Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Farm Store/Art Studio

Purple Backside (view of the back of Tony Yakos' barn), 2006, Oil on Panel, 11x14

For the last six months or so, I have been obsessed with getting a larger studio space. I am driving my husband crazy with this. I show him drawings I've made of how I could set up a studio in the attic or the garage or even the barn. It really is comical to even discuss it at this point since we cannot afford it. Doug took a paycut to join a start up company and he is working hard to make a profit with his retail store in Soho. My income covers my expenses and I am trying to save whatever is extra, which is not much.

Doug is currently trying to humor me by agreeing that we could consider renovating our garage (on the cheap), which is currently a crappy half tin building attached to the back corner of our house. I am elated to have this project, you see how I have turned his consideration into a project? Our property used to be a dairy farm and was owned by a colorful character named Tony Yakos. As Tony got a bit older and worked a bit less in the fields he built the garage and ran a farm store out of it. Often when people find out where we live, (it's still the Yakos' place-it won't be the Miller's place unless we live here for at least 30 years) they have a story about when they were a kid they would ride their bikes up and buy popcorn (he had a popcorn machine) and candy from Tony. He sold farm supplies like gloves, feeders, and tools, but mostly he sat at a counter, smoking a cigar and pontificating about the meaning of life and what to feed chickens.

The building has a metal roof, one window, a glass door leading to the back patio and in the summer, it still smells like a barn. The garage door openings are too small for our cars. I can park inside, if I am careful, and if Doug folds in his side mirrors and slowly inches in, he can fit, but normally he just parks outside. The building is not insulated and I often store frozen food out there in the winter. As a garage it's only good for keeping the snow off the car and the rest of the junk that we keep in there. So we are going to give it up this great luxury and start my project that will probably take at least a year to complete.

Our friend and contractor, Steve, thinks we can make it into a studio. The structure is pretty sturdy, and despite needing to add windows, rebuild walls, insulate, heat, and possibly level the concrete floor, remodeling this structure will cost significantly less that putting up a new building. Doug and I (and our 16 year old slave, oops, I mean son) will also do much of the work ourselves. Again, comical. But this summer, we will empty all of our stuff out, and strip the interior of Tony's eclectic country store furnishings, including the wood paneling straight out of the 70's, the orange indoor/outdoor carpeting, the red barn wood, and mustard colored pegboard wall.

I am liking the idea of having all of this history in my new studio. As much as I would prefer to have a studio with separate rooms for messy and clean work, soaring high ceilings, a sink, wood floors, I will be thrilled having almost 1000 square feet, north light and more storage space. And surely, my work will benefit from Tony's spirit.

As long as we can get rid of the barn smell. I really must keep some of my high standards.


Martha said...

Glad your photos are posting again-- I love to see your work when I visit. My studio is a converted garage, and it's not half bad. Throw in a couple of skylights, get the floor working, some form of heat, et voils! Larger space, all your own. Okay. Not that simple. But good luck on your project. Half of it is determination, and alas the other half is money. I'm with you. I have an imaginary studio in the owrks, but it will be a looong time before we can manage it.

Tracy Helgeson said...

Ahhh. Skylights, that sounds so nice. Not possible in my garage unfortunately. I envy you!