The Realistic Routine of a New York Artist in Nearby Guttenberg

Not far from New York, on the other side of the Hudson River, stands the intriguing City of Guttenberg, a small residential neighborhood in New Jersey, with 12,000 inhabitants.

With only four blocks from north to south, Guttenberg is mainly composed of two-or-three story buildings and local shops. Surprisingly, it is also one of the most densely populated cities on the planet, where a large portion of the town’s population lives in a very tall condominium complex, the “Galaxy Towers.”

From its waterfront, the skyline of the whole island of Manhattan is visible on the other side of Hudson River, with its tall buildings that sharply differ from the calm of Guttenberg. That waterfront, as beautiful as it is, also poses a danger to the artists and residents of this city. It now faces flooding issues, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection held an online meeting to address residential concerns.

Guttenberg is also home to artists at Guttenberg Arts, an artist studio located in the city, with an appeal for climate-friendly forms of art. The studio regularly hosts upcycling workshops called “The Upcycling Coalition,” where volunteers work with garments and textile waste to create new pieces. The last edition was on Saturday, February 4th. Behind the studio is a community garden where volunteers grow organic vegetables.

The studio is also the place where Lucie Rosická worked during her three-months artist residency in the United States.

Her morning started with a smell: a fresh cup of coffee. It also started with a sound: the rhythmic pulses of her sewing machine. Her thin hands were guiding beige fabric between two needles, following lines she had drawn with a piece of soap she used as chalk. She has long beautiful fingers, perfect red nail polish, a few golden rings including her engagement ring and her wedding ring. Her gestures were precise, trained, without hesitation.

Rosická, 24, a textile artist from Olomouc, Czech Republic, liked to use her mornings for her mechanical work, keeping the creative parts for the afternoon.

This was her routine since she moved to the United States for a three-month residency at Guttenberg Arts.

The studio looked like any building of the town from the outside : white, not very tall, two glass doors, and just a little metal plaque that reads “Bulls Ferry Studios.” But inside was a 4,500 square feet studio with 6 different presses to print on paper and fabric, a ceramic oven, a dark room, glass-blowing equipment, and a sewing machine. It was a fairytale for creative souls: cardboard boxes filled with unknown objects trying to escape, plants, various orange squashes coming from the community garden behind the studio, pots of colorful bright paint and pigments, white clay…

Rosická wore headphones to listen to her favorite type of podcast : true crime. “Once, my husband told me I looked like a princess doing embroidery but listening to terrifying stories. It’s called balance!”

She crossed the room to pay a visit to Mark Lester, a ceramist. When she entered, he took off his earbuds. When asked what he was listening to, he explained it was a podcast about the Moon and rockets to go there. Probably to help him balance with the earthiness of the clay he shaped. For weeks, Lester had been working on a kimchi pot to ferment cabbage in a Korean style, mainly because he wanted to have one.

The third artist in the residency was Julien Dorsey, doing cyanotype, a printing method using curcuma and vinegar to reveal images. He prefered using the sunshine to activate the chemicals than the dedicated machines in the darkroom downstairs, so he crossed the studio to the community garden behind, trying not to drop his precious cargo despite Chico, the studio owner’s dog, playing around him.

The three artists did not know each other before coming here, but they were all enjoying the experience. For Rosická, it was a dream come true. “I still don’t realize how lucky I am!”

When she was a teenager, she did not want to become an artist. She did not believe she could fit into what she pictured as the artist’s lifestyle, with non-stop partying and relying on late-night inspiration and drugs as the only way to create art. “I had this idea that to be an artist you need to suffer,” she said. She was attached to her routine, a 9 to 5 every day in the studio. She never wanted to be a cursed poet.

Routine is a polysemic word with both positive and negative connotations. According to Britannica, it can be “a regular way of doing things in a particular order,” but also “a boring state or situation in which things are done the same way.”

Often, the 21st century internet glorifies routines, especially morning routines, especially when it comes to YouTube videos. “PRODUCTIVE WINTER MORNING ROUTINE 2022 *realistic*,””5 AM Morning Routine : Early Morning Hacks for a Health & Productive Day” flourish everyday on the platform. Rosická’s routine ? A complete flow with her sewing machine.

Routine can be a way to avoid decision fatigue and increase productivity, an obsession of the modern era. Regularity creates productivity. Even for an artist.

A dissolute life, Charles-Baudelaire style, fits badly in the 21st Century. Did Baudelaire ever think of his carbon footprint ?

Rosická did. Most of her fabric is re-used, she shaped her art to fit in scrap fabric coming from fashion studios. She drew her patterns on old pieces of paper that could have been thrown away.

Because she could only be in New York for three months, she had her priorities. She did not want to have a two-day hangover because she didn’t want anything to get in the way of her early morning commute from her apartment in the South Bronx. Along the way, she captured the look, the light, and the colors of the city in drawings and in the quiet of her studio. She transformed them into textile works of art.

Her voice was modified by the needle she held between her teeth as she was speaking and pinning a piece she wanted to sew. Then she glued pieces of fabric together with adhesive spray, to make sure it would not move. It represented a flowy lock of hair.

Her art is mostly about femininity and every aspect of being a woman: shaving, nail polish, face masks… Showing a beige piece called “Hair clip,” where multiple lines of embroidery shaped the object among many locks of hair, she explained: “I like when you can see someone spend time on it.” Her form of work is a way for her to honor women who spent hours on tapestry.

This sense of heritage also comes from her grandmother, who taught her how to knit, and her mother, who taught her how to sew clothes for her Barbies. She adapted it to her lifestyle and her time, to make it part of the realistic routine of a New York artist.

About the author(s)

Manon Tallien de Cabarrus is a French student part of the dual-degree between Columbia Journalism School and Sciences Po Paris covering Arts, Politics and Technology.