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JoDa Studio Tribute

Updated: Aug 28

Meet the Folks Behind the Name


My parents, Joan and Dale Baker, never would have imagined having a building named for them. Naming rights are bought with BIG money!

These two Depression-era babies, whip smart and hard working, grew up in coal-rich, steel-powered Western Pennsylvania. Most boys knew their future was in the mines, the mill, or a machine shop. Girls were groomed to be homemakers, watching their mothers earn pin money by darning, washing, and ironing “take-in” laundry and selling homemade bread and pies.

It was no different for my folks. Married straight out of high school (dad left early with a GED), with a baby their first year (me), they had a 60-plus year partnership in building a solid, working class life.

There were lean years, particularly in the beginning. My mom, who always worked outside the home, often recalled counting bread slices to ensure there were enough for breakfast toast and packed lunches between pay days.

Ultimately there was a brick house, two cars, a motor boat, a series of campers and a daughter sent to college. Theirs was a house filled with books, political discussion, friends at the table, and music (mostly folk and country but my mom loved cleaning to Beethoven’s Symphony 5). In other words, I grew up with most everything a kid needs to succeed in life.

My dad died last year, my mom in 2011. Building JoDa Studio (Joan + Dale), was made possible by the money they left me.

That there was money left at the end of their lives says so much about the frugality, caution and work ethic of my parents. Their approach to life is what informs me each day, in both good and self-limiting ways.

The good is the example they set in relation to work. Rain, shine, tired, bored or sick, they went to work. Rewards, though not immediate, followed.

It’s the same for me in my art making practice. I show up for the work most every day, often burdened by self-doubt and caution, questioning what and how I am doing. But this I know -- once immersed in the work, once caution is abandoned, I am rewarded with a most freeing sense of personal autonomy.

It’s through my art making that I’ve built trust in myself as a problem solver. Spot the design flaws, the hue and value issues, the lack or preponderance of texture, line and pattern, and I am armed for resolution. That “spotting skill” is what I work to strengthen every day, in the studio and in my day-to-day life. Noticing what is present as well as missing in my art is a powerful adjacency to noticing the same in my life.

Discovering what lights and excites me is only one payday element of my art making process. Discovering how willing I am to risk loss for reward as I take each work through a cycle of building, degrading, adding and removing multiple elements, is just as rewarding.

In many ways, my folks never had the luxury of taking risks. That is one lesson I’ve had to teach myself. That I have the luxury to do so, in a most wonderous, light-filled space, suffuses me with gratitude for the opportunity they’ve afforded me.

I invite you to continue with me on my art journey in the new JoDa studio by subscribing to my blog posts.You’ll get periodic updates on news and musings and if it’s ever TMI, you can always unsubscribe, no worries! You can also find more frequent updates on my works in progress on my Instagram feed @debbhallart

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© 2020 by Deb Baker Hall

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