Barbara Iobst works in tin, paper and fabric. Her pieces cut from printed tin were featured on Quirk’s shop walls in February 2013 and in the archives. For the fall she created block printed fabric owls, plus bats and crows, for our front window. This April and May, her soft-sculpture snails of fabric and found objects are bringing spring to Quirk’s front window. (Plus some block printed bunny banners and funky fabric vegetables.) Barbara grew up on a farm where she drew pictures and wrote stories about the many animals with whom she spent her days. After college she had corporate careers, then got her MFA in Creative Writing at VCU and taught for seven years before falling back into the big beautiful world of visual art. We asked Barbara to be the first in a series of profiles of some of our favorite artists and their work spaces. She shared a little bit with us about the studio in which she creates her unique and whimsical pieces. She happily obliged and told us how she uses the space, what she surrounds herself with for inspiration, and also introduced us to some friends that do their part to make her studio feel more like home.
“I LOVE my studio. When I got serious about making art in my forties, I took over the large spare bedroom in the house I share with my husband Jerry and our four dogs, three cats and two parakeets. Last year the house began renovation to repair and update all the walls, windows, doors and ceilings, and thanks to my husband Jerry and his work partner Chris Green, my studio got a total transformation. I now have a 13-foot worktable space that stretches from one corner window to the other! Am I lucky or what? It is awesome. I also have shelved closets in both my studio and the bedroom next door. My tins are so space-consuming they’re in a shed outside. In addition, my nephew gave me a kick-ass stereo system with six speakers, so I can plug in my I-pod and indulge completely when I’m at work.
On my center worktable, the shelf unit of little jars was made by my late father. It sat on his workbench for many years and held nails and screws and stuff for woodworking. He was an amazing furniture maker. I am blessed to have his only free-form sculptures made from scraps of wood. That handsome fellow in the Navy uniform is my dad in his 20s. My tendency to create with what’s at hand must be hereditary. My parents married during World War II when silk was hard to come by. My father, who was a Navy airplane navigator, sent my mother a silk flare parachute, and her mother and grandmother turned it into her beautiful wedding dress. My mother, who will be 90 this year and is still going strong, is a maker, too, of anything and everything. She taught me how to sew, and we’ve made some fun things together, including a frog bride and groom caketopper for my niece’s wedding.
My father died in 2004. A while after that, I felt what seemed like an infusion of imagination and creativity, and it felt so right, I began to really get serious about my art. I am amazed to feel like I will never run out of ideas. Because of its timing, I wondered if that boost of creative juice came from him, like a passing on of that energy.
The other handsome face there is my dog Big as a pup, leftover from some collage. There’s a quote taped there by American Visionary Art Museum artist Clarence Schmidt: “Would you believe I done all this?” On the top shelf is part of my collection of 3D animal creations. Some wooden insects dancing and conducting, a vintage Steiff tiger puppet, a little bobbing-head dragon from World of Mirth, and from some of my favorite Etsy artists, a papier-mache bird by Kathy Baggett and The Detective dog is by the artist Evgeniya. The big whimsical cat in front is by artist Amanda Katzenmeyer.
Live animals appear in my studio, too. Orca the cat, alias Schmorkel or Meathead, likes to supervise from his falling-apart box behind my sewing machine. His brother Moki often joins him. 19-year-old Scoopy cat often comes in yowling for attention. One or more of the four dogs, Big, Stella, Ki and Homey, can usually be found on the couch behind my tables. Usually their interruptions are welcome and delightful. Occasionally 70-pound hound Stella decides she has to get in my lap NOW and she’s muddy and wet, or Big’s incessant pestering for lunch or dinner at least an hour before they’re due is unusually distracting!
99.9% percent of my subject matter and inspiration is animals. I am spellbound by their shapes, personalities, textures, colors, behavior. I study them constantly. I also love children’s picture books and seeing other artists’ depictions of animals, 2- and 3-dimensional. I love how whimsy and silliness and beauty can all come together into something amazing.
I am also inspired by materials. I love turning one thing into something else, whether it’s a rug, a tin can, a yogurt cup, an old pair of corduroys…. I love seeing things come to life from some throwaway no one would believe could turn into THAT. For instance, the faces on my wall made from printed tin containers. Who would’ve thought a Danish butter cookie tin could become a kudu’s antlers? Or a dented antique toy “Mike Mulligan” pail a goat’s ears? Some of my bats at Quirk in the fall had wings made from a tool apron, a folding fan, and a sport kite. Currently at Quirk are my soft-sculpture snails made of fabric and found objects, such as a baskety handbag I held onto for something like 30 years, a lampshade, a straw hat brim, tiny suede roof shingles from an old lederhosen. This stuff inspires me.”