete three paintings by the end of May for two exhibitions abroad: Korea and Malaysia. Moving my stuff to the new place is actually the least of my worries, although it's a little unsettling to pay for rent for a place that I'm not using.
I live in Metro Manila. Having a studio outside the home where you sleep is actually a very bad idea in a city like Manila. Apart from the unnecessary expense, traffic is dense and commuting is extremely inconvenient if you do not have a car. My home is in Pasig, my studio is along Reliance Street, Mandaluyong. It's less than 4km away from my home but it often takes me 30 minutes to get to my studio via car. In some unfortunate instances, it could take almost an hour. People in other countries ask, why don't you bike? Apart from not being able to bike, our city is known for having "disappearing sidewalks" or disappearing bike lanes or having intersections that can easily be a crime scene for a less-than-lucky bike-rider.
I decided to have a studio ever since I started oil painting 2 years ago. I've been painting watercolor in my bedroom for years prior to this. Oils might be a bad idea to sleep with and I don't have other places to work within our home, so I immediately looked for a place outside. A relative of mine offered to lease her one-bedroom condo unit for a reasonable price. The space was around 60sqm (645sqft). I felt that I couldn't possibly maximize the entire space. I called in 2 of my friends, Irene and Aleyn, to share the unit with me. We decided to put up Wildwood Store for half of the unit. My room is only 15sqm (160sqft), which was more than enough for me to do my work.
Half of the studio looked resplendent in a Japanese-Scandinavian way. Aleyn was working for a wedding cinematography studio and was occasionally doing styling work for them. I've known her for her film photography but interior design was a long-time unpursued passion of hers. Briefly before she left her old job, I worked on renovating the unit and she worked on styling and having some of the major fixtures like the wooden platform, the magazine stand, and some of the shelving designs fabricated.
*Photos above by Aleyn. You can see more photos of our place in the press section of Wildwood Store.
Meanwhile, the room where I work in has a lot of great light. I have my own standing desk and ample space to fit in 6 feet canvases. The investment wasn't so bad. We pooled in some of our money to renovate the unit. The relative who owns the place also financially helped with the renovation since some of the areas have been damaged by the previous tenants. My refrigerator and some of my cookware were donated. The wood we used for the platform were gathered from a scrapyard. The entire design experience was enjoyable and eventually our earnings from Wildwood and my in-house workshops covered the expenses in a year.
Wildwood was a career turning point for all of us. Irene moved to Japan for work, Aleyn's production styling work skyrocketed, and I started exhibiting as an oil painter and my style drastically changed. I also met my husband a few weeks before the renovation started. My sister Veronika shortly moved in with me to kickstart her fashion design career. I'm not a superstitious person but I believe that certain places generate certain energies and outcomes. Despite the unnecessary commute, I'm grateful for my time in Wildwood.
Being alone in a place (before Veronika arrived) easily brewed misery. All I recall are days of rumination and angst whilst holding a brush. I'm happy to find someone, albeit briefly, to take my breaks with, to talk and dance with, whenever work is getting insufferable. Looking at the studio from a distance, I now realize that I failed to recognize personal milestones and moments of clarity and wisdom from friends, passersby, and students in the thick of things, when those moments actually mattered. Being here now in a different place makes me value self-awareness and proactivity. Entering the doors of Wildwood is a paradox. There is a sense of comfort and a feeling of home, bigger than the home that I actually came from. In parallel, the weight and uncertainty of my work exists, as if I could easily relax to a chant: My work is my home. I carry my home with me.
On May 9, I married my husband. A month before our marriage, I did a test-run of going back-and-forth from his place to my studio. It takes an hour to go to work and I have been spending close to 400php (8.6usd) a weekday for commute. We felt that this would never work and it would bring me close to an uncalled financial and labor burn-out, so we decided to absorb the studio into the house.
A few days before our marriage, I decided to transfer majority of my belongings from the studio to my husband's place. As of now, I only brought the most important things: my canvases, my paint cart, my toolbox, my detachable ceiling lights, a foldable plastic table, and my donated refrigerator. Right now I'm working in the living room. We'll eventually convert the garage to a studio, which we're very excited for. Crossing my fingers that I won't forget to document the transition.
As Chaucer once said, all good things come to an end. Rather than grim, it's an acceptance of endings. Wildwood has run its course and my life in solitude has run its course. I have accepted its joy, its weight, its burdens, its blessings. I am excited for new beginnings. The uncharted life is what keeps us alive, and I welcome it with open arms.