Done!

Back in October of 2018, I was talking to my husband about the mythical weave shed that I imagined for myself. I may have been talking about it for the past several years, to the point where the myth was taking a very definite shape in my mind. In October, we both started talking about it as if it were a real thing, and it was just that simple – one of us said “we could actually do it, you know” and the plan started to take shape.

So, Berwick Weaving Company now has an actual building to itself, and I could not be happier. Have you ever made something happen, from dream-to-actuality, and at the end of it realize that you have literally made your dream come true?

I have, and it’s terrific.

The road to the studio, from when we hired someone to when it was finished, was surprisingly short. We got quotes in October/November, and they started the building process in January. Working through a wet and windy wintertime, the studio emerged in about 4 months. They were quiet, respectful, and responsive. I am happy with our builder, Bentley Built Homes. It may be the first weave studio they’ve built, but it may not be their last.

Before, and after.

It wasn’t always entirely smooth, but putting it all in perspective the process was remarkably freer of angst and stress than I had expected. The building is so quiet, and such a difference from the old weave room that looked out over a busy street! It’s warm, sturdy, and peaceful. It’s tucked in underneath my favorite old maple tree, and looks remarkably like it’s been there for ages already (though I do need to do some landscaping).

It took about a week to move everything in and organize it all – organization was always my biggest worry, because weaving comes with a lot of gear. But I’ve been in the studio, working, for about 3 or 4 days now, and I really couldn’t be happier. The efficiency one gets from knowing where everything is in a space, from everything having a place, is valuable.

The studio is not a retail space; it’s really just a more private and efficient space for me to work. I do plan on setting up a studio tour maybe, and as always if people want to visit they can message me through Berwick Weaving Co.’s facebook page or email me and set something up. I am “open by chance” – no set hours.

For those of you interested in that storage I keep talking about:

These shelves are terrific. Taking advantage of the 10 foot high ceilings, the shelf is eight feet high, and eight feet wide. Twelve inch deep shelves, so I don’t lose anything behind something else. I was shocked at the amount of fibre I actually had – in the old weave room everything was compressed, or boxed, so I had no real idea until I took it all out there and started sorting! I love it, and every time I look at it, I am inspired. I find it so useful to have it all out, and in view.

Some weavers keep their fibre stored in plastic boxes, or tubs. I just can’t do it. This will require more dusting than if I’d chosen to do that, but it’s worth it.

On the other side of the room, I chose to repurpose shelves I’d had made for my in-house weave room. I’m very happy I did – I love the look of them, and the cubbies will prove useful.

I’ve managed to fit all the looms in, save one small rigid heddle loom I decided to keep in the house. It’s a convenient size to use in front of the tv, or in the sitting room.

I found a place for my beloved mangle, and put a good sized table in as a workspace, or for (future, planned) teaching space.

I love this space, and am over the moon with it. I look forward to many happy hours in there. Thanks for taking this journey with me.

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!).

 

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.