Kate's nano particles.
Kate’s nano particles.

The central studio area is the largest grouping of studios on the floor—this covers about 3,000 square feet—there is a kitchen—a wood-shop—bathrooms—a gallery space. The studio walls do not reach the ceiling in this section—the walls are about eight feet. It is incredibly quiet when you walk through this space—the artists are careful about sound and also there are rules about which materials can be used—the use of materials that release toxic vapors such as epoxy and damar varnish, and spraying are prohibited or heavily monitored. Every space has a shape—some are along the windows—and some are in the interior, gaining light from the skylights.

The shortcut from the annex to the bathroom is through the wood shop but when somebody is in the shop you must go around—around is down the hallway—turn right down another hallway—turn right through the gallery past the kitchen—

Whenever doors are open you can peer into the space but there is a clear understanding that a door closed is not to be disturbed. Kate’s door is open.

Kate's space
Kate’s space

Kate is a painter—she follows the tradition of the 15th century recipes mixing and making her own paints and also works with nano particles—in fact “synthesizes nano particles to mimic structurally colored animals”—artists often think about their materials in units—Andy working with lath—concerns himself with how natural wood came to be lumbered into units—and Kate through a process of discovery about pigments comes to the nano particle—what is a nano particle—anything that is roughly the same size as wave lengths of visible light—this is hard to imagine—but how it appears on her canvas is like a type of luminescent light reflected off a black surface—like an oil slick on black pavement that has color in sunlight—but how did she get to nano particles?—she started with pigments—mixing her own colors—and questions about pigment moved into questions about color that was not pigment—she approached a scientist—and a discussion lead to a study—

So for Kate—what is most important about the space she works?—a window—for light and ventilation and more importantly something her father who is a writer always tells her—when you work alone it is important to get on other peoples time—so she walks to the studio—and watches people opening their shops—and through her open window she hears the sounds on the street below and is connected to the outer world—and I know this feeling—it is the activity below on Mission street that I am always listening to as I work—and those sounds get incorporated into my poetry and into my language—as Kate says “to know the progression of the day outside your own mind.”

More about Kate Nichols:

About STUDIO 17: The Artists’ Space by Alex Nichols

At the end of June—a community of over 70 artists—at the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District—must leave STUDIO 17 to make way for high-cost working space. This blog will catalog the end of this community above Thrift Town (on Mission &17th Street) and what it means. To understand what is being lost—I will spend the next two months carefully observing how artists work in their space—to give an intimate look at the inside of this community.

More about Alex Nichols:

Read more:

Feature on Alex Nichols and STUDIO 17: The Artists’ Space

How the journey began… STUDIO 17: The Artists’ Space by Alex Nichols

More Featured Artists:

Lucinda Buxton Martin

Rick D’Elia

Jeffrey Martin


Daniel Lichtenberg

Ellen Rosenthal

Lauren Marchetti

Adam Barry

Lexie Bouwsma

Denise Laws

Andy Vogt

Qinmin Liu

Truong Tran

Kate Nichols

Published on April 1, 2015

Published by Alex Nichols

Alex Nichols is a San Francisco based interdisciplinary artist and writer who deconstructs the experience of self, tracks the perceived and performs the narrated idea of self through a disarming physicality, rigor and humor. Her current projects utilize video, monologue, performance, and installation, reconstructing the physical boxes, strings and language of constraints.

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