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Meet some stay-at-home artists

Creative things are going on inside homes in Brandon, Seminole Heights and Hyde Park.

By JANET ZINK
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 18, 2002


For Candace Knapp, home is where the art is.

It's in the foyer, living room, den, kitchen and bathroom. Even the laundry room.

Knapp, a sculptor, and her husband, Bjorn Andren, a painter and photographer, built their Brandon home three years ago to be a workplace and showplace. About half of the 3,500-square-foot residence is dedicated to studio and office space.

But the couple's sculptures, paintings and photographs fill literally every room. Even much of the furniture and structural elements are works of art.

Knapp designed the leaded glass windows that frame the front door and the chandelier in the foyer. Andren designed a geometric, rotating magazine rack for the library.

"If it's not art, it's clutter, unless you can sit on it," Knapp says.

Knapp and Andren have installed public art pieces in downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg, and they show their art in the Brad Cooper Gallery in Ybor City.

But the couple's bread and butter is statuary for churches. They're working on a 14-foot wooden crucifix for St. Timothy's Catholic Church in Tampa. It requires a room with extra tall ceilings. When Andren designed their home, he made sure the studio would be able to accommodate that sort of work. In the past, Knapp says, she would have to take her carvings outside and subject them to the elements.

Andren also installed plenty of oversized windows to allow for lots of natural light, and track lighting along the ceilings to eliminate the need for lamps and make more room for artwork.

Two of the home's four bedrooms are used as offices -- one for Andren and one for Knapp. The garage serves as a wood sculpting studio. It's vented to draw out the sawdust, and has two large windows on one wall. The garage door was custom designed with windows to allow for extra light. Knapp keeps a kiln for firing her clay sculptures on a back patio.

* * *

Susan Gott, a glass blower and owner of Phoenix Glass Studio, says her Seminole Heights home is similarly dedicated to art.

"Almost everything we do is business. We live in three little rooms in the house, and the rest of the house is taken over by glass," she says.

Her home is zoned for both residential and commercial, so a large portion of the house's first floor is used as a showroom and office.

Gott looked for almost a year to find a home that would work as both living and studio space. The 2,000-square-foot home was built in 1912. It was abandoned and in disrepair when Gott bought it at an auction nine years ago at the Hillsborough County Courthouse.

She renovated the home and added numerous artistic touches. The kitchen counter, for example, is a mosaic of tiles salvaged from the art deco Publix in Seminole Heights that was demolished in the mid 1990s.

Gott then borrowed money against the house to build a 1,500-square-foot glass blowing studio next door. It holds a furnace, eight kilns and an area for grinding, polishing and sand blasting.

Each year, she invites the public to an open house and glass blowing demonstrations. (This year's event is Dec. 5-7.)

* * *

When Elizabeth Mitchell, who paints with dye on silk, moved into her Seminole Heights home six years ago, she used a sun room as a studio. But when her sister came to live with her, Mitchell gave up that room and moved supplies into the living room.

"I thought, Oh, well, I'll just take the whole house as my studio," she says.

A powerful daylight bulb makes up for the living room's lack of windows. She keeps frames in one bathroom, and a framing table in the second bathroom.

* * *

Lyla Haggard, a sculptor and painter, prefers to keep her work and home life separate. She said she searched for two years before finding her 1946 Hyde Park bungalow, just off Bayshore Boulevard. The house appealed to her because it's near the water and has a mother-in-law unit that she uses as a studio.

"I needed a place where I could be totally creative, and that translates into messy," she says. "I didn't want it to creep out into my living area. I like to keep a neat living area. It gives me that illusion that my life is in order."

The unit originally had two rooms and a bathroom, but Haggard knocked out a wall to make one large room. It has a large sliding glass door that faces the pool, giving the space plenty of natural light.

"It's a nice place to be artistic," she says.

The studio also doubles as a guest area. It has a full bath, a futon and a TV. Haggard finds that her guests relish staying in the studio.

"People want to sleep back there," she says. "They think it's cool to sleep in a studio."

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