Time (Artist Residencies) – creativity, collaborators & the time-space continuum

What is an artist residency, and who are they for? How has the pandemic impacted our sense of time? How is time a “material?” Slow down and learn from Alicia Toldi and Carolina Porras, the creators of Piney Wood Atlas, a catalogue of small, unconventional artist residencies throughout the United States.


<sound of birds chirping, outdoor, forest noise>

Alicia:  So it’s this weird combination between focus and abstraction, I guess. If I’m carving, for example, um, each pass I do with the knife is very intentional and I have to make sure not to cut myself and I have to make sure not to mess up this tiny, detailed spoon that I’m working on. It takes a lot of focus, but at the same time, it’s very meditative and repetitive. I can kind of space out and think about things or listen to something. I always sit outside and lately because there’s been a lot of smoke in the air from fires haven’t been able to. I carved for like two hours and got tired of it. And usually I can go for an entire afternoon or something and I realized that being outside and hearing the birds and just being out in the outside atmosphere is so much a part of it.

Carolina: Well, when I’m drawing, I can be listening to a podcast or I can be, um, you know, listening to music with lots of lyrics, but I’m also working on really detailed work with, especially with colored pencils. You don’t really, you don’t have the capabilities of erasing and starting over. So everything has to kind of be mindfully placed. But I’ve been doing it for so long that I can kind of think about that without thinking so hard that I can’t do anything else.

Catherine: Those were our guests for this episode, Carolina —

Carolina: I’m Carolina Porras and I am based in Patagonia, Colorado. I use a lot of different materials for my fine art practice. I use a lot of colored pencils, graphite, and collage, some sculpture,  I also work a lot with my hands and crochet. And with Piney Wood Atlas, we use, uh, we use a lot of, abstract materials, like time and interacting with people, traveling, organizing, and also facilitating.

And Alicia.

Alicia: I am Alicia Toldi and I am based out of Point Reyes Station, California, which is just North of the San Francisco Bay area. And, um, a similar, I have kind of a fine art practice. That’s more second and then a craft practice that is, um, wooden spoon carving and working with, uh, fiber natural dyes and kind of experimenting. Um, and then same with Piney Wood Atlas and yeah, uh, one of our important materials is time,

Both Carolina and Alicia work with lots of tangible, creative materials we could focus on in: wood, fiber, natural dyes, colored pencils, graphite. But we’re going to hone in on their expertise on the subject of time as a material.

In some ways, this episode is about letting time happen to you, in the context of your creative calling. In other ways, it’s about taking ownership over your own time. It’s a blend of surrender and activation.

Welcome back to Material Feels, the podcast all about the intimate relationships between creative people and the materials they have fallen in love with.

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Catherine: What’s your relationship with time like?

Do you feel like you don’t have enough? Or that you loose track of it? Do you get lost in time? Are you reliving the past? Or are you always distracted, away in a possible future?

Before I bring you with me down on of my favorite rabbit holes, aka time traveling and unravelling the fabric of space and time as we know it: we’re going to discover how Alicia and Carolina got so wise about time through a project they created, Piney Wood Atlas.

Piney Wood Atlas is a collaborative project that catalogues small, emerging and unconventional artist residencies. Through a series of road trips across the United States, Alicia and Carolina visit and tour various spaces, share meals and speak with facilitators and artists, gathering first-hand experiences of what it’s like to be an artist in residence.

Alicia, reading a quote: “There’s almost this really beautiful counter-cultural revolution, in a quiet way, that we’re doing with these residencies. We’re saying, we do not subscribe to the rat race. We believe in empty space and time where something else can happen. And I really see, again and again that when people go into that space of stillness in their studios on the land, connecting, sharing food with eachother.”

That’s a favorite quote of theirs, from an arts facilitator in their community.

Their project represents alternative residencies through online content, workshops and  annually printed regional guidebooks (there are three out and a fourth one is on the way!)

Okay back it up though, what is an artist residency you ask!? Do you need to be an artist? What does it mean to call yourself an artist? What kind of art do you make? Where do you reside? Tell me everything, you say, I know not of your hippie strangeness.

Well, let’s go on a tour with Alicia and Carolina, and get some answers.


Alicia: When we visit a residency, we try to imagine we are in residence there, for 24 hours or less sometimes, we prefer to stay the night. When we are there we just try to soak up as much of the atmosphere as we can, we say yes to everything, we’re open to experiences and we record as much as we can through recording, photographs, sketching or notes. So it really just gives us a joyful feeling when we’re at each residency. And they are all so unique. And so, we’ll have one experience on day, for example, we’ll be in a beautiful forest with an organic garden, camping with woodfired pizzas, and the next night we’ll be in a city in like a warehouse somewhere with all these creative people. It’s really special, it’s really fun…

And then in the in-between time, you’d think that our down time would be then, but… it’s usually filed with driving, eating, doing updates on social media, we don’t have a lot of time to journal or write stuff down, reflect and nap perhaps….but we never nap, we always just talk the entire time… even if it’s a five hour drive. the down time actually happens when we are at the residency, just soaking it in.

Carolina: When we first started the project, we brought our sketchbooks with us, at each residency we’re going to sit and sketch and write our thoughts… and that didn’t… <laughs>. You also wanna be really present, when you are there… and while documenting is such a big part of our project, we also don’t want to take ourselves away from you know, being present during g a communal dinner that then turns into a karaoke dance party at the end, where the artists are gonna stay up late and talk, we don’t want to pull ourselves away from that, so, yeah, we like to be open to all that stuff.

Catherine: What I’m hearing is that… there are communities, sometimes it’s in a city, you can do a self-directed one on a train… can you just paint more of a picture of how an artist’s residency ties into a community?

Carolina: I think every one’s experience is different for residencies, especially depending on what they need. Running Elsewhere now, which is located in a really active and vibrant small rural community, I’ve seen and have felt firsthand how amazing it is to be in within that communal setting, and that’s a thing that has lasted with me, those paintings still exist… I was really happy to have that time. For me, as the people… the people is more long-lasting…other people they have to have quietness when they are at the residency, because their life is usually so… active and hectic and loud, they might not interact the same way… so I think tha everyone’s needs are different , and that’s okay… but a lot of the time, I think traveling, going to artists residencies, I mean it’s about the people and that’s what makes it so fun. And you take way from that: like… people can be really kind and creative and warm and generous and it’s hard to remember that in your daily life, especially after 2016 …especially living in a rural community, um after Trump got elected there was a lot of divisiveness, and otherness, but the you leave yourself open to meeting new people… and having conversations which generally happens when you are traveling and going to new places like artist’s residencies, you become really surprised.

Alicia: People who have a lot of different opinions about things can come together in their love of a place, and residencies a lot of the time are very specific to their place and the work that people make in them, and juries applications look for people who are making work that will specifically reflect the place, not something that could be done anywhere. Um.. yeah.

Carolina: You ask yourself, why that place? Why do you want to go to this residency? And a huge part of that is usually location, that you really want to get to know that place. If it was just to be in a studio, you can do that anywhere.

Alicia: Carolina and I met at an artist residency in 2013 when we were both 22, 23, had our birthdays then that summer. It was a time when we were figuring out ourselves as adults and creatives after having graduated recently from college and going to the residency was we had a chance to, um, to really figure out who we were as, as creative adults.

Carolina: A lot of people after art school or after any school, whenever you’re studying, you have to kind of find your own way. How do you make your own structure to continue doing that without, you know, those grades and those classes and prompts. Um, and you know, we both heard about artists’ residencies in different ways and elsewhere in Paonia, um, was actually the one that I found through researching. And it was the only one that I applied to and I got in and it totally changed my life. But, um, you know, I was thinking about this, that it was the first time as an adult, um, traveling in that way completely by myself for a long period of time, for two months to a place. I had no idea where it was, what it was. I didn’t know anybody who lived there. I never known anybody who had gone there before. And it was a huge step for me as a person and growing and knowing that I was going to have these life changing experiences, but I didn’t know what they were going to be. And also just having that time to focus on my art, in a serious way outside of school just, um, felt like a different level of being an artist.

Catherine: Do you remember the moment where you felt like, Oh, I’m here now?

Alicia: I got there at like 9:00 PM and Karen had already gone back to her house and she said, okay, well the resident Catalina will, uh, show you around. And I just imagined her to be like a 60 year old, you know, oil painter, cause that’s the kind of person I thought went to an artist’s residency. And um, so I got in there pretty late and I walked in and Carolina is just painting some crazy like neon, you know, um, surrealist space painting and turned around and she was like, “Hey, you want to come to a party with me?”

So there is the place you choose to go, the journey to get there… and then there is the time you spend. And something about intentional time set aside for any creative activity… whether it’s writing, making, crafting, mending, building, thinking, NOT thinking… time hits different. It’s something a lot of people engaged with creative pursuits can agree on.. that feeling of flow…

Alicia: So at first we wanted to start a residency ourselves and we wanted to visit artists residencies around the country just to do research for ourselves. Um, and then especially because residencies are all so different. So there’s so many different ways to run them. And there’s so many different ways that people decide to run them, especially people who start their own. Then the project grew as we realized that the information was lacking in the residency world. So there are, um, databases that you can look up kind of the objective information about residencies. And then there are, uh, there’s word of mouth, but there wasn’t really anything in between. Um, and so we saw ourselves as people who could dispense that information to our communities.

Catherine: I feel like I need to revisit a discussion I had in an earlier episode with weaver Danielle Garber (episode three) when we were talking about the somewhat problematic separation of art and craft, and the tricky term “artist.” How claiming the identity of artist can be intimidating. A lot of people think you need to paint paintings, show in galleries, make money off of your art, know fancy art terms like impasto. It’s also an identity many shy away from because they don’t feel “good enough.” Same with calling yourself creative.

Let me stop those trains of thought RIGHT NOW!

Activities that qualify you as creative include and are not limited to….

Writing, communicating, singing, practicing an instrument, creating playlists, taking pictures, homemade gifts, cooking, baking, tidying and designing your space, making silly voices, playing with children, teaching people how to do stuff, gardening, landscaping, knitting, sewing, pickling, planning trips, coordinating outfits, dancing, meditating, thinking, making weird raps while you’re talking, UH… I could keep going but I didn’t actually script this so I’m gonna move on…

Every single person I have EVER met has something like this in their lives, whether they acknowledge it or not. So, listener of this humble yet very intense podcast, if you know me personally (because you probably do), I’m talking to you! And if I don’t know you personally, get to know me, google, linked in me, or whatever and tell me what creative pursuit you would steep yourself in if you had a nice thick juicy slab of intentional time to spend.

Carolina: Well, I mean, that’s what we’re learning is all kinds. And there are all kinds of residencies that welcome any kind of artist, you know, and also, you know, using the word artists really loosely and, you know, people are now more aware of, um, you know, the term creatives, because I feel like that’s more inclusive to different types of work, like even working with food or being a mathematician or a physicist and,

Alicia: (Or a podcaster!)

Carolina: Or a podcaster! And I remember when I was looking for residencies and I found elsewhere, I also, I mean, since I hadn’t heard about them really before, and I’d never done one, I didn’t know that you know, that there were free ones or there were ones that you paid for the ones that paid you. And I didn’t know where I fit in that and what each one would give you. And I didn’t think that I was at a point in my artistic career where I could get one that was free or that paid you. But that’s not really true. There’s, you know, there’s so many different types of programs, really small ones that are still free. And they welcome people who, you know, may not have the longest CV.

Alicia: We’ve also found that residencies that are smaller, newer, or sometimes more likely to, um, except artists that there may be taking a little more of a gamble on who don’t have an extensive CV or haven’t ever really worked, they’re just working on, um, a creative practice for their first time or, um, have some sort of strange project just because they don’t have, um, the eyes of the art world looking at them and putting pressure on them. So it… There are these small residencies and these, uh, more alternative creatives are working together to, um, to do something that, that is a little bit more experimental.

Alright, well, I guess this is a good time to also acknowledge that residencies are a place of privilege, but there are so many more opportunities out there than you might think. So like, um, even people with 10 minutes a day could self-direct their own residency and just, it’s really a state of mind, the residency you it’s great. If you can go to one, it’s great. If you can get one that pays you, um, but if you can’t take time away from your home, you can make your own and, and just like schedule that time into your day.

I also learned that an artist residency can be self-directed, and it doesn’t even have to happen somewhere outside of your everyday space.

Carolina: I think, uh, for a self directed residency, like Alicia was saying, it’s, it’s a mindset. Sometimes all you need is, um, something to hold you accountable to make the time. Um, even if it is 10, 20 minutes to an hour of your day to focus on your creative practice and something we’ve talked about a lot is, you know, you can be that person to set that structure for yourself and then let everybody know in your work and in your circle that that is your time. And to take it seriously, and you may have an away message on your email for that day or, um, or put your phone, you know, in your closet for that hour and not check it and put these, um, you know, these, these small changes during that time so that your, like your mental space is being shifted.

Alicia: If you have kids or some sort of demanding home life, you can have somebody take care of them or, um, have somebody to rely on who can take away some of that pressure.

Carolina: And it sounds difficult, especially, yeah, if you do have a family or if you have, you know, everybody has demanding lives, but how can you start in a small and a reasonable way, something that you can reasonably ask of yourself and of your family? Like, I just need 10, 15 minutes in my studio and then grow from there. And a buddy helps. I mean, if you think about people who want to start running or working out, you know, they have a gym buddy. They have someone to hold them accountable and like Alicia and I have this collaboration that’s been going on for years and we know each other’s strengths and schedules and we communicate really well and we’ve set that time for ourselves. And then we’re able to check in with each other. And so having a buddy like that, whether it is a collaborator, someone you’re working with, or maybe just even someone who is creative in your life that maybe is also lacking that time. And multiple people can say like, okay, let’s try this, let’s do this because it does help to have that support system.

Alicia: Carolina lives in Colorado, she now runs elsewhere studios. And I’m in California, as I said. And in the non-pandemic times, my favorite way to get over to Colorado is to take the train and it’s a 24 hour trip.

So one time I decided to do a 24 hour self-directed artist residency. And, I had some projects, I had some, um, bandanas that I was embroidering for our upcoming fundraiser. And I also decided to journal. And I also just decided to think creatively the whole time and, um, think about things in a more creative way. So creative thinking, you don’t even have to be a maker. You can just be a creative thinker and write stuff down, or, you know, even, even the thinking is somehow an art. I think we’re very loose with our definition of art. So yeah, that 24 hours was just really fun.

And I ended up meeting through my embroidery in the observation car. I ended up meeting this guy and his daughter and they were like, Oh, are you working on hand work? And then we all were talking about doing craft stuff. And he brought up his mandolin and taught me how to play a few chords. And we had a little concert at night and train it just, yeah, it just really, um, it was like a mini residency, uh, just through changing the state of mind.

Catherine: And so accessible. Like that’s a public space, essentially,

Alicia: Very public actually. I definitely didn’t have my own, my own car or anything. I had my own, I don’t know I was in the, the coach section squished in with all these people and just talking to people. I watched a guy’s kid while he went to the snack car and he came back and gave me a Coca Cola. And I like don’t really drink Coca Cola, but I was really stoked to get that gift from him!

Carolina: Yeah, I think that’s a good point of… you were already going to do this thing and you also chose a slower way of getting somewhere and then reframed that time. So maybe for people who might be listening and be wondering, how can I, you know, take that time for myself. I was just even thinking like, there’s a lot of people who have commutes whether that be in the car they’re driving, or maybe they’re on the train, um, during non-pandemic times. And what do you usually do during that time period where you’re just sitting there in between places.. that happens quite a lot during our days, especially if you live in the city or in the suburbs. And so maybe starting there, or it could be a walk. So you’re, you’re doing multiple things. You’re like moving your body and you’re exercising, but you’re also like this walk. I’m not gonna bring my phone. I’m not going to listen to music and check my text messages. I’m just gonna like try and think creatively and differently. And then I think when you start with those seemingly small things, then, then your brain really starts moving in and it can like turn into, you have this idea for a project, cause you’re allowing for that space.

Catherine: I am smitten with this idea, the wait in line at the grocery store is an opportunity to envision the secret lives of those around you. The posters in the waiting room of the doctor’s office are sarcastic memes waiting for you to caption, or on hold with your bank, the music could inspire a dance sequence.…

Hearing this story made me think of how the open road, and working on the podcast, instantly reframes my thoughts, and my sense of time. And how each interview for the show feels like a mini-artist’s retreat. A serious, needed, fulfilling quest, where I am completely present. all worries and pains disappear. I could interview someone on no sleep after having the most stressful day… attacked by a bird… I’m afraid of birds… just all bad things.. but all that would fade away…I’d perk up instantly for the interview.

Imagine going somewhere for a day or a week or a month… and saying yes to everything you feel. That sense of opening… empathy.. imagination.. expansiveness.. applied to a space within a community…

I am intrigued by what these road trips has taught Alicia and Carolina about the material at hand. How does being removed from the everyday patterns and spaces of their lives impact our sense of time?

Alicia: We’ve had to be very adaptive, we kinda of feel like snails, like our homes are just… in our bodies and we have to just be comfortable wherever we are, and… just rely on ourselves and each other for that comfort, rather than being in a familiar place or around familiar people… just being super flexible in everything except for the fact that we need to take care of ourselves.

Carolina: We’ve gotten better at asking you know, when we first arrive to a residency, instead of going straight into interviews, we’re… you  know, we need some time, then we ask for that now. It think that’s a good thing for traveling in general and artist residencies, know what your home comforts are for you to feel comfortable or at ease… what can you bring with you, whether that be your favorite tea, your favorite pillow…something like that where you can just instantly feel at home wherever you are.

Alicia: That makes me think about how… when we are driving we have these rituals that we do every time, like even… the fact that we switch off driving days, so like, Carolina will drive one day, I’ll drive the next day, and whoever isn’t driving will do the instagram update for the last residency we went to and figure out directions. And so you get the pressure taken off of you to do one thing.. and get supported but he other person… the person who drove will be more tired and have less words in their brain when we come to do the interview the next place, so usually the person who didn’t drive will sort of take the lead on the interviewing. It just really flows really well.. And I think that’s… a special thing we have with each other, too, that we’re just really good collaborators in that way.. intuitively support or ask for support from another person, depending on what we need.

Catherine: Again, the idea of having a buddy comes up. Artist residencies don’t happen in a bubble, and neither do most creative projects. In sharing time and space, with a common goal of visiting residencies and capturing the creative spirit or the place and the people, Alicia and Carolina have discovered their own flow, their own sense of time and their own sense of one another within those coordinates.

This sense of flow was evident to me even in the interview, which I conducted socially distant from Alicia and with Carolina calling in on Zoom. While Carolina spoke, Alicia scrolled through the notes they’ve written up together. I was… kind of moved that they met before the interview to discuss to write up their answers to my questions together and even provide some additional questions or phrasing they wanted me to integrate. It felt so indicative of the material of time, and their sensitivity to it. The intentionality with which they approached the interview.

I could feel the extra time in their words, that their thoughts had steeped a bit longer. The tea was full bodied and brewed with the intention of sharing with another, to ensure they got the essence of it, all the intricacies and flavor notes. And it’s clear that that is how they work, together every step of the way with Piney.

We are always submerged in time. And there is a matrix of choice, as well as the privilege to choose, explicitly or implicitly, how to be in time.

Are we working? Resting? Feeling? Is our time our own and if not, whose is it? And how has this all changed over the past year?

Alicia: We both agreed that the pandemic has us thinking about time in a more conscious way. Not necessarily having more time given to us, because we’re self-employed, we’re still making our own schedules and still working, but we’re just using the time in a more conscious way and really thinking about what we’re doing with it.

Carolina: So, I feel like it kind of goes with the question that you had, how does time feel when you’re at an artist’s residency, um, in similar ways, I mean the pandemic has been really stressful especially for people who don’t have as flexible jobs as we do, but my sense of time has opened up, because my responsibilities or the pressures or expectations of working and having meetings and doing a million things on any given day they just all fall away, and suddenly it was more than okay.. you had to… do NOTHING.

I think collectively a lot of people have felt that, you know, suddenly you understand what you don’t need to  do, like what isn’t necessary, and start realizing what is valuable in your life, and what you want to spend time on. And because we live in this capitalistic society that is just telling us, go go go and work work work, earn that money, be constantly busy… when we had no choice but to not… then you realize how much time you DO have to spend on things that you feel really passionate about>

I am the kind of the person who gets really into what I do, my job, my project… and then feel like… I don’t have “time” – I keep putting time in quotes… you know… I don’t have time for… the other things… and um… even to  relax, even to enjoy myself, I don’t have TIME to work on art… I don’t have time to do all this stuff. But all of a sudden it opens up and I was drawing a lot more, started crocheting Alicia a blanket…. Years in the making to make that blanket! It’s really made me think about time in a conscious way. and I want to hold onto that as much as I can…

Catherine: Hearing about the way the pandemic has influenced their sense of time, I reflected on my own experience. The week that I visited Alicia to conduct this interview was particularly strange because of the fires: the drive was very smoky. I traveled across bridges over various bodies of water, reservoirs and lakes, it’s usually like driving through light and sky and water to get to Point Reyes from where I live in Oakland.

But that day, like most days that week, was even more suspended out of time and place. Fires were everywhere.

That week, the sky blanketed in smoke, I kept waking up late to work, stumbling out of bed and clocking in groggily at my desk a few feet away. I wasn’t sure when it was time to drink my coffee, or eat, or sleep. 

And then, the stress of the election. The continuous death. And the holidays. And the spikes in cases. And the bizarre, confusing monotony of life still working from home and confined to my room.

To be honest, it took me a few months to motivate myself to start producing for the show again, even though the podcast is something I love to do. 

I still feel like I’m living a bit out of time, or at least outside of the structure I thought was time… My eyes pop open at 3am, and I can hear the sound of dishes in the kitchen. My housemate is up too. I measure my time in my planner, I memorize dates and time spent, but in the moment, I feel like am in a sea of time with too much salinity, and unpredictable tides. 

One minute I am floating, untethered, the next I am pulled underwater, exhausted, struggling to regain my equilibrium.

So why am I talking so much about time on an art materials podcast? The point of this show is connect us to materials and honor our relationship with the world around us.

Time can feel abstract, but it is a material we are all submerged in, and we are constantly trying to measure it to make sense of our lives, and to keep certain systems in society functioning: alarm clocks, time cards, planners, timers. We even attach a price to an hour depending on goods and services.

Am I the only one who is starting to feel like… that’s.. kind of crazy?

We measure our lives in time-based benchmarks, complete with appropriate milestones for the teenage years, the twenties, the thirties…and the decades of temporal expectations go on and on…

But I am not interested in this linear capitalistic way of measuring, controlling or commodifying time. 

What if time and space don’t have to be conditions that shape our lives: they can actually be materials that we form unique, changing relationships with. And an artist residency is like a flirtation with that freedom, an experience that allows us to see how our everyday might be shifted to better align with who we really are.

But when you flirt with freedom… coming back can be a trip of its own.

Alicia: So something that I really struggle with is transition time. And there is always that transition time. I wouldn’t call it a residency, but my last trip out to Colorado, um, even coming back home to this beautiful place that I live now, and I’m very happy in, I just had these couple of days of, of just “Whoa,” and being, yeah. After all the adventure and like being surrounded by, um, people I really love. And, um, it was just really hard to come, come back, even after just one night, somewhere, on our trips too, it can be really hard to leave them. Um, but the upside of that is that now we have friends all over the country and open invitations to return. And if you’re coming back from a residency, that’ll always be a place that you’re connected with. Like, whenever I go back to Paonia, all the friends I’ve made and even just the landscape, I think even if there was nobody there that I knew anymore, I would still feel a connection to the place. So it’s good to have that perspective and have more than just your home as a familiar place.

Carolina: It’s always hard to, to leave somewhere. You’ve really have connection with and feel at home. The second time we came to elsewhere as a collaborative team, it was really sad to leave. I remember crying as we drove away, but you know, at the same time… You meet so many inspiring people and you have this new rhythm and this new outlook on time, like, Oh, I have this, this new sense of motivation towards when I go back home. I don’t want it to be like how it, how it used… you know, when maybe I didn’t have time to work on all these things. Now you feel reenergized and rejuvenated and it might not even just be like, only about your art practice, but also just in the way that you interact with your space around you, and also the people around you. I always come back from our road trips really energized to go on more hikes and to like make more food for people and invite people over and have potlucks and just, I don’t know, I feel like after traveling, you just get that, that sense of when I come back home, I want to change different things.

Catherine: I’m not going to lie to you, producing this episode was extremely challenging for me. It took me months… I sat with the transcripts, I thought about time constantly, but I couldn’t bring myself to produce. I was stuck in my room, where I spent about 20 hours or so a day working, eating, sleeping and repeating.

I actually had to take to the road and conduct an artist residency of my own to make it happen. I wrote the script in a camp chair in the driveway of Alicia’s house, actually. I borrowed my friends’ van, the same van mentioned in the teaser about fire, and for a handful of days, stepped out of the stress-soaked grief-ridden pandemic routine.

Of course, everything is still terrible and sad and scary. But now I have a bit more in my cup, and I can show up for the people in my circle, for my community and for my future with a bit more clarity and vigor.

I’m sure the transition home will be incredibly hard. I imagine I will see things, like Carolina mentioned, that I need to change. That I must change.

I’m sharing this with you because I wonder how many others are at the end of their rope, too. The isolation. The stress. The grief. The fear. The exhaustion. I want you to know that while you may in solitude feeling those feelings, you are not alone. And with time as a material, you are not trapped as you may think.

How do you feel about time in your life? What would you want to spend time doing or thinking about? What resources do you have on hand that you might share with community?

Because starting your own residency isn’t out of the question either…

Alicia: A major part of Piney Wood Atlas is helping people realize that going to a residency is an accessible thing for more people than you might think, and starting your own is the same. If you have a spare room in your house, or room to build a wood tent in the backyard, or  maybe even just a spare studio space or a spare corner, you can start a residency and our books are also…. another idea behind our books is to inspire people to start their own residency and just look at what they already have as a place to start.

Carolina: It can be short-lived, it can be something that lasts for a summer, something with the project, we wanted people to know you don’t have to have a ton of equipment, or money, or a huge space, you know, we visited a residency in a hammock, in Vancouver, it can be the most simple offering, to start, and someone will benefit from that.

Alicia: We can help people realize these things… but… if there are other people who are also inspired to facilitate, um, people discovering that they have more control over their time, maybe people will have more time to be creative than they think, that’s great!

Carolina: It’s all about connecting them, too, connecting residencies to residencies because there is a lot to learn from each other. and people want to share that information, they want to share what they found challenging, how they did it, you k now, share with other people who are thinking about starting a residency.

Catherine: This episode was recorded on unceded Ohlone Land in what is now known as Oakland, California. I also drove up north to see Alicia, where we spent time on the traditional lands of the Coast Miwok Indians, the first people of Marin and southern Sonoma counties. This episode’s land acknowledgment, and the months I have spent meditating on time, lead me to contemplate my place in history, how time is understood in different cultures and in different languages. 

Just 400 years ago, colonizers (a few of whom were my ancestors on my English side) came to what is now known as the US and violently seized people and land. This episode’s land acknowledgement pushes me to openly acknowledge this, in the hopes of better understanding my own story and encouraging other descendants of colonizers to stop putting up blinders when it comes to history and present day rehabilitation. 

Sometimes it feels like the past is too far back, too painful, too messy to reckon with in the present. But the truth is, the past is in every fiber of the present’s being, and we are all actively benefiting or suffering from what happened in the past. The sooner we see clearly what happened, the sooner we can connect with fellow humans, and ourselves, in a way that is just and equitable. 


Thank you so much to Carolina and Alicia for sharing your experience of time, and your wonderful collaborative relationship, with me. The Piney Wood Atlas guidebooks are amazing resources if you are considering attending a residency, organizing their own space, or even for people who have never heard of an artist residency before and want to learn more.  This year they also published a creative residency info guide through Flower Press, an equitable publishing practice centering womxn, femme, queer, & trans artists. Follow Alicia and Carolina on Instagram at @PineyWoodAtlas, and visit their site to order their books, which are chock full of interviews, illustrations, maps, tips for road-tripping and so much food for thought.

Next up, we’ll be continuing our exploration of time: not as an essential ingredient for the creative process but as an place of procession. The role of time for the viewers of art: how and why we as visitors spend time with installations, exhibits and finished work. Wells Fray-Smith, a gallerist based in London and founder of the irreverent and brilliant handle What The Fuck Is This on Instagram, will be joining us to continue our unravelling revelation that is the space time continuum! WOooOoO!

Liz: Don’t forget to slow down and take care! Order your CBD-infused salves, tinctures, and herbal smoking blends from our sponsor, Brown Sugar Botanicals, a Black, trans and queer-owned business! Visit www.Brown SugarBotanicals.com and use the promo MaterialFeels (all one word) for a ten percent discount!

Material Feels is produced by me, your host, Catherine Monahon. Associate Producer Liz de Lise composes original music for the show as well. This episode features sounds from www.FreeSound.org, as well as underscores and music created just for the show, by Liz and MSFX. The show is a labor of love; here’s how you can support us:

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