Details, details.

When I used to think of that someday when I would build a studio, I called it “my future weavery”. I assumed that it would be a long slog – full of details and difficult decisions and…mud.

I can tell you that the mud part was bang on, but the others…not so much. I think that the best decision we made was to find a reputable builder and trust their process. Like total idiots, at one point we figured “how hard can it be? We could do this ourselves, right?” but thank goodness we scuppered that idea fairly quickly.

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View of the backside of the building.

Since I last wrote, the future weavery has become much closer to being in the present. The siding is on most of the structure, a lovely charcoal/black (depending on the light). The front of the building has no siding yet, because they haven’t yet installed the doors (a showpiece glass-paned garage door, and a lovely transom “man door” beside it), and they need that front space for other things. [Side note: can we just remove the term “man door” from the lexicon already? I get that it’s to differentiate from the garage door (“car door”?), but the term just drives me crazy.]

At the moment, there’s a temporary plywood lean-to built on the front, to accommodate a heater that they’ve hard-wired into our panel on the house. It’s been running for days – to warm up/dry out the place, and to allow for the slab to be poured and power-troweled. The electric heating mat was placed, and the slab poured over it. Next week they’ll run the electrical from the house to the studio (this step is where the mud comes in). I’m trying to ignore the tick tick tick of my electric meter clocking the amps from that heater.

I’m super pleased with the entire project. We’ve had a few bumps, but nothing big, and nothing that makes me lose sleep. In the interest of giving information to others who might want to do this, I want to mention a few things that took us by surprise. The site manager took me into the structure before the slab was poured, and it was gorgeous. Warm, on a middling-cold March day, partly from the heater but also because of the neatly insulated walls, and early spring sunlight through the windows. I mentioned that I was under the impression that electrical goes in prior to insulation etc., and he reminded me that this building is not entirely ordinary. It’s above code, and will have not only exterior walls, but interior walls. This is for several reasons – with the radiant heat, it’s important that there be as high an r-value as possible, and it provides a clean space for electrical and plumbing (the latter of which I don’t have). Traditional walls are entangled with  wires etc, and doing it this way allows for more insulation and a cleaner route for any future re-wiring etc. that will not disturb the integrity of the outside envelope.

I had no idea, because my eyes kind of glaze over with the more overtly technical aspects of the service contract and plans, to be honest. Anyway, they’ll be building that wall soon and I  understand the usefulness of it; I appreciate the builder’s commitment to creating a really sturdy structure.

What I hadn’t figured into my equation was that it’ll take up some of the footprint in what is already a fairly bijou space. For the sake of warmth and structural integrity, I’m sacrificing a foot, give or take,  around the perimeter of the entire footprint. It adds up, but I’m okay with it. It’s better to be warm and sturdy than to have a drafty extra foot or so, I always say.

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Looks done, no? Nope – these are the interiors of the exterior walls… who knew?

The building is, on the outside, 16’x24’, inside once all is done, it’ll be about 14’x22’-ish, roughly speaking. Still a good size, and still something I cannot believe will be mine.  Another benefit of these walls is that they will give me lovely deep windowsills, perfect for plants, coffee cups, and weaving ephemera. It’s all good.

But it’s got me thinking about my current obsession with regard to storage. Really, I’ll have to wait until the drywall is up before I can measure for storage options. I’ve veered from IKEA to something more minimal, since the space I’m losing to the boring (but important) interior walls is about exactly what I’d planned on for storage. I don’t want it to be…busy. I want serene uncluttered space, something my eye will not drag over but will instead  glide over. Weaving and the attendant accoutrements takes up space, and is textured and colorful, so storage isn’t just a fetish of mine, but a necessity.

I kind of  don’t want to move my looms into what would be, essentially,  an IKEA showroom. Somehow, that doesn’t seem right.  (And, every time I look at the IKEA website it tells me that the shelves I want aren’t in stock, or there’s only one….) I’m leaning toward a couple of other options at the moment. Industrial wire shelving? Long wooden shelves with minimalist brackets? Closed storage? Built-ins? Dunno.

I’ve had to tell myself it’s not entirely necessary to have this all figured out right now.

And that, my friends, is the important lesson here (aside from making yourself familiar with building processes). It doesn’t all need to be finished. This is a process. I’ll absolutely be moving my looms in as soon as is humanly possible, but it isn’t a big deal if the fibre stays in the current weave room for a while. It’s not a big deal if it’s all in Rubbermaid totes for a while. It’s not a big deal. Given the (intentionally) “over-built” construction of this thing, it’s going to be here for a long time and it’s okay if it’s not turnkey ready for me the moment the workmen leave.

Another milestone was the floor. They tidily removed the dumpster to make room for the concrete mixer, poured it, and began to power-trowel. I don’t want a fancy floor – I want to move looms around, spill things, and not worry about it overmuch. It needs to be easy to clean – lots of fibre fluff and dust comes off the loom.

Concrete seemed the way to go, and I love the look of it. It will also conduct the heat nicely, and feel cool and smooth in summer. I had some things I thought were important – I don’t want it polished to a mirror finish because with all those windows I was afraid I’d go blind from glare, but I wanted it sealed in order to keep it clean. I want it to be smooth, so the power trowel made sense to me. Currently, I use the heated floors in our bathroom to dry wet-finished items, and it’s perfect; I wanted to do that in the future weavery too. I weave barefooted – it’s my favorite state to be in, and shoes get in the way when treadling. I hate socks, and want to avoid them whenever possible.

Turns out, though, that being able to communicate to the guy running the power trowel about level of smoothness is important. I had assumed he’d come by with samples or something? But instead I trooped out there and had to look at it, and tell him if it was smooth enough. “How many more passes should he make?” the builder asked.

Ummm. I had no idea. I ended up saying “well, just make it closer to the smooth side of the continuum, as opposed to the rough.” I mean, what else can you say? It’s like trying to explain colour to someone who’s never seen it. I left him to it, and went out again later when it had been troweled and sealed with as matte a seal as they could manage.

Looks lovely, and I never have to think about it again. There was some  glare, but the sealer was still wet. If glare is a problem in the future, I can buy blinds, or lay down a rug or two.

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Smooth and beautiful! When asked how it would age, the concrete guy said “It may darken. Or get lighter.” I’m fine with that. Apparently this is an imprecise art….

In about two weeks, the doors will be installed, we think. Then, it’s going to really look almost-done. There will still be work, but it’ll look like it’s going to look, and we’ll be drilling down into the fine details.

This whole thing has been super-easy so far, compared to what I feared. I’m astounded at the quiet labour the workmen engage in daily, the industrious growth of something-out-of-nothing that I watch daily. I’m really pleased with the ease of communication with the builder/trades (they have an app!).

 

Progress, and Planning.

Things are pretty exciting here these days, as far as the construction of the studio goes. The back garden is transformed, and it has made me realize just how different something can look if you change one thing (or, in this case, a progression of small things that are turning into an entirely new view).

We began with this:

The day the Big Adventure started. The old garden shed is now gone.

And today, this is the view.

Window day! As cold a day as you can imagine, and the workmen were stalwart and hardy

Quite a progression!

It’s really quite something to see a building happen. Those men are nothing short of heroic – framing in sleet, roofing in snow, installing windows in frostbite conditions! I keep thinking of the lovely warm studio I’ll be sitting in next winter, but those guys must be cursing this weaver and her stupid studio, I swear.

My big disappointment this week was that they put the windows in and then nailed plywood over the doorway. I had been planning on creeping in there after they left, to dream about the layout of shelves etc. As disappointments go, this is pretty far down on the list so I’m not going to complain.

What my impatient desire to see inside it says to me is that I have, in a way, forgotten that there’ll be plenty of time later to be inside it. It’s a funny thing, magicking a building out of nothing – you get so caught up in the planning and process that you forget the reality of it – that one day (fairly soon!) they’ll tidy up and leave, and I’ll have whole new routine – walking out there of a morning to sit in a pool of sunshine and weave away the hours.

And a new routine is needed. These past grey winter weeks I’ve been very excited about the process of planning projects, but not so great on the follow-through. Kind of like, well, my feelings about the building going up out back. The planning has been terrific, but the reality of it means work.

Linen warp, wound on the reel. One of my favorite parts of the process – out of chaos comes order and beauty

It’s easy enough to feel like you’re doing something when you’re planning – researching, reading, winding warps…. These are the recent ones; busy work because I’ve been reluctant to get my arse on the weave bench and just do it. The weather isn’t helping, and I had a touch of the flu, and I just haven’t been dedicated. The current weave room is crowded and not entirely conducive to actually spending time in it, and the human brain is capable of a multitude of excuses.

But I think that we all go through dry spells, right? Times when we spend more time thinking about what we’ll do than actually doing it? I’ve struggled with this the past few weeks and have come to realize that it’s all actually part of the process. We aren’t machines – we need to take time to dream and plan, to make mistakes (cut off warps that just don’t do it for us, to flip through one draft after another, and find none that speak to you). This is fairly fertile ground – it’s a way to refocus, to experiment, and to visualize the things we make – be they scarves or tea towels, or studios.

We can’t beat ourselves up because we aren’t producing all the time. We need downtime to figure out what we’ll produce; to think and dream and visualize. We tend not to prioritize this part of it, because we live in a culture that privileges busy over calm. We can’t fit this part of the process into the interstices – we need to allow it, and use it, and wait until we feel that spark again, right?

So maybe it’s not a dry spell, but a fertile moment. A moment when we germinate ideas and our sense of what our practice is. In the Spring (soon to come) these seeds sown now will begin to sprout and grow. Like this idea that became a hole in the ground, then became a studio, good things come from these times when we are quiet and thoughtful.

I dragged my long-suffering husband through IKEA this past week, looking for storage solutions for the studio. I don’t want to buy anything until I can stand in the space and think about it, until I have exact measurements and a plan, so all I wanted to do was to look and touch things to help with the planning. He trudged, dead-eyed, through the store, while I learned this sort of thing is best done alone, or with a like-minded girlfriend. I have narrowed it down, though, so even though it caused him some distress, I have a better idea of what I’m going to do inside.

“Billy” bookcases with these lovely cubbies, as opposed to long shelves. Perfect for sorting fibre

“Gnedby” – I assume they’re actually meant for CD storage, but will be perfect for 8/2 cottons

I’ve settled on a mixture of “Billy” bookcases with “Gnedby” sections for the smaller 8/2 cotton. The ceilings of the studio are 10 ft high, so there will be room for Billy extensions. Billy can be installed either with or without glass doors, so some of it will have doors – the sections closest to the window with southern exposure, and those in which I’ll be storing inventory.

So, as with my weaving practice, the studio build also requires some quiet moments in which to plan the final products. It’s not about producing, but about producing well after contemplation and planning.

The art of seeing

Some days, I walk into the workroom and pause. I look around, and I see the tools that I use for weaving, the glorious fibres and colours, the objects that are both functional and beautiful, and I am grateful.

Other days, I take it all for granted – I forget that this workroom (though small and cluttered) is a haven. I forget that all of this work has stretched my abilities, that practice and time invested have made me able to create things that are beautiful, complex, comforting.

Today, I saw it all, and was glad. The studio build continues, and some days have more dump trucks and equipment in the driveway than I ever thought there’d be, but here in my little workroom is a lifetime of colour, texture, and fibre.

The sun is out today, but the sky looks threatening. It’s cold, and the wind is whistling around the house. Later today, in my snug workroom, I’ll start planning my next weave and the next after that.

It’s a good life.

Studio build update:

It’s starting to shape itself into a studio-sized form. Since we moved here in 2003, there was a garden shed, just in front of the new construction site. When it was removed, we realized just how much of a difference it made – they took down the fence, too, and all of a sudden we remembered the size and shape of the yard that was hidden behind that little shed, and bisected by picket fence.

A giant hole. Footings and foundation walls framed and poured.

I’ve begun to think about the inside of that studio too, trying to figure out where all of the stuff will go. It’s not a horrible task to have, and I’ve enjoyed having to think about my practice this way – where do I like the light while I weave? How to arrange fibre (type, colour, type and colour, size?), what makes more sense – a table or a long counter?

Arts & crafts project – a scale drawing with construction paper to-scale looms etc.

A Studio is Born

I’ve been weaving since the Fall of 2013. As with most weavers, the looms started to fill the place pretty quickly. This craft does not have a small footprint, and the tools of the trade can be fairly unwieldy.

IMG_4253I remember buying my first loom. I got it online, used, and I knew absolutely nothing about weaving or looms except that I really wanted to do it. The previous loom owner actually delivered it to my house and reassembled it for me, in my front sunroom (thank you, patient and harried loom man, for doing that!). For a month or two before I took some lessons with a lovely teacher, I would just go in there and look at it, and take in the loom-flavoured air – a mix of wood, cloth, dust, and promise.

I moved my desk into another room, and figured that I still had lots of space. Over the years, that room has been completely transformed. I took out the couch, the chair, the books. In went another loom, built-in shelves for fibre and tools, benches and boxes for fibre that wouldn’t fit on the shelves. It’s a beautiful room – about 11’x13, with two walls of windows. It also has three doors, wonky heat, and is a sun trap in the warmer months.

It’s also crowded.3D6530DD-8033-4B30-8491-A3DCB9658A7D

I have to move a loom to get to my fibre, move it back to get to the other loom. My warping reel is folded and in front of a shelf, and I have to move it to access my sewing machine. Then I have to take the machine out to the dining room to actually use it. It’s a drag, and it makes me a less efficient weaver.

So yeah, it’s hard to work in there. I know it’s already a massively privileged space, but I am lucky enough to be able to look for solutions to make it better. I have for most of my life,  fit whatever I did into the spaces I had. It wasn’t always a good fit, and there’s been a lot of making do over the years – a Harry Potter office-under-the-stairs, looms spread around 3 rooms, home offices with kids nearby, etc. A life lived with buckshee solutions is not a solution forever.

So that’s the problem.

The solution? Build a studio in the back garden. Have you ever visualized something you wanted, and then made it happen? A big ask like this seemed ridiculous, but I thought about it for years, made a Pinterest board , and dreamed. Then one day it occurred to us that we could build one and oddly, after that it was simple(ish). I think that making an imaginary future-studio a part of my headspace finally opened up the opportunity to bring it to life.

I spend a fair amount of time looking online for pictures/blogs about workspaces. I’m kind of fascinated by the areas other people use to make their art. There’s something so beguiling about dedicated spaces.  When I started this whole thing, I had a lot of ideas, a lot of misconceptions, and absolutely no idea at all what I was doing.  I looked online, and never really found what I wanted – a blog about the steps involved in making a dedicated space, from start to finish. Pictures about the things that matter to me – storage solutions, lighting, space management. Even the building process itself is mystifying to me.

So, I”ll demystify some of it, here.

We’re in the very early days – they start on Monday with the machines that will remove the current garden shed and start to dig a big hole for the foundation. That is not, however, the start. As with weaving, the process of setting up takes quite a while! We started this process in October – 4 months ago – and it has taken that long to muddle our way to this point. We ended up working with a terrific local company, Bentley Built Homes, and they have helped to shape all of my ideas into something concrete.

Over the next several months I’ll keep you filled in on what’s happening here with Berwick Weaving Co.’s new digs. Once it’s open, it’ll be so nice to have people drop in for a studio tour, or lessons (or even just a coffee, if you notify me first). I’m so excited about this – making a dedicated space that is quiet, peaceful, organized. Making a space that is uncluttered, airy, and light-filled.

This process has made me think about my process – what I want from my weaving practice, how I want to move forward, and why I’m doing it. The construction process will probably disrupt some of my work, but it’s also going to focus it, I think. This year, I’ve decided that I’m going to be sole instructor and student of my own impromptu weaving school – there are things I want to learn to do better, processes that I haven’t tried or that I couldn’t try because of other commitments, space constraints, a cluttered mind.

Pop back in for occasional updates. I’ll leave you with this tantalizing view of the plans.

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Mopping up, sweeping out, starting fresh.

We’ve had a bit of Spring cleaning at Berwick Weaving Co.   About a month and a half ago now, we returned from our trip to Belize.  It was cold, as Nova Scotia can be in late January, but the ground was clear of snow. It was kind of great. We felt like that snow-less arrival was a bit of a gift.

Then the snows came. And came again. And again. It was an extraordinary amount of snow.

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Look, see how pretty?

It was pretty at first. The novelty made it okay. Then it snowed again. And again. The picture below is my “Weavery”*  right before it started leaking from the infernal ice dams (please see poll, below).

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sigh.

That was kind of funny, until it all started to leak into my Weavery. Onto my loom. At seemingly random times, and with surprising volume.

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So sad. So… Miss Havisham’s Loom Room. Boo.

I have commissions I’m working on, commissions that are difficult to do while underneath plastic, to the steady drip…drip…drip of the ice dam damage.  Water and looms are not natural friends.

While I wrung my hands and moaned and gnashed my teeth, better people than I climbed onto the roof, under the roof, and then did it again and again, until we think it is solved for the moment. I will have to do a ton of work, later in the year – new drywall, ceiling (and possibly roof) repair. Repainting. Cleaning.  It’s a big fat drag. Houses that are 116 year old have charm, but require a lot of work.

There ARE good things that came out of this. I had to look at my workspace with a fresh eye. I realized that it was trying to be a sitting room/weavery – a nice idea, but not really practical in such a little room. Also, I have been refurbishing a new-to-me Mira loom (sectional warping beam!) that I got last summer – it was ready to move into the Weavery and earn its keep. A flurry of activity, some creative problem-solving, and the Weavery is now home to my Millville and the Mira looms both.

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THIS is a kick-ass weave room. See the Mira, at 1 o’clock. Such a cute little thing!

I have been cleaning and organizing (and watching the ceiling) and I am almost sure that it will not leak any more. I took the plastic off and hope to return to my regularly schedule weaving program asap.  Phew! One cannot live by rigid heddle alone….

* Re. “Weavery”.  I like the term – I borrowed it from somewhere online. But it feels a bit… twee.  What the heck do I call this room?