I realized last night that exactly one year ago I bought this building...
Oh have I found new toys for you!
- A ton of great new (old) wood block stamps at the Brimfield Market! (Give me about a month to clean, repair and seal them). I also scored some new (old) lace there.
- I have tested, to awesome success, the mineral deposits from the Stafford Springs iron spring as a ridiculously unique red-orange colorant in textured pottery. That, along with a custom "Coffee & Jerwich" (as we're calling it) stamp design, made for some sweet, sweet coffee mug prototypes.
- The back wall garden is primed for this summer's Arts on Main events, when home-made guacamole & dips will accompany our All Street Sangria Contest...
Please join us Friday April 8th for Stafford Springs Arts on Main!
- I will be hosting the Blackledge Flute Trio for our first Open Chamber Rehearsal
- I am also (finally!) launching our Community Tile Project where you get to come in and paint a tile for the studio
- And if all goes as planned, I should have a small, interesting art collection hung on our fabulous gallery brick wall
Then join us for our Third Friday Clay Night workshop. I'll announce the project at the beginning of the month: If there's something specific you want to do, please let me know!
As I ran out of an October Ellington Farmers Market on my way from my market booth to the shop, I grabbed a pumpkin off of Joe the farmer's truck before he took off. Halloween was coming and in the middle of all the renovation chaos, I needed some decorations. This gigantic beast pumpkin would count as both "Fall" and "Halloween."
Fall came and went, and as I put some lights and twigs from the yard around the shop for Christmas, the monster pumpkin still looked good (that is, not rotten), and I sure as hell didn't have time to cook it. Even carrying it seemed daunting, so it got some lights instead. Festive, but weird. Exhaustion is the mother of invention?
Christmas came and went, New Year's came and went, and Valentine's day was coming. I drew the line at putting pink paper hearts on a giant orange, though still not rotten, pumpkin. Instead I carried it to the car, took it home and cooked it.
It is delicious.
That... and I have also emerged enough to find time to make pottery. :)
I cannot lie: I've been looking forward to January. I'm told that it's our slow shopping season on Main Street, and I have many many plans on how to use this "slow" time...
For starters, I plan to make pottery. What? That's right. I do more than run around to junk shops and paint crappy old furniture, and I plan to prove it to you. Also, you did an excellent job cleaning me out during the holidays - Yay you! So I need more things for you to buy. It's a pottery shop, after all.
Then, I'm adding a new class to our list of things to do here. I'll be introducing Family Clay to our list of class options, for parents and kids to play with clay together.
After that, I do plan on hanging in my hammock a little more and doing nothing. Nuh-thing.
One of my longer-term goals in this project was to help establish a community based around the pottery studio: A place for people to meet, hang out, develop relationships and share ideas centered on a common interest. What I didn't understand at the time was that Stafford Springs already *is* a community. I've mentioned before that it has been a great experience being welcomed into this artistic town. I have help when I need it, support, commiseration, creativity, camaraderie...
Now that the big deadlines have been met, for the most part, and I can get down to some of these other goals, this one is turning out to be a lot of fun. In keeping with the Stafford Springs character, I came up with a really cool community project that I will be announcing shortly, and in the meantime I'm getting some details around it into place.
I always had a plan with the layout of the shop to have some hanging-out community cafe tables, and I'm just now getting to that. So today the tabletops were dropped off, and we put one on a base to take a look... It took literally less than fifteen minutes for the riffraff to find it and use it exactly as it was intended. (See photo above). So cool! They're on my floor right now (the tabletops) waiting for polyurethane.
So my community idea has been fabulously expanded to incorporate what is already here in Stafford Springs. My goal is to be a contributor and facilitator to help nurture this already creative and supportive (and eclectic) community.
More to come!
Monday is supposed to be my day off, and on Sundays I think about sleeping late on Monday mornings, but then I just come in anyway. I tend to knock off a bunch of paperwork in the morning, and by afternoon the latte has kicked in and I'm back to painting things, sanding things, ordering things, and planning things. I realized today that you're due for some updates and pictures.
Our first 8-week class is full and underway. (Next session will start Wednesday January 6th). I've been organizing the basement around you a little, and tomorrow I plan to do the first test-fire in the new kiln room. The studio layout turned out good, and while I still have a lot of smaller things to move in and organize, all of the big equipment is in place. I still need to find your lounge-couch.
The first social workshop, November 20th, is also full. The next one will be January 15th. I'll look into doing these more often once we've run a few.
AND... dear clay gods, I've even started making some pottery! I cannot lie, I really like working on the renovation and restoring & painting, but I like clay too. :)
My fancy new point of sale system is still in its box, the trim is still only half painted, and my body aches... But the plumber just hooked up the sink, the guys are painting the basement as I type, and I just moved last night's latest Craigslist toy into place: A sweet new pottery wheel for the upstairs workstation. It's all coming together. Or as my friend Paul would say, "All is proceeding as I have foreseen..."
This is in NO small part due to the amazing, unprecedented and overwhelming support I have received throughout this project and especially last week. Our Grand Opening Celebration was FUN!
The list of people who have helped make this happen is long, and I have thanked many, including family, in private, but I'd still like to acknowledge some very awesome people:
Stafford Springs Main Street! The support, encouragement and comraderie I've received during this entire process has been incredible. The members of this special and unique community have welcomed me, supported me, and promoted my endeavor beyond any expectation.
My party food coordinators! Carol and the Joshes (my Farmers Market friends) not only put together that fine party spread, but did it on a budget AND surprised me by making it gluten-free. (I've been snacking on leftover cake ever since).
My secret sangria recipe source! I have been threatened to not reveal this under penalty of death.
My awesome tango DJ, Sally(!) who stepped in last minute in the midst of a very busy schedule and put together a beautiful playlist of just the right mood. Also for Remy and Jackie who arranged and drove around the big speakers and sound system.
For Daniel and Fernando, for arranging and providing the live music! It was perfect. (Did you notice the acoustics in the shop?? Who knew!)
Sarah! for setting up and running the tile painting station. (Some very impressive results, btw. I'm thinking tiles would make a good one-night workshop theme.)
Miss Carol again for running in last minute and finishing the beautiful lace curtains on the side wall.
Miss Tami for thinking of and gifting the guest book that councidentally evokes coffee bean canvas...
For Angelo and everyone who took some really great memory pictures. Nice, nice, nice.
For my amazing construction team for, well, building the space, for putting up with my regular, "Hey look what I picked off the side of the road!" finds, and for working through the last three weekends (no exaggeration) to get it ready in time. Oh and the secret office loft futon! I have no idea how they got it up there. Magic.
For Bernadette for making the most awesome party shirt ever! (and a lampshade). And Wayne for owning a Lego Deathstar.
And for everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to come and celebrate with me! Many of you drove long distances, and I really appreciate it. It was so much fun seeing old friends as well as new. (And I noted that a common somewhat snarky sense of humor made its way through groups who had never met before... Hmm...)
Thank you, thank you, thank you! As I said Friday night, I am... overwhelmed by your friendship and support. :)
Holy maple! (Literally)
As we wind down and my to-do list gets LONGER and time gets SHORTER, here's what's happening:
- We are ON for the September 18th Grand Opening Celebration. Star it on your calendar.
- I am working out a class schedule and registration format for lessons and workshops to start in October.
I'm down to a few last things that I haven't been able to find in the salvage & thrift stores. If you have any of these you'd like to donate, or if you have any leads, please let me know!
- Folding Chairs (12)
- Large folding work tables (2-4)
- Old Tupperware-ish containers (the bigger ones mostly) and pitchers
- Old towels, all sizes
- Pottery wheels... (5-10) :)
So the guys are moving along: The insulation is finished and now they're on to the finishing the drywall on the main floor.
While they work, I'm hacking away at my to-do list: Hunting for and picking up the next layer of details. The lighting is all found or ordered. I have a lead on a giant basement equipment sink. I'm picking up an eBay kiln today... And so on. I'm also getting some announcements out, LIKE.... our Grand Opening Party (!)
But here's the "problem" I keep running into... If there were a theme to this entire project, this is what it seems to be. I keep finding and picking up very cool, funky old things that have a lot of character and fit with the evolving style of the shop, which is turning out to be, "Eclectic artsy elegant." But as I pull these old things into the shop and take a better look at them, I notice that underneath the old varnish, rust and dirt, these are really, really beautiful things. (Kind of like the shop itself). So then my original plan of, "I'll throw some paint on it, some home-made tile and use it as a coffee table," becomes, "Oh crap, that thing is gorgeous..." and I'm on Google researching furniture refinisher and tung oil brands. "Slap paint on it," is now a five-day refinishing project, and I STILL don't have a knock around coffee table, or whatever the thing-du-jour is.
So my to-do list gets longer instead of shorter, and at some point I'll have to quit my new junk store habit. I suppose I'll fill the void with, oh I don't know, making pottery??
Update: Found cafe/coffee tables! Thank you, Salvation Army Doner, come and visit your donation in about a month! But like the rest of this post, after I removed the really junky table tops to paint the bases, I had THE most awesome idea how to make new tops... dammit. But at least they'll still be coffee-table-able, and the furniture hunting phase of this project is almost done.
What I'm really doing is waiting for insulation. I'm getting foam insulation which will take two to three days to spray, so it took a little coordinating between me, the shop next door, and the foam guys. They should be here tomorrow.
In the meantime I'm hunting down the next round of supplies I need. You know, lights, kilns, wheels... The response I'm getting locally for lessons has been huge, so while we were waiting for the insulation, I had the guys move ahead with the basement renovation. The kiln room and closet are framed, and everything is wired. Next week we'll repair the old floor and do a little drywall.
So... I've fired up my old eBay sniper and have started the next round of salvage hunting. I'm trying really hard to avoid buying new equipment, for obvious financial reasons, but I have to tell you that I'm *really* enjoying the challenge of finding what I need used, for both uniqueness and quality. (Check out the French door panel in the upper picture). At some point I'll have to give in and get some new things, but until then the truck, my tape measure, and my Internet auction skills are in action.
First off, hats off to Habitat for Humanity ReStores. If you ever need anything that goes in a house and don't mind a little wear, stop in one of these stores (they're everywhere: I had no idea). While you're at it, throw a few things in your car to donate while you're there.
I have been to about six salvage warehouses in the last week. If you see me coming with a tape measure, lock your door because if anything you own fits, I'll unscrew it and throw it in my truck. I still have a few things I'm tracking down.
One of this week's missions was a big sink that will look nice on the main floor of the shop. Both the sink and its most awesome base (below) came from separate Craigslist listings. A little customizing by my contractor and some touchup refinishing by me next week and the sink & base will be perfect. I also hunted down some great display tables for the shop and a very odd surprise for later.
Still to find: Some cheap, great light fixtures, a table/thing for the coffee pot, and two little round cafe tables. And whatever else shows up that begs to be a part of the space. A lot of the time I just walk around these stores with an open mind and let that great thing find me. The challenge is finding both the size AND the style that works. Oh, and the price. It would be quite easy to go buy these things new, but, uh, that's not really an option. It's like great wine: You can get it for a hundred bucks a bottle, but that's not an option. Nor is drinking crummy wine.
It's more work, but I have to admit, I have always thoroughly enjoyed a good bout of dumpster diving. Again, watch out for me and my tape measure this month.
I think we hauled out over six flatbed loads of this stuff. I was taking some measurements yesterday afternoon and realized that the walls are at least four inches from where they used to be. The post below shows the first day when we attacked the ceiling, floor and east wall, but over the next few days we moved on...
When I say "we" I mean the demo team. I mostly stared at whatever was newly exposed and tried to process what needed to happen with it next. While I don't need to do all of the things I'm planning this instant, the final design drives all the decisions being made now about what to take out and what to leave. Those decisions included everything from lighting to walls and stairs, and in one case, floors.
One of the more interesting plans involved the attic space. I had no intention of doing anything with this space now - It's not necessary, and more work equals more money, so I was going to make decisions on this over the next couple of years. BUT...
Demolition is one of those things that has a "now or never" component. Removing old plaster, lath and insulation is indescribably filthy and destructive. During most of the process I couldn't be in the building. (The guys wore masks and were in general fearless warriors as boards and chunks of junk flew). When we (they) got to the attic and loft space, it was pretty much a no brainer that the b.s. "homeowner" construction additions up there should come out now.
So I had to decide WHAT that space was going to be. I had a pretty good idea and at one point was standing outside on the sidewalk looking in (away from the dust cloud), and someone else from town stopped to check it out and said, "You should take that wall out and put a railing. Like a NYC loft." I think my exact reply was, "You have to leave now." The wall is out and I picked up a railing detail at the local junk shop during a dust break.
Today... I think was my most anticipated day of this entire process. The demolition team arrived and started to peel away the layers of weird previous renovations.
I don't know the history of this building yet, but I plan to get to the historical society very soon to find as many of its former uses as they know. I, uh, do know that the black paint there was for this lovely building's two-day stint as a strip club. The former DJ booth upstairs will be my office. Maybe I'll keep a couple of the 8-tracks for fun.
Above the dropped ceiling we found the original bead-board ceiling in very good shape. I'll keep the giant cargo hoist-hook in it for my hanging break chair. The east brick wall is fantastic and just needs to be cleaned. The flooring (maple, we think) is beat up and patched, as anticipated, but I think I'll add some more patches, sand & seal, and call it rustic.
The demo team did all of this in one day. Tomorrow they'll be back to finish revealing the brick wall and finish removing a light-blocking interior wall. And then the new construction starts. Some lumber, some patching, some sanding, some drywall, some paint, and a lot of wiring. For now.
Ready for the demolition guys!
What's above that dropped ceiling? What's under the carpet? What's behind the wallboard? Stay tuned!
ESP Pottery is moving to 58 Main Street, Stafford Springs, Connecticut!
This past week's checklist:
1. Buy a building
2. Make plans
Ok, I've actually been planning and working on this for almost two years, but at last I can announce it!
Renovation begins next week and I will announce an opening date as soon as possible. We'll be in the shop on the left in the picture. Isn't it gorgeous? If you haven't been to Stafford Springs yet, you will love it. It's a classic, charming small New England mill town main street in the heart of a rebirth. (That means the artists are moving in!)
Plans are that you'll be able to watch me work there on the main floor, come in and chat, and browse ALL of my pottery. Downstairs will be a full working studio for students! I'm shooting for a Fall opening for classes and will announce more on that as the work progresses.
I'll be posting a ton of renovation pictures, so come back often. (The inside is... well, it needs a lot of work. You'll see.)
In the meantime, you are welcome to stop by! I'll be there most days hovering while the guys work. If I'm not there, please feel free to bring them coffee! And words of love and encouragement.