I seem to recall a blog meme that went around earlier this year or last in which bloggers were supposed to post photos of their workspace. This post was prompted however by some photos of his studio space that Clive Hicks-Jenkins put up on his Artblog. Now of course an artist’s studio is bound to be more interesting than a writer’s desk, but I thought Clive’s posts gave a real glimpse into his work habits and personality. In fact, I have to say I was a little frightened by the abundant evidence of a rage for order (though Clive claims in the comments that his studio isn’t always quite so neat). Because, as you can see, I’m a bit of a slob.

Also, yes, I do dress like a homeless man. But I figured these would be really boring photos if I didn’t put myself in them (thanks to a cheap-ass tripod and my camera’s ten-second timer). Objects of note in the first photo include a balsam pillow handmade by my hiking buddy L. from a recycled men’s shirt and stuffed with needles collected on one of our trips to the Adirondacks; a plaster bust of Chopin wearing a turban; an old Pennsylvania Railroad kerosene lantern which I use during prolonged power outages; about half of my fiction collection; a view of the kitchen; and a coat rack I made from a dead pitch pine. The dark object in the foreground is the shoulder pack for my cameras.

workspace 2

This photo looks a little weird because I played with the light levels. The room has lots of natural light — from my swivel chair I have a view of the outdoors in all four directions — but it was kind of an overcast day.

This is starting to seem like a self-indulgent, even narcissistic exercise (thought somehow it didn’t when Clive did it). But what strikes me about this photo is that almost everything in it was a gift or a hand-me-down. The filing cabinet, lamp and chair were all Christmas gifts (on different years) from my parents, who are also the biggest enablers of my writing habit. The computer monitor and speakers are hand-me-downs from the same source. Hat and fingerless mittens were both knit by blogger friends. The ducks who watch over me while I work are a mated pair of mallard decoys that once belonged to my paternal grandfather, who I believe actually used them for hunting. The smaller object in front of the right-hand decoy is a black clay toucan my brother Mark brought back from Oaxaca. The tree is not a Christmas installation but a potted, year-round resident: a Norfolk Island pine that once belonged to my poetry mentor Jack McManis. So when I look at these photos, I see other people.

If any other bloggers want to pick up this meme, consider yourself tagged.

40 Replies to “Workspace”

    1. Thanks. I do like the yellow — it helps counteract my default melancholia. The coat rack would work better if I added some more pegs and didn’t just rely on the original branch stubs (there’s also a big cluster of hats at the top).

  1. I love this peek into your reality Dave!

    I have to ask tho… did you wear the hat and mittens on purpose… cause they’re gifts from other people or is just that cold in your place?


    It looks like a very nice spot from which to write.

    (I may just have to take you up on this meme.)

  2. It’s a lovely room and lovely to see you in it. The pitch pine coatrack caught my eye immediately, and I’m glad you explained Chopin in a turban!

    1. Well, the Chopin bust used to belong to my younger brother Mark, who plays piano and likes that kind of romantic music (my own classical tastes lean more toward Bartok and beyond). The turban is from a green pantyhose someone left behind.

  3. This is great Dave. Just for the record, I think your space is considerably more ordered than my studio usually is. The Battery only looks the way it does in the photographs because I took them after clearing up the mess created by the installation of the central heating. If a ‘rage for order’ (evocative description… I like that) is in evidence at the moment, it’s because there has been a complete and painful relinquishing of every vestige of order in the house for the past six months and I’m trying to claw some back for sanity’s sake. For too long I’ve been in a state of simmering exasperation, not being able to find anything that I want when I need it. Steel gouges, printing inks, prepared lino-blocks and rollers had all disappeared into a hellish bat-shit covered jumble. When maggots mysteriously appeared in my paint palette… dropped I assume through one of the cracks in the ceiling from something deceased in the bat-roost overhead… I realised that action really had to be taken to hold back the chaos.

    Your writing-space is splendid and you look mighty fine in it. It made me laugh because until very recently I too in the Winter months donned layered clothes, a hat and fingerless gloves to climb the stairs to work here at Ty Isaf, so we’re twins in that respect.

    I like it that now I can imagine you at your desk when I read your words. And no, your post today is not at all self-indulgent. It’s good that you’ve put yourself in the picture. Thank you.

    Here the Winter cold has arrived with a vengeance and I stupidly forgot to turn off and drain the outside tap. Overnight the water supply to the paddock has frozen in the pipes and so now I must carry water from the house to fill the horse’s trough until a thaw. I shall have Neanderthal arms!

    1. Well, O.K. I take back my remarks abotu a rage for order. I can definitely see drawing the line at maggots in the palette. I’m surprised they haven’t cropped up as a motif in your paintings yet, though…

      I’m glad this post didn’t come across as too self-indulgent.

      You have a horse? Acquired as a model for Equus, I suppose?

      1. She belongs to a friend and has been here for over two years. We swop her board and lodging for having our ironing done! And yes, she was the model for Equus. She’s a sweet-natured creature and will do almost anything for an apple or a mint!

        1. Sounds like a pretty good arrangement, presuming you have lots of ironing. (It will I’m sure not surprise anyone to hear that I sometimes go years without wearing anything that needs to be ironed.)

          1. LOL! Well Dave that sounds just the way to do things. No ironing at all. Alas Peter works in an office and spends his days meeting National Assembly ministers and such like, and so his shirts must be pristine!

  4. Oddly, I did a post this week which was meant to be about mindful bedmaking, but went into a riff on the bed, the bedclothes, and the bedroom – virtually all of which are inherited, gifts, or homemade. It has turned into a series of posts documenting the room, the history of its objects, and the people who owned them, and did feel self-indulgent – who would care? Then I got a comment from Africa.

    The bedroom was my workspace until this summer – I moved my computer into the dining room for the view.

    First post here:

    I work in a cut-velvet cap, which makes me feel romantically medieval, and keeps in much of the 60% of body heat which is lost through your head ;-)

    1. Yeah, if I had a laptop, who knows — I think the futon in the other room, which is surrounded by my poetry collection, would become my new work site.

      I’ve heard that that oft-stated figure of 60% is an exaggeration, but the fact remains that a hat often makes the difference between comfort and discomfort, and allows me to keep the thermostat easily five degrees cooler.

  5. I like “So when I look at these photos, I see other people.” I also have lots of gifts and hand-me-downs surrounding me, (including my computers, though most of the peripherals are more recent purchases). Most of my time is spent between my computers and my Wall Of Books — three big industrial shelf sets, dominated by triple-shelved paperbacks. (And currently overflowing — time for another weeding.)

    And yeah, I was gonna say, that’s not “dressing like a homeless person”, it’s dressing like someone whose heating is out.

    Down here in Charlottesville, I’m currently snowed in — it’s thigh-high outside my door, and still coming down hard. Not first snow of the year, but apparently a record-setter.

    1. Thigh-high! Time to break out the snowshoes, I’d say. Wow. We’ve only gotten about five inches of new snow here so far, but it’s nice and dry so the sledding and tobogganing is excellent.

      1. Well, that was largely drifted — the area seems to have gotten about 22″, give or take a couple inches for different neighborhoods. Lacking a snow-shovel, I had to scoop out a path from my door with an empty kitty-litter bucket.

  6. I”m getting “DNS server error” every third time I load your page, FWIW. It alway loads fine the second try.

    But why I am commenting is to say that your older post on musics makes my day. Attempts to elaborate have leave me frustrated.

    1. Hi Bill – Thanks for letting me know about the DNS server errors. I contacted the webhost and they got back to me right away and said they’ve made changes. Please clear your browser cache and let me know if it happens again.

  7. I am fascinated with photos of writing desks, spaces, offices, whatever. I am one of the nosiest people I know (hence the facebook habit). I always want to know what people keep on their desks (or immediately around) and why. I also like to have brighter colors in my space to keep my mood in check. Would you mind sharing on the wall picture over your left shoulder?

    1. The picture is an illustration from an old pulp science fiction magazine from the 1950s. It features a woman worshipping a large and presumably malevolent albino gorilla, with the caption, “The girl swayed, as people do in a cataleptic state, at the same time raising her arms…”

  8. Is the wall color new-ish? I don’t remember the place being so yellow when Reggie & visited several years (was it really that long?) ago.

    Would it surprise anyone if I admitted I don’t really have a set workplace, just various places (several of them involving beds) where I unceremoniously plop myself & my laptop?

    1. Yes, it was that color then. I did that room about 15 years ago.

      Desktop computers do have a way of chaining one to a certain spot, no doubt about it. I like the quiet here too, though. Not sure I could work in a coffee shop as some writers do.

  9. Terrific to see you in your space, Dave! (And is that Akhmatova beside you?) I’d just come from looking at Clive’s photos and found these – a rare treat on this cold Saturday afternoon.

    1. Yes, that’s the Hemschemeyer Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova. I got it out a couple weeks ago to verify the authorship of a translation in a video I posted at Moving Poems, and have been dipping into it ever sense. I do a lot of book-reading in that chair, too — it’s very comfortable.

  10. i bet that balsam pillow smells great.
    and i love a room that is full of given objects. though it makes it damn hard to de-clutter. i can’t get rid of this toucan! or this filing cabinet! or this chair! or this pine tree….

    1. Exactly. In my personal aesthetic, I go back and forth between glorious clutter and Zen-like minimalism. The current blog design, in fact, represents a compromise between those two ideals.

  11. I love this Dave! You’re quite a photogenic dude. When it gets deep enough for a walk in snow shoes, I’d like to exercise mine…let me know, please.

  12. You are not a slob by my definition. I can’t see my desk except for a small area where the keyboard is. The rest is covered by piles that have almost merged. The desk lamp on/off switch is reached more by feel than sight (it’s on the base of the lamp).

    What struck me most was your observation about how you see other people in your photo’s. That, more than anything else, says much about the kind of person you are.

    1. I try to clean off my writing table at least once a year, but there is some stuff here that’s been taking up space for a lot longer than that, such as a scanner that hasn’t worked in four years.

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