Before these warm spring days and the scent of lilacs wafting through the air, there was a colder, darker time. This time is most commonly known as Berliner winter. After venturing our way to Kreuzberg, shuffling through slushy streets and into a hinterhof tucked between Görli and Schlesi, we arrived at the Berlin Drawing Room; a petite modern building hosting both studios and a children’s daycare, being one of the older small buildings in the area.  Unfortunately this won’t be the case for long – there are already plans to tear it town and build a bigger, more economical project in the coming years.

Mira O’Brien, an American artist and instructor, initially began using the space as her personal studio, eventually transitioning it into Berlin Drawing Room – a space offering workshops in drawing, painting, mixed media and watercolour. Using her experience as an artist and in art education, Mira has created several appealing workshops such as our personal favourite – the  Botanical Drawing Workshop, in collaboration with PrinzessinnengartenInspired by naturalists, the workshop attendees will explore the flora of Kreuzberg, making pressings of their findings, and exploring different techniques such as line drawing, special watercolour effects, layers and washes and more. This workshop started this week,and will continue each Wednesday until June 1st, and Saturday, May 14th until the 28th. Otherwise, their essential Drawing Workshop also started this week and runs until June 14th.  Both of these workshops are now fully booked, but that the next workshop being offered will be the Watercolor Workshop starting June 21. The Botanical Drawing Workshop will be offered again towards the end of summer.

After having a cup of tea to warm up, we sat down with Mira to talk about how she made it to Berlin, and what keeps her here..
F: What inspired you to make the transition from having a personal studio into offering public workshop?
M: Well I do both, I have workshops once or twice a week usually, and the rest of the time I use the studio for my own work. You could think of it that I share my studio, with myself. The feedback that I’ve been getting is that most people find it very interesting to come to an artist’s studio vs. going to a more institutional setting.
 As an artist, teaching is something that is really important to my practice. It is a fascinating challenge to communicate techniques and concepts through various exercises and examples. I try to incorporate a range of influences into my teaching style, drawing from art history, contemporary art as well as more scientific ideas of perception and understanding. Also my students are really great, they come from all over the world and have all kinds of different professional backgrounds. They bring a fresh perspective to every lesson and I love it when I see a new interpretation of an exercise I have taught many times. 
F: What was the first class you taught at BDR like?
M: The first class was the Drawing Workshop. It had two participants and they were a couple. Since then it has grown so much. I’ve added workshops in painting, watercolor, mixed media and botanical drawing, however the Drawing Workshops remains the foundation. 
I’m excited to see how things will develop this year. I have some new ideas, like starting Guest Artist Workshops that would be concentrated over one or two days and focus on specific techniques such as egg-tempura or cyanotype. I know so many talented artists in Berlin and I’m thinking of how to involve them and to share their incredible knowledge. This is coming soon, so look out for it! Also, working with the Prinzessinnengarten on the Botanical Drawing Workshop was a big step in terms of collaborating with another organization. I hope to do more of this.

F: How do you think the space has changed for you since it was established?

M: Well it used to be over there (gestures to the other side of the building) and now it’s here, so that’s the biggest change. For the current space we did everything ourselves. I painted the wall, put up the lights, we built a wall. Now everything happens in here and it’s nice because I was able to make the space exactly how I wanted it. It has enabled to Berlin Drawing Room to really flourish, having a consistent space that is really welcoming and flexible. 

F: Do you doodle?
M: No

F: How much of your own work do you hold on to?

M: There is definitely an editing process the happens early on, so not every work makes the cut. In terms of my installation work, sometimes I hold onto the the raw materials but often the artwork can’t be replicated because it was specific to the location. Of course I am always pleased when my artwork finds a permanent home. 
F: What are you personally working on right now?
M: I just returned from a residency program in Venice at the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica, support by the Artist Pension Trust, where I focused on printmaking. I also had a solo exhibition there where I showed the monotypes I had developed while there, including collagraph, embossing and watercolor-monotype techniques. It was amazing to have the opportunity to explore these techniques, having access to incredible facilities and technical support. 
 Recently, I’ve started a new project where I will collaborate with two choreographers (Tarren Johnson and Meryl Murman) and their dance-troop from New Orleans to create an event in the chapel space at the Bethanien. The performances will take place June 29 and 30th. I won’t say any more for now, except that this is something you will not want to miss! Tarren and I collaborated on another performance piece last summer at State of the Art called “if-then-else.” 
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View more of Mira’s work here, or  for more information about workshops and the Berlin Drawing Room visit their website.