Lenka Clayton, discussing her art practice, in the attic-turned-studio of her home in Polish Hill on October 17, 2014 © Carnegie Museum of Art. Photo: Bryan Conley.
“I start every project with a structure, with some set of invisible rules,” says Lenka Clayton, sitting behind a desk in the attic-turned-studio of her home in the Polish Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh.
The 37-year-old artist, originally from Cornwall, England, is relaxed as we talk, sipping tea from a ceramic mug designed by her husband, sculptor Seth Payne, as early morning sunlight illuminates the room. Two floors beneath us, in the living room, Clayton’s father, visiting from England, plays mandolin for her 1-year-old daughter Early. Occasional squeals of laughter can be heard as the music emanates through the house.
Briggs’s office in a Wilkinsburg firehouse that she converted to a studio for her art practice back in 2009. Photograph courtesy of Dee Briggs Studio.
Arriving at the firehouse-turned-studio where sculptor and architect Dee Briggs centers her art practice, it’s hard to ignore the feeling that you’ve stumbled upon a well-kept secret. Located in Wilkinsburg, a small town just outside of Pittsburgh that’s become better known in recent years for its economic decline rather than its prosperous history, the building is partially obscured from public view by an abandoned house that towers over nearby Swissvale Avenue. In fact, nearly every street within walking distance of Briggs’s studio features either a vacant lot or an abandoned home, nature quietly reclaiming the open spaces and derelict structures in a tangle of thistles and ivy. The reality outside her front door, however, is not lost on Briggs. Instead it’s an issue that occupies her thoughts and informs her work.