Raine Irby brought an iced pumpkin spiced coffee from Dunkin Donuts. She needed the caffeine. She knew she would be spending the next seven hours working on a ceramic lighthouse for a class project.
Late afternoon sun lit the studio. It shone through old square windows. The soft light revealed a layer of dry clay dust on the floor. The art studio came to life as the sun began to set.
Irby sculpted the lantern room.
“They lock the doors at 11 p.m. usually,” Irby said. “But if you're in here before, then you can stay here all night.”
Irby, a senior at the University of Memphis, is in advanced ceramics. She sculpted a burning lighthouse that she turned into a lamp. She started working on the lighthouse two weeks ago. She can’t make any changes to the structure or details in the lighthouse after it’s fired in the kiln on Thursday. So, on Tuesday, she stayed late in the studio, perfecting her art, while the clay was soft and malleable.
“Once you start, it's hard to stop,” Irby said.
The sun set, and the moon started to show itself. The white walls were covered in quotes and doodles etched in sharpie by students.
Irby added flames to the lighthouse’s roof and finished the roof’s shingles.
The studio was quiet. Only one other artist was in the room. She sat at a table perpendicular to Irby. She wore headphones and listened to music as she sculpted clay heads. Irby’s younger brother sat next to her, quietly, reading a book.
The late night in the studio requires a plus one, for safety reasons. Irby felt safer having her brother with her. He’s usually at home, but he said he didn’t mind going to the studio with his sister.
“It’s a switch up in environment,” Carson Irby said. “I get to focus on reading.”
The moon was out, but it was too far away to compete with the art room’s overhead-fluorescent lights. Irby’s workspace was messy with scraps of clay carved off the piece.
She added bricks to the round surface of the lighthouse.
An “I heart Bryan,” sticker was stuck to the studio door. Bryan Blankenship, who works 9-5 as the 3D art technician for the University of Memphis, often stays late. He works in his studio making pottery, sculptures, and paintings.
He enjoys the late evenings working in the studio and thinks students do as well.
“Art creatures can be kind of social,” Blankenship said.
Although he stays late in the building, he doesn’t typically interact with students after 5 p.m. He locked the doors of the building at...
Irby’s studio was the last one lit. The rest of the building was dark.
She covered the lighthouse, protecting it until it was time to fire it in the kiln. She cleaned up, and she went home.
“Even though I have to be here so late,” Irby said, “it’s what I love to do.”