Being an artist is a messy business. After a day of work, I end up with paint on me, the ceiling, the floor, the dog, and every doorknob in the house. Working at my kitchen table was great until dinnertime came. Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and globs of paint don’t pair well.
One of the biggest challenges for any artist is where to put paint tubes, brushes, palette knives, canvases, easels, oils, solvents, papers, and glues. And because some of my work starts with collecting found objects, I’m always looking for a place to put the things — usually odd-sized, chipped, and forlorn — that are going to be beautiful and useful someday.
For example, that gigantic red buffet I picked up free in Truro really needed its own place in the world.
When I announced my plan to build a workshop in the backyard, my husband rolled his eyes. I got busy researching studio kits online. There were gorgeous modern ones for $40,000. And box store versions I didn’t like. I chose a shed for $3,900, made by an Illinois company that had lots of choices. They claimed two people could put it together in just eight hours. I didn’t believe that, which was a good thing; it took us a week to build, roof, shingle, and paint.
I needed a building permit for the shed, which cost $60 and a two-week wait. I opted for a 10-by-10-foot structure to avoid having to build a foundation — cinder blocks will support a small shed. While we waited, my husband and I measured out the dimensions, raked and leveled the dirt, and set up the cinder blocks.
It took the two of us an hour to unload the truck. It seemed like there were a million pieces: tongue-and-groove Norway spruce timbers, French doors, windows, roof peaks. We work well together but we have very different ideas on how to get things done. He reads instructions, I don’t. He measures twice, I don’t. The instructions were as clear as mud. Some pieces didn’t quite fit together, so we had to bend and hammer to make them work. Then there were the pieces — I still don’t know where those were supposed to go. There was some eye rolling.
I was glad I went for the French doors. Those, and the side lights, face south, so the sun keeps me warm in the winter. My easel is the wall. It took about a week for me to make this kit shed my own, spattered with paint and a scattering of foundling materials. When we moved the old red buffet into place, and I filled it with supplies, I knew this studio was really mine.