Ann Hatch's The Workshop Residence Seeks New Models of Artistic Production

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Widely respected philanthropist and arts champion Ann Hatch has recently founded a new project called the Workshop Residence in San Francisco's up and coming Dogpatch neighborhood. The Workshop Residence invites a wide array of cultural producers, visual artists and thinkers from varied disciplines, from fashion to industrial design to technology to create "meaningful, functional objects meant to be used." A retail space at the entrance of the studio, also online, presents the work for sale. The roster is impressive and the projects are accessibly priced considering the brain trust involved in their production.

Esteemed artist Ann Hamilton, a former MacArthur fellow who represented the United States at the 1999 Venice Biennale, was in residence in August working on a series of coats inspired by everyday unisex work clothes, Amish clothing patterns, a found vintage sewing journal and a well-worn Japanese carpenter's pouch, among other things. Previous residents include Belgian artist Dirk Van Saene, who created unglazed ceramic creature-like vessels, and graphic designer and recipient of the prestigious AIGA Medal Jennifer Morla, who created housewares from industrial felt wool and Irish linen. Local artists JD Beltran and Scott Minneman have been working on an interactive snow globe and Lauren DiCioccio, whom Hatch met as a resident at Recology SF, has created a series of tote bags utilizing industrial embroidery.

Housewares designed by Jennifer Morla.

The Workshop Residency functions like an R & D think tank for aesthetics, bringing resident artists together with other artists, academics and craft specialists to research and develop the production processes. Local garment expert Georgene Shelton worked closely with Hamilton, who hadn't sewn much before, to develop her project. Brother and sister Chris and Ben Ospital, proprietors of posh retailer MAC (Modern Appealing Clothing), have also been supportive and have been on hand to offer Hamilton technical insights about clothing construction. Longtime friends of the artist, a few small sculptures from one of her previous projects adorn their nearby shop.

Opening for Lauren DiCioccio.


Shoes designed by Martha Davis.

Projects are also aided by the technical acumen of Workshop Residence director Braden Weeks Earp, a recent graduate of Yale's architecture and design program who previously served as head of studio for sculptor Ursula Von Rydingsvard and, more recently, managed post-earthquake reconstruction projects in West Sumatra, Indonesia and Sichuan, China. When former resident, French artist and fashion designer Aurore Thibout wanted to cast a vintage wedding dress in Hydrocal, Weeks Earp developed the bracing structure.

Artist Aurore Thibout working with bracing developed by Braden Weeks Earp at the Workshop Residence.

Hatch's previous contributions to the arts are extensive. She has served as a trustee for organizations such as California College of the Arts, Berkeley Art Museum, Oakland Museum of California, and Intersection for the Arts, among others. She co-founded both the Oxbow School, an independent high school for the arts, and Capp Street Project, the first residency program in the country to foster the development of large-scale installations. In 1991 San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos declared January 31 to be "Ann Hatch Day" in recognition for her cultural contributions. Given Hatch's deep knowledge and vast network of relationships across disciplines, the Workshop Residence is a natural extension of her long career, with one salient exception: it is her first commercial enterprise. After seeing many nonprofits struggle from lack of revenue, Hatch is developing the Workshop Residence to be self-sustaining. Along the way, she considered other models based on the collaborative development of artists' multiples, including The Thing Quarterly, an object-based publication series produced by local artist-innovators Jonn Herschend and Will Rogan, and New York-based Artware Editions.

Ann Hamilton working with Georgene Shelton on coat prototype at The Workshop Residence.

Recently, Ann Hamilton sat in the sunlit studio and talked about her residency while punching a needle through luminous blonde ringlets sourced from a blind local Wensleydale sheep. Her project for the Workshop Residence dovetails with a massive architectural installation later this year commissioned for the historic Park Avenue Armory, a building the size of a New York city block. The results of her San Francisco residency will invariably wend their way into the artist's larger participatory project, titled the event of a thread. "Every project draws on so many forms of expertise and with this opportunity [at the Workshop Residence], there was this amazing constellation of people here that really allowed me to push the project forward," she observed, while noting the value of being able to speak with so many local artists and craftspeople about various aspects of the installation, from pinch pot ceramics to pressing records to artisanal joinery techniques. "The process of moving from what you know to what you don't know animates everything."

Wilma cups with coffee designed by Dirk Van Saene.

When asked about projects in the works, Ann Hatch talks about offering workshops to build seaworthy boats from scratch and the development of furniture designed by artist Phil Ross, made with organic materials based on a mycelium compound. At some point, she hopes to work with an artist on a perfume. Or perhaps taxidermy. She eschews the term "experimental" when discussing the Workshop Residence as an alternative model for working with artists, but of course the whole endeavor is rooted in experimentation. Like resident artists in the studio, Hatch is in the process of moving from what she knows to what she doesn't know -- and animating a new idea in the process. Some businesses, even experimental ones, bear the mark of success when someone gets behind it and makes it work through sheer force of will. As far as the development of the Workshop Residence is concerned, Ann Hatch's willfulness when it comes to supporting artists is already a matter of record.

The Workshop Residence hosts public events and workshops, along with regular store hours. For more information, visit