Chris Richard has been building boats and cabinetry in the Chesapeake Bay region for almost 30 years. During that time he has maintained a studio and has continued to make art. In an effort to strike balance between making art, making a living, and experiencing life, Chris has chosen to limit his exhibition schedule. Letting go of the business side of making art gave him the freedom to find that balance, strengthen his vocabulary, and finally after many years consider the possibility of re-entering the art world.
Cross Disciplinary Skill Building
Nailing down ideas and establishing a direction, refining that initial direction into something that through a series evolves, is a truly creative process. The execution is largely technical: it involves sculpting and casting of clay, wheel skills, kiln building, firing and glazing, woodworking joinery, construction, and finishing. Finally painting, assembly, and photography. These all require a pretty high skill level.
Elevating one’s skill level requires repetition and it’s difficult to have that repetition when building one of a kind or even a limited series of pieces. Periodically entering the workforce as a custom woodworker was necessary and often welcome during times of economic downturns or recessions. It also provided just the repetition that I needed.
In the 1990’s Chris helped design and build the interiors for 34ft sailboats. He and his coworkers were producing up to 50 boats per year and were in a constant state of refining their collective skills. He worked for several other boat builders until 2010, when he decided the chemicals associated with this process presented too much of a health risk. From that point on Chris worked as a cabinet/ furniture maker, custom trim carpenter, and stair and railing builder.
With his skills improving rapidly at this point, he continued to incorporate them into his studio work. What he didn’t realize at the time was the effect his coworkers were having on him. Chris was working with craftsmen and women who were not only producing beautiful work on the job with little or no recognition, but were maintaining second lives as musicians, writers, athletes, farmers, bee keepers etc. These were people who were quietly working extremely hard to keep their non-lucrative passions alive. Their strength and determination were an inspiration to him, and he is forever grateful for having known them.
Chris was a full-time artist for almost a dozen years and was able to focus and become completely immersed in his work. Making a living at this meant being constantly productive and cohesive in an effort to keep the “business“ alive. When circumstances dictated that he take on a fulltime job, his time in the studio would be limited to nights and weekends. This completely changed Chris’s approach and perspective, entering the studio with diminished energy and motivation, the need to work in small increments of time and knowing what needs doing before getting to the studio.
However, Chris soon learned that when you’re not making a living at your artwork, you can veer off the path and explore all that you’ve wanted to. For a time, Chris bounced around doing figurative sculptural work and painting. Although he felt a lot of freedom during those times and built strength as an artist, he realized something important. “I realized that by working nights and weekends, I was neglecting experiences and relationships, those things that enrich your life,” he says. Chris’s efforts now will revolve around increasing his time in the studio while slowly reducing his time in the field.