Friday, October 15, 2010

Cooped Up

Home and Studio
I was born into a family of do-it-yourselfers.  My Dad was a master mechanic and jack-of-all trades.  He was one of those types who could break down and re-assemble anything with more than two parts.  One of my brothers owns his own automotive repair shop.  My eldest sister has re-wired, plumbed and reconstructed her house so many times, she can't remember where she put the bathroom.  So how much of this did I get?  Suffice to say, this apple not only fell far from the tree, but rolled down the mountain side and into the neighbor's yard.  Many has been the time when I sat in a broken down hulk of a car while stranded on the side of a highway and willing to exchange whatever slight artistic ability I possess for something more mechanical.  Instead, I sketched while I waited for the tow-truck.

Last year when my beautiful partner Ellen and I were shopping for a house, one of the items on our wish list was a building or place that I could use as a studio.  Over the years, I've painted in stairwells, corners of bedrooms and kitchens, and I wanted a place to call my own.  We found a home in East Pittston, Maine that is perfect for us, and it has an out-building that was ideal for my studio.  It is a fairly good size building, 27 feet long and 12 feet wide.  The drawback was that it had a ceiling barely six feet high, sheathed in ugly, water and mold stained fiber board.  Three naked light bulbs hung down, awaiting full contact with my forehead at any time.  The building is at least seventy years old, and was used as a carpenter shop before me, and before that, I'm thinking it was probably a chicken coop.  Here is how it looked:

I still moved in and set up shop and actually painted in there for about nine months when Ellen said it was finally time to fix it up.  She is the handyman of the house, and was chomping at the bit to get cracking on the demolition.  I was always a little more reluctant, knowing my complete lack of ability with tools. 

We knew that above that nasty ceiling was at least five more feet of space that would make a nice cathedral ceiling.  But first it had to go.

Now, doesn't that look like fun? The space above was loaded with wasp nests and the insulation was ancient fiberglass that itched on contact and was filled with mice droppings and assorted bug carcasses.  We chose the beginning of September to start this project, figuring that the worst of the summer heat was behind us.  Except that the worst heat wave of the summer kicked in just about then with temperatures reaching ninety degrees daily for a week.  The temperature in the studio reached to near one-hundred degrees!

After the ceiling and some unnecessary beams were all down we started in on the reconstruction.  We reinsulated all the walls and ceiling, then sheathed the inside in pine boards.  I sawed, hammered and in general tried to stay away from any career-ending mutilations while Ellen did all the rewiring.   

Here I am swinging a hammer and wearing a really cool tool belt!  I did learn a few things about construction during all this.  Some do-it-yourself maxims, as it were.

  • Measure twice, cut once.  Then wonder how the hell that measurement was so wrong.
  • Having the right tools for the job does not guarantee doing the job right.
  • The thrill of the job being done is greater than the satisfaction of a job well done.
  • If my carpentry skills were like my paintings, I'd be an abstract-expressionist. 
Here are some views of the completed job.  Not bad, if I say so myself!  I have plenty of space, along with new lights and outlets.  I have a storage loft, and below that, a nice little nook where I can sit and relax.  Quite the man cave--I mean studio...

 I hope I don't lay too many eggs in this chicken coop!



Susan Roux said...

Hands down, the best coop in town! Makes me want to set up my easel and paint with you...

Kevin Mizner said...