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In Her Element

In Her Element
August 2016
Tina Hirsig creates space for her own artistic practice despite a hectic schedule as wife, mom, and teacher

When Tina Hirsig presents her work in Charleston this fall (at a venue to be determined), those familiar with her delicate sketches and pastels might be surprised to see them take on a new dimension—literally. Recently, the local artist, who earned a master of fine arts degree from Goddard College, has been experimenting with sculpture, assembling found bits of nature and her own artworks into miniature handcrafted wood and glass houses. Working from her James Island home studio, she also records a weekly drawing practice on Instagram and frequently collaborates with Connecticut-based painter Laura Gaffke. Together, they operate, a blog showcasing their correspondence and creations. We spoke with Hirsig, who teaches first- through sixth-grade art at Ashley Hall, to learn more.

New work: I’m inspired by the poet Gary Snyder and his book, No Nature. We humans often think of ourselves as separate from nature. We build houses that separate us. But everything in this world is of the same material; we are nature. In part, the houses I’m making represent my connection to the outdoors.

Go-to spots: My neighborhood dock and anywhere my sons, ages 12 and 14, and I can flip our kayaks into the water

Personal practice: Each week, I set aside several hours for drawing an object from my garden. It’s like a visual meditation on nature.

Balancing act: I’m in my studio on the weekends from around 5 a.m. until noon. It can be hard to find time during the week. Mostly, I’m tired, or I have to take one kid to baseball and the other somewhere else. That’s one of the reasons I created my weekly drawing challenge—to encourage a routine.

Art by mail: Laura and I met during grad school in 2006. Since we lived apart (it was a low-residency program), we’d call to catch up, but we also wanted to follow each other’s progress. We started mailing postcards, and by second semester, we decided to experiment on a more formal scale. Currently, we’re sending a large envelope back and forth, each time adding a new work on paper. When we get together, we’ll lay it all out and see what developed.

In school: I run my classroom like a professional studio. The kids work with their own ideas, and I guide them individually to develop the skills they need. It’s fascinating to see what they’re curious about—and rewarding to see them excited to take their creations home.

Putting it together: Kids see the world in a raw and open way. I’m influenced by my children’s observations, and I feel a synergy between my parenting, artwork, and teaching. It’s one big conversation.