I think it would be fair to say that most artists and crafters dream of having their own work studio. A space separate from their living area whether it’s a room, the basement, or even better, completely detached from their home.
Well, that dream is becoming a reality for this origami artist. Earlier this summer the ground was broken (and graded) to accommodate the 16’x20′ build site where I will have not only a work studio but a screened porch (to protect me from the mosquitos, noseeums, deer fly, and black flies) as well.
I am fortunate that some of Fred’s friends (now my friends too) are helping Fred with the build. One has come with a tractor and back hoe, professional equipment to finish the concrete for the foundation, and his invaluable expertise. Oscar has made many long trips out to Greenville to burn and oil the wood siding. He will be a Shou Sugi Ban expert by the time he’s done. Scratch that. He already is 🙂 I cannot thank them each of them enough.
The walls went up…
And then the rafters and roof over the studio area…
The cedar boards and windows arrived. The cedar smells sooooooo good!
My favorite window is this one…
It’s a 5′ round window to evoke the “moon” windows and doors in Japan. The round shape is used as a frame to create a vignette through which a beautiful garden view can be enjoyed in all four seasons. It is going into the large square framed area below. Basically, I’ll be sitting right in front of it almost level with the bottom of it because my work area will be on an 18″ high platform which accomplishes two things:
- The platform will create storage space beneath it because storage space is hard to come by in the 8’x12′ I’ve designated as my work area.
- Because even as I type this I am sitting on the couch as if I’m sitting on the floor, and because I even sit at the dining table in a chair as if I’m sitting on the floor (legs tucked beneath or in front of me) I decided to forego having chairs and simply install a dropped foot well in the platform, like in a Japanese restaurant tatami room. Then if I want to sit upright I can. Having a soft cushion to curl up or sit on instead of a chair will save a lot of space!
For the exterior we are using a Japanese wood preparation/preservation technique called Shou Sugi Ban (pronounced: show-sue-gē-bawn). Everywhere I’ve read about this technique (aka yakisugi) it is said the treatment leaves the wood fire, moisture, and insect resistant and the benefits can last as long as 85 years. The tung oil can be reapplied as needed to further protect the wood. Fred suggested using cedar shiplap siding vs tongue and groove as most of the tongue and groove is beveled on the side edge and wouldn’t look flat like this.
The steps go like this:
- Burn board with a propane tank weed burner – Video on Instagram
- Scrubbing off the charred wood with a brush
- Rinse board with water
- Allow board to dry
- Brush board with tung oil and wipe with rag
- Allow oil to dry
- Repeat step 5
It is labor intensive but the results are beautiful. The burnt wood is dark brown and blackish when the sun isn’t shining directly upon it. With direct sunlight the wood becomes almost metallic looking with a rich organic appearance as the oiled finish highlights the natural wood grain and knots.
Eventually the brown in the boards will fade to grey the way cedar naturally fades and the blackness will soften as the particles of soot still trapped in the wood grain weather off over time.
We opted to leave the porch posts, beams, and rafters unburnt to create contrast with the siding. I didn’t want things too matchy-matchy.
Right now the warm red color of the cedar provides a sharp contrast. I’m looking forward to when it greys and the contrast isn’t so pronounced.
To date everything I’ve made for ArtPrize the past three years has been made working at this 2’x3’coffee table in the living room with my supplies divided between two upstairs rooms and the basement. It is organized chaos. It will be so nice to have a formal workspace sometime next year 🙂
But even more important than having my dream studio come to life is that I’ve found a place (The Place) where my creativity isn’t crushed or stifled because of my environment. Instead, or maybe I should say finally, it’s been released in a torrent of ideas brought to fruition.
Above is the pair of Sandhill Cranes that nest in the marsh behind the property I live on. Sometimes they call to each other from the marsh before and as they leave in the morning. When I hear them I rush out to the back deck to watch them fly away for the day.
It took my whole life, many mistakes, self-reflection, learning how to let go of fear, and a giant leap of faith but I’ve finally found true happiness out here in this beautiful landscape I now call home ❤