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by Emma Banks
How Margo Sawyer, a celebrated artist who has lived all over the world, transformed a historic building in Elgin into an inspiring, minimalist-meets-modern abode.
The essence of Margo Sawyer’s home does not live in her (quite enviable) collection of things. It’s in the space between that allows room for new thoughts, ideas, and creative compulsions to take flight. Her loft in downtown Elgin is open and expansive, with each carefully-curated piece of furniture in its place. But, Sawyer’s version of home life is about embracing an emptiness of sorts; the quietness that comes with minimal decor encourages that undefinable creative spirit within her to expand. “If a space is too visually busy, it’s distracting,” she says. “Emptiness is my inspiration. I’m always interested in bridging the gap between high art and function, in uniting the two.”
As an artist, Sawyer sees her life in the same way that she sees her work, as a place to express herself and fulfill her creative compulsions. She’s spent a lifetime doing just that: Sawyer grew up in Sussex, England before attending the Chelsea School of Art in London. She came to the States to earn her MFA in sculpture at Yale. Now, the artist has a laundry list of group and solo shows under her belt, and has been teaching sculpture in the Fine Arts department at the University of Texas since 1988.
After living in Austin for a while, Sawyer decided she wanted to live in a small town. She considered living in Taylor, before deciding on Elgin. Though she rented at first, it wasn’t long before Sawyer had her eye on buying a building. Her friends were against it, but armed with a business plan outlining how having an artist in Elgin would benefit the town, she headed to the bank to get the loan she needed to buy the building. The bank agreed and so began a three-year renovation process. “I had to fight to get the loan for the place. Tenacity is my middle name,” she says. “I’m not the main road girl. I’m the side road, the back alley, the circuitous route. It’s the journey, not the arrival, that matters.”
Twelve years later, Sawyer couldn’t be more at home in her three-story studio/loft (with a rooftop garden and all). “I love the town. It’s very quaint, and there is an interesting group of people here,” she says. It’s been the perfect place to work on her art. Sawyer’s most recent project, Synchronicity of Color, lives in the Discovery Green park in downtown Houston, where it is seen and photographed by hundreds of people each day. It’s one of Sawyer’s largest and most loved public installations to date. “There are two things I think of with Discovery Green. I’m amazed at how much of a magnet it is, and how it inspires other people, and secondly, it always makes me wonder, how in the hell did I pull that off?”
Synchronicity of Color is just the tip of the iceberg. Sawyer’s art has been exhibited all over the world, including New York, Japan, and India. She’s currently represented by the Holly Johnson Gallery in Dallas, and has another large-scale public installation piece titled Index for Contemplation on display at the Austin Convention Center. “The best compliment people can give me is spending a lot of time looking,” she says. “Not so much talking, but looking—slowing down, and taking time with [the art]. The great reward is stealing someone’s mind, to watch them wander.”
Though she’s lived in Texas since 1988 and has called Elgin home for the past 12 years, Sawyer still loves to travel. Born in Washington, D.C. to a diplomat father and an English mother, Sawyer’s been around the world and back again, calling Africa, England, India, New York City, Rome, and Texas home at different times throughout her life.
“A friend of mine has this saying: ‘If you want to travel, you should let your work do it for you,’” she says. “I’ve been fortunate enough to do just that.” Though her early work was much more serene, and largely without viewers’ engagement, Sawyer focuses now on engaging the space, experimenting with color and facing her artistic fears head on. “At Yale, I chose color because I wanted to work with the thing I was most frightened by. I wanted my sculpture to be as immediate as a drawing, and to provoke fascination,” Sawyer says. “Now, I try to embrace the interaction people have with my art. Public art is for the people. It’s meant to nurture and nourish everyone.” Though Sawyer now calls the small town of Elgin home, which is small and predictable, the loft in which the artist resides, and the world she has created within it, are anything but.
by Joanna Steblay
As the warm weather begins to set in and patio parties hit our calendars, we can’t help but embrace that summertime has returned to Austin. If you’re anything like us, you’ll be celebrating the return of the season with decadent ice cream, healthy smoothies and icy cocktails from your favorite local spots.
For those days when it’s too hot to venture out, we went to Austin’s sweet treat professionals and compiled the ultimate collection of DIY recipes to make from your home. Click through the galleries below to learn how to make everything icy and sweet, from poptails for date night to ice cream sandwiches for a dinner party.more
The spring edition of the Renegade Craft Fair returns for its seventh year in Austin May 14-15 at Fair Market. With over 125 makers on the roster, the scene is sure to be bustling with local artisans and DIYers slinging their unique, one-of-a-kind wares. In addition to great shopping, the RCF offers activities, special showcases and plenty of food and drink options for visitors. This year, celebrate your hard work shopping with a snack from Burro Cheese Kitchen and Lucky Lab Coffee Co. before commemorating the afternoon with some snapshots from Magnolia Photo Booth Co. But before...more
by James Ruiz
Inspired by the beautiful outdoor living spaces featured in our May feature The Space Between, we went window shopping and found some great outdoor furniture and accessories to liven up your outdoor patio, porch and pool. Flip through the galleries below to see how you can add a pop of color and style to your outdoor hideaway.more
Hundreds of people are moving to Austin each day, and downtown is one of the major hubs of growth for the city. Local real estate expert Jude Galligan discusses smart urban growth and what to expect this year as the skyline continues to evolve.
Your blog keeps Austin updated on the latest news in downtown. What is the most exciting development happening right now?
From my point of view, the most exciting development is the Waller Creek District Master Plan. Decades in the making, this transformative project came to life after designers competed for the contract. It is finally coming to downtown, bringing an imaginative chain of parks,...more
by James Ruiz
As you flip through the pages of our February Love Issue, one thing you’ll notice is the beautiful blooms that pop up throughout the magazine. We got some major googly eyes for the bouquets featured in our "Real Weddings" features, and earmarked the TRIBEZA Wedding Guide for even more Pinterest-worthy petals.
Instead of letting all that inspiration go to waste, we tried our hand at flower arranging to see what we could create. Since we consider ourselves floral design novices, we asked a few top designers...more