Juliette Bellocq

This interview with Juliette Bellocq is the fourth in the BROODWORK IdealLive/Work Space series. Her studio, Handbuilt specializes in work for cultural, educational and non-profit organizations. In addition, Juliette teaches at Otis College of Art and Design, is part of Project Food LA, a multi-year project seeking to propose alternative nutrition choices to underprivileged communities. Juliette is also a member of BROODWORK, a collective focusing on the relationship between creative practice and family life.

Juliette: The perfect working space is made entirely out of layered sheets of paper: cottony, soft-like-skin paper. In a giant block note, any unsuccessful design attempt is forbidden: trace on the walls, draft, carve the wrong marks and repent: tear the sheets. No one will ever know what went through your mind. Write on the tables, the corridors, the floors, the bed, whenever the promise of an idea arises.

Good pieces are harvested, bad ones systematically shredded and randomly re-pasted in beautiful Ellsworth-Kelly-like, “arranged by chance” collages. Nothing to lose, just recycle; and in the morning, one could start fresh, on blank surfaces.

But here it creeps already: the fear of the blank page. The paralysis caused by an infinite amount of possibilities…I have to rethink this pristine fantasy before I cannot think at all. And as I look around at the desk onto which I am writing — on a minuscule piece of paper — it seems pretty clear that I do not have much control over space after all… My desk has won, a long time ago. The stratification, the piles, the clusters, the collections, the archives, the rejects, the relics, the treasures, the samples, the samplers: everything that has helped me think is right there and seems to be going nowhere.

I clean, I push, throw away, relocate and compile, but somehow, the desk seems on a mission to never clear up. As confusing and ambiguous this abundance might look, its message to me is actually crystal clear: “However testing today’s task will be, I remain the living proof that work gets done on this table. Look, it has been done before, you can do it today.” Every morning, I seem to believe it.

As years pass by it seems that work and life become more and more intertwined. With children now, work time is limited by tighter schedule constraints but also tends to be fueled by more personal/family interests. I still like to keep professional and family activities separated but it happens quite frequently that a child’s nap becomes an opportunity to wrap up an assignment. Before long, tools become toys, books become dinosaurs’ houses, and layouts become coloring books. The partition between home and office disappears and everyone is working/playing. From that view point, I have enormous expectations for my family and professional lives to come. It will have to continue to get better and better by becoming more and more fulfilling, joyous, convivial and creative for all of us. Nothing less and for that, I might need some help.

The office must become very supportive. It starts knowing me better and constantly reminds me of what inspires and interests me. “Let’s not re-invent the wheel, Juliette,” I hear it say, “here are the designers and artists that have most quickened your heartbeat lately; first, clean up your eyes with their amazing work.” Then, in the anguish of the design process, the desk whispers: “Listen, I generated constructive criticism based on what the people you admire the most in your field and family would say about your work at this minute.” A button on my keyboard automatically generates questions. Interrogations like “Could you erase fifty percent? How does this relate to today’s news? Could it be a comment on our food system? Can you make this by hand?” would fire at me along with much needed clear directives: “Hide the best parts. Color-code it all. Try one hundred more. Crop it like Sister Corita would. Make it for someone extremely curious…”

Sensing my adrenaline level go dangerously high, the speakers channel my Nick Drake radio on Pandora. In extreme cases, the desk prepares a quick slide show of unrelated material and mandates it to be incorporated in the work. My thoughts are evaluated at every moment, sorting out the distraction and the analysis. And when the balance materializes, all the time gained, recorded on a little counter, is used to draw on cottony, soft-like-skin sheets of paper.
Obviously, I am not asking for much; just a little bit of balance, once in a while, something good I made to show my family and a few minutes here and there to draw.

Juliette Bellocq