As a sculptor, often working with dust producing materials in a space with little ventilation, I have always been aware of my air quality and its possible effects on my health. Last year I was awarded a CERF+ grant to enhance my studio safety. It was an amazing opportunity to add equipment I may not of purchased otherwise. Now, I know what processes in my practice make the most airborne particles, and I am able to take those particles out of the air with a filtration system.
The first line of defense is a good mask. I have found over the years that I avoided wearing masks because they didn’t fit my face, or got hot and sweaty over time, and then my throat would be sore and I would be sorry that I was not more careful. My solution to this is the Vogmask. It is a great option if you don’t like paper/plastic masks. It is made of fabric and can come with exhale valves for prolonged wear. I change mine every 8 months with moderate use. They are comfortable and effective.
The workhorse in my studio is my Rikon air filter. It is ideal for pulling wood dust out of the air, but it also captures the large particles from my plaster dust. I have an area of my studio devoted to construction which is curtained off with plastic, and I have positioned the filter above that area in order to clean the ‘dirty’ air before it moves into other areas of my studio, or into my neighbor’s spaces. This system is quiet and very efficient.
While I was doing research after applying for the CERF+ grant I debated what items would be the most beneficial to my practice. I knew the above two pieces of equipment were important to literally keep the dust out of my lungs, but what I was most curious about was besides the obvious tasks (cutting wood, sanding etc.) when was I effecting my air quality. That is why I decided on the air quality monitor. In real time, it lets me know when the particulates are high and allows me to modify my behavior from the outset. Producing less dust is always better than trying to pull it out of the air after the fact.
It can seem daunting to establish safety procedures in your studio, but your lungs will thank you in the end.