Interview with Studio Manager, cj Jimenez
By Asaad Miller
I sat down with cj last week to learn about how they came to The Yard, the goals they have for this position, and what change has looked like at The Steel Yard.
Photo Credit: Asaad Miller
The Steel Yard (SY): What’s your name, and what is your title here at The Steel Yard?
cj (cj): Im cj– just cj– and I’m the Studio Manager here at The Steel Yard!
SY: How did you come to be involved with The Yard? How did you come to know this place at it is now?
cj: This is a real Providence story – I was trying to figure out my next steps after leaving school, and a friend of a friend told me to come check out the then “weld to work” program, which is now The Yard’s Workforce program. This was back in the day– there was no ceramics studio, jewelry was where the studio offices are now, ceramics was a fraction of what it is now.
SY:So, almost like a proto-Steel Yard then?
cj: Absolutely. So, fast forward to this past summer – I took a wheel throwing class, and I was honestly astounded with how different it all is now! There’s a wood-shop, offices, heat lamps, you don’t have to touch the breakers to turn the lights on, all that. A few months after that class, I was in the midst of deciding to no longer be an at-home parent, and I was ready to go back to work, and this job opened up! So I gave it a shot, and here I am.
SY: What about The Yard did you find appealing enough to see yourself here? What stood out?
cj: A big draw was just how far the space has come, from a cultural point of view. When I took the clay class, I realized that the energy of the space had completely changed over the past 10 years. The space then didn’t feel nearly as accessible as it does now. My instructor asked my pronouns and used them correctly, everyone that works here feels driven and genuinely happy to be here. This place is so interdisciplinary, and everyone’s working on something unique and exciting. It feels open and supportive, and I wanted to be in that environment!
SY: How would you describe your position as Studio Manager?
Photo Credit: Asaad Miller
cj: I’d describe it like this– when you have an open studio like this, people eventually have difficulty communicating with each other, everyone is overlapping and theres a lot of moving parts. As Studio Manager, I have to be the person who’s around, and someone people can ask for help or information. I’m the in-between person. Having worked in a hospital for a number of years, I had to be that person– a steady, friendly, and helpful point of contact. Ultimately, I like being the person that helps people feel that something is magical– it’s a lot like being a parent in a number of ways. I want to preserve that magic for community members. Keebler Elf-esque, I’ve got all the keys!
SY: You’ve been here for a few weeks at this point, but are there already things that you’re looking to change, refine, or improve?
cj: When I think about industrial arts and who has access to them, I feel that access has definitely come a long way. Even with that progress, there’s still room for improvement. My goal is to always push for more and for better. If we can provide local POC and undocumented welders with access and space to make art, then that’s tangible progress.
cj: When I was young, it could be hard to communicate to my parent about what I was up to, so I want to be the liaison to help students talk to their parents, especially when they are 1st or 2nd generation, about what they’re doing. I want The Yard to be less of an intimidating place for community members to walk in and ask what happens in the space–I don’t want there to be resistance for community members to be comfortable with this space.
Photo Credit: Paul Soulellis
SY: Is there any aspect of the Yard that you especially want to explore and get more familiar with?
cj: My first week, Ben and I just built things that we needed. It was so direct and immediate, with no hurdles to get over in terms of approval or paperwork– we made a box the first week, and I immediately thought “Yep, thats it. I wanna work here for the rest of my life”. I love putting together IKEA furniture, and this role feels so in line with that– I love sending my emails, i love calling and ordering supplies, “Hey Bob, I need 500 lbs. of clay– how are the kids?”, I want to build familiar relationships with suppliers and community members and having that rapport. I was an at-home parent for two years, and it’s honestly very gender-affirming to go from being seen first as someones mom, to now come to work and and throw on some gloves to weld, or get in the wood-shop to start a project.
SY: You definitely have a strong air of capability–you know what you’re doing, and if you don’t know, you’re not shy to ask for help and figure it out!
cj: There’s just so much knowledge here! People know so much about the things they do, and I think it’s so cool to ask people what they’re working on and hear them talk about what they’re currently making. I find that the work environment encourages you to take time and watch people make things, ask them about their practice and what they need to facilitate that.
SY: You said you’re big into IKEA furniture– what style of IKEA do you like most?
cj: Style? Like the jair? The denim line?? Outside of that, I think its nice how customizable IKEA items are– not even intentionally, I just find it modular in the sense that I can find some metal I like and easily attach it to some piece of IKEA furniture I have. Also, hot tip–their wood is also good for working and experimenting with!
The Jair. Photo Credit: IKEA
SY: Last question–scarves or beanies?
cj: I cant answer that, Ive got both on right now! Okay, if I’m sitting at my desk? A scarf, obviously. If I need something to cover my ears when I’m outside? Beanie is the easy answer, so scarf where I’m at. Real grandma vibes: Ive got my scarf, I don’t go above 65 on the highway, and I got a pocket full of Werther’s.