studio building - almost there

We. Are. So. Close!  The last few weeks of work on the studio have been huge and exciting.  Nathan and I have adjusted to a "new way" - one where we actually hire out some big parts of the process. For the last three years, we've literally place every brick and nailed every piece of wood ourselves.  We wanted to get the wood kiln just right (and the kiln shed, and the showroom, and the tractor shed, and . . .)  all the while making decisions as we went.  In some ways, much of it was work that only we could do.

But when it comes to things like dense-pack cellulose, hanging and finishing drywall, even doing a large scale paint job - well, sure, we could have tackled the learning curve and done it ourselves.  As the saying goes "You can do anything.  But you can't do everything."

So with lots of pottery-related things to do before we get to potting and firing, we decided to hire these big jobs out.  After all, these folks are pros- they do this every day, more efficiently and expertly than we could have.  And we (most likely) make pots better than they do.  That's our job.

That said, meet Alex and Matt.  These are the awesome guys behind Central Vermont Insulation (Bethel, VT), who did the tough and dusty work of crawling around on planks in our ceiling to dense pack cellulose insulation into the rafter bays, the drop ceiling, and the diagonal wall cavities.

We actually hung the foil faced foam on the underside of the rafters with a couple of friends, strapped it, and they came around with typar and netting and sprayed the recycled newspaper + borate into the bays.

We ended up very insulated - much more than our old house, in fact!  We can't believe how well the building holds heat and warmth from sunshine.  (Wait, why isn't this our house??) :)

Next up: Cal and Dennis of Cal's Custom Drywall (Braintree, VT) hung nearly 3000 square feet of sheetrock up, down, and all around the building.

It was amazing to watch them work - the tricks and skills these guys have were better than anything we could have hoped for.  They did an absolutely beautiful job, all the while laughing in disbelief tolerating at the antics of our dog running off with their tools, coffee mugs, and lunch boxes.  (Mmm hmm.  He's a nut.)

Meanwhile, Nathan and I worked on framing an interior wall for the utility room below the stairs.  Our rough-cut hemlock framing doubles as adjustable pottery storage. (More on that later.)

Soon, Dick Ratico the electrician (Solar Wind Electric, Bradford, VT) and Tim (Brownelle Plumbing, Norwich, VT), will get all the necessary panels and water heaters installed in the space behind this wall.

(I LOVE this as the back of my studio!)

With the drywall done, and the first phase of interior walls complete, we spent a day cleaning out the building of our tools and tables and staging and accumulated stuff to ready for the next and nearly last phase.

It feels so good to see it all cleaned up and emptied out . . . full of promise.

And as of this week, Gerry Vargo and his crew (Braintree, VT) are cutting, rolling, and spraying this building crisp and clean white.  (With one little color surprise to be unveiled later!)

While we probably could have made pots in here once we were insulated, we are pretty sure we'll never regret having all of this big, messy work done BEFORE we move in.  I can't imagine moving and covering all of our stuff once our potting was underway.  And we probably could have done the painting (actually, we love painting) - but who would cut and sand the ware boards, or scrape and clean our kiln shelves, or teach pottery class, or cut the wood for the upcoming firing?

In short, we are very happy with our choices, and full of gratitude for the folks who've helped us get here.  And we are in awe of the beauty of this structure.

We just can't quite believe this is our life's work space . . . . . . and that we'll be making pottery in just a few days' time.

~Becca

studio building - little things and big things

We are in total studio building immersion these days.  Despite the tiniest indications of spring, the weather in Vermont has continued to be wintery and cold, adding to the sense that we are in some kind of crazy time-warp where we are always building and it is always winter.

We've gotten a lot done, though!

The last few weeks have been punctuated by some very big things (a concrete floor! the last door installed! wiring! stairs! a heat source!), and some little things.  First the little things: the gable ends got finished - photo above.  (No more staring at purlin overhangs and the underside of our metal roofing.)  We also made soffit/vent boards out of pine and bits of screen for the eaves, and installed them.  (OK, we haven't totally finished the south side . . . but progress, nonetheless.)

Nathan continued trimming the underside of our windows, and we worked inside to fill the smallest triangles with rigid foam so our cellulose installer will have less hassle.

Nathan has also been busy with the foam gun - using the expanding stuff to seal the edges of the triangles and rafter bays (in pink, below), while I trim it back where necessary.

We insulated the entire cupola with rigid foil-faced foam for the highest possible r-value - in a space where a lot of our heat is likely to rise.  (Until we get a ceiling fan, that is!)

We also roughed in the wiring in the parts of the studio that will soon be buried in cellulose insulation.  We're still running off extension cords for now, but soon we'll have outlets for pottery wheels and tools!  And overhead lights, entry fixtures, and switches in all the right places.  Even a motion sensor that will kick on for those dark evening trips to the studio to attend to drying pottery.

Here's the big picture on the first floor - which will be our primary "making" area.  It's about 800 square feet.  (And yes, still very much a "work zone!")

But enough about the small stuff.  (OK, maybe you can't call any of that "small" stuff - but you can argue that the next parts of the project are a lot more exciting. :)

We completed the pick-up and installation of a new-to-us wood stove!  (Made, incidentally, by Vermont Castings, whose plant is less than a mile from our house.  Yay local.)  It's so nice to have a source of heat in the building - although insulation will make it a lot more effective! ;) Nathan worked diligently at installing all the components of our metal asbestos chimney- which begins way down on the first floor and reaches through the peak of the roof and up past the cupola.  The wood stove will be our main source of heat until the radiant system is hooked up, which likely won't be until next heating season.

But it wouldn't really make sense to light up a fire without first closing in the building completely - during a mid-March snow storm no less.  (And to think last year it was 80-degrees at this time of year!)

After some additional framing was completed in the rough opening, the last of the siding was installed under the awning, and the door went in and got trimmed out in record time.  It's so nice to have the last (south) side of the building complete from the outside!

Next up on the list of big accomplishments: stairs!!  We can now walk between floors of our studio without traipsing through the snow, mud, or any combination of the two.

Oooh, boy, are we excited about these winding beauties!  (Thanks to Bob for all the tricky math. :)

There are still lots of little things to do - and at least one major thing before we can get to making pottery - insulation!  We are used to working in the cold at this point, but we'd rather our freshly-thrown pots didn't freeze overnight. ;)  (We've been through that before.)  Here's a preview of the next insulation stage, during which our entire upstairs will shine like a new rocket ship . . .

. . . to be followed closely by dense-pack cellulose in the walls and ceiling . . . and a big 'ole drywall job!

Counting the days until we get to make pottery!  (Will we remember how??)

Happy Spring,

~Becca

studio building - a smooth studio floor

Just yesterday, our studio floor got a whole lot more hospitable to actual pottery making.  It wasn't very long ago, though, that the first floor of our studio looked like this:

Yikes.  These days, it's easy to forget how much ledge we worked around to get this building out of the ground!  A couple of weeks ago, it was looking like this inside:

And then Nathan and the guys got busy with the sub-floor foam insulation and tubing for our eventual radiant heat, and things started to look like this:

With the tubing installed atop four inches of insulation, we lined up the crew to manage the pour, and waited for the timing to be right.  As it turns out, by the time we were ready, our road had been "posted" - prohibiting trucks over a certain weight limit- most definitely including concrete trucks- for travel.  (During mud season, as we call it in New England, the messy thaw between winter and spring can make the unpaved roads downright impassable, with ruts so deep, you could lose a small car in them.) Gulp.

Fortunately, we were able to work with our town (thank you, Bethel, VT!) to get a temporary waiver for a very cold morning when the ground- and our yard, for that matter- would be frozen enough to handle two 80,000 pound concrete trucks.  We were good to go.

The crew was here by 7 am, and the two trucks got across the yard without a hitch, thanks to a nine-degree night.  The heavy loads were emptied and the trucks were gone before even the slightest thaw began that day.

The crew was great.  It didn't take long for the initial leveling and scree work to be done.  I set the anchor bolts for the sill plates around the door in the front, and the waiting began.  The crew spent the entire day smoothing and polishing the surface in several intervals as the concrete set.  They didn't pull out of here until 8pm, with a light snow falling all around.

The building stayed warm enough over night, and by morning, we had a hard surface showing good signs of drying and curing.  We'll score the floor tomorrow (to prevent cracking), and start work in the building again on Tuesday.  Having this piece finished is HUGE - now we can proceed with the lower door, and connect the two levels with stairs.  Needless to say, I am very excited about this . . .

~Becca

 

bitter cold and the thing we said we'd never do

This was supposed to be a post about how we'd finished the siding on our new studio.  Instead, it's a post about something altogether different, something we swore on multiple occasions that we would never do: we made a studio in our house.

{very chilly building & very frozen eyelashes}

A prolonged and bitter cold snap in our region prompted some rethinking of our path.  Our main goal of the winter has been - and still is - to get the new shell of a studio ready for pottery making.  Winter, however, has had other ideas.  With the out-of-doors practically inhospitable (we're talking days that don't reach above single digits with sub-zero wind chills and 50 mph gusts), we found ourselves INSIDE.

There is still plenty of what we call "G.C." (general contractor) work to do on our part, and we've certainly been at it - educating ourselves on our insulation options, getting bids on said insulation, discussing our plans for radiant floor heat with a plumber, researching said systems, procuring floor drains, and the rest of the pieces of our as-yet-to-be-poured concrete floor on the lower level - we've been staying focused on studio planning, if not physically building.

But with the days and weeks ticking by (how is it almost February?!), we were feeling a bit antsy about the time and number of pieces it takes to fill our wood kiln.  And thus the unthinkable happened: we moved our wheels out of storage and into an upstairs bedroom of our 160-year old farmhouse.

I'm sure there of those of you who are thinking, "Well, what were you waiting for?  You had unused space that could have possibly been construed as a studio?!" A fair question. (You might also wonder why we have an unused room in our house - short answer: the upstairs has been awaiting a much needed renovation.  And not just a lets-make-it-prettier reno; there are actual holes in the walls from a previous project, and asbestos-containing insulation in the eaves. Not to mention Nathan brushes the top of his head on the drop ceiling.  So, yeah, we haven't been living up there much.)

It would seem obvious, on some level, though, that after years of trucking our pottery home from our rented space, we wouldn't just do this in the first place.  Oh, but we had our reasons, and some of them are good.  The chief reason NOT to put a studio in our not-so-large house is DUST. Clay dust is insidious, and can cause serious health problems when inhaled.   If we're not neat about it, it gets on our shoes and clothes and up our forearms - and is then sprinkled imperceptibly but insidiously through our living space.

This time we promised ourselves we'll keep it neat.  Very neat.  As in, one pair of studio shoes that stays in the studio.  No clay on our clothes.  Plastic on the floor.  Wipe up clay while it's still wet.  So far so good.

Truth be known, it's pretty delightful to put a meal in the oven, a log in the wood stove, stream some podcast of some kind, and just mosey on up the stairs to work, with the puppy/dog to make trouble keep us company at the top of the stairs.

We're keeping things small (or so we tell ourselves) - there isn't much room to really produce plates or large bowls, (heck, there's not even room for us both to turn around carrying a board of pots) so we'll stick to small numbers of things that take time and attention.

For now, it's keeping us busy while the arctic wind blows, satisfying our need to make, and getting us just a little bit closer to our next wood firing.  We will, however, be back on that building just as soon as it warms a bit!

I continue to chuckle at how Making A Plan (I believe my exact words were "the next pottery we make will be in our new studio") is the very best way to get Something Else to happen. :)

{looking out from our temporary studio to our future studio . . . <3)

Stay Warm,

~Becca

 

 

studio building : framing and roofing

Last week was a cold, but very sunny stretch here.  We were able to make big progress, nearly completing the diagonal framing, including these beautiful gable ends.  (Sort of reminds us of the windows at the Stone Mountain Arts Center!)

This past week also brought the installation of our first windows!!  We can't get over the view from up there . . . and the way the cupola adds to the building.  We love it all.

We even got the roof done!  (Good news because we've had a very winter-y mix of weather in the days since.)  Nice to be all buttoned up on top . . . kudos to the roof crew - Nathan, Bob, Caleb, and George.  I stayed firmly 'grounded' and passed panels, closures, caulk, screws, flashing, fascia boards, and ridge cap their way over the course of two and a half days.  (Feels GREAT to be done with that portion of things, and loving how the gray color ties in with all our other buildings!)

We are hoping to wrap this new studio up (like a giant present!) this weather-filled week, install windows and maybe even doors, start some siding (?!?) and finish a couple of other details before the holiday.

We are excited for the things still to come: a slab floor downstairs, insulation in the roof and walls, cozy radiant heat, and, oh, making pottery.  Soon!

~Becca

 

studio building : ten days in

It's really quite hard to believe we're only ten days into building.  (With wood, that is!)  It is amazing what can be accomplished when you combine time, drive, passion, skill, experience, determination - and the threat of impending winter!

This past week brought many productive days, during which we put the purlins onto the rafters, as well as framed for- and built- a cupola.  (The floor with ladder hole (below) is just a temporary platform from which we built the cupola, whose main purpose, besides adding a bit of visual interest to the building, is to flood the new showroom and the upstairs with natural light.)

The views from up there are AMAZING!  (And we thought our kiln chimney was tall.)  We sort of wish it could become a reading nook or some such thing, but hey, the aforementioned natural light wins out for now.  Plus, we can't wait to be throwing pottery at our wheels on the ground level, and look up through the opening in the floor straight up to the sky!

We were also pleased to begin some diagonal framing, an aspect which makes George's buildings very unique.  Instead of putting the studs at right angles, he cuts them at 45 degrees.  They remain 16" on center, which meets building code, but creates a rigid and economical structure, and eliminates the need for sheathing - saving money and lots of toxic glues.

We enjoyed learning more about the process of diagonal framing, and appreciated the many years of experience George brings to this approach.  (He has a good head for math, as you can imagine!)  It is a beautiful end result, one which uses far less lumber than a conventional structure, and will contribute to less overall setting of the cellulose insulation we plan to blow into the wall cavities.

Nathan and George also took some time to build a reverse gable on the north wall. (photo below)  There will be entry doors there, into the showroom, and we wanted to ensure the snow sheds well.  We also think it makes for an appealing entrance!

If all goes well, this next week will bring framing of the lower level (where our workshops will be), roofing (metal), cupola windows and siding, and perhaps wrap!  We are also looking forward to windows and doors and eventually - before Christmas?! - ship lap siding.  Wow!

It's funny how hard it is to reflect on this project in a bigger sense - we're so deep IN it now.  I'm sure reflection will come later . . . but there are plenty of moments when we come up for air, take it all in, and feel downright giddy at the prospect of working in this gorgeous space, on our land, towards our shared passion.  Having the chickens clucking and scratching about the yard is more than just scenic - it's a nice, grounding feeling - that we're headed in the right direction - towards our "pottery farm!"

~Becca

P.S. We've decided last minute to have a Holiday Open Studio and Sale next weekend, December 15th, from 11 am 'till 4pm.  Hope you can join us!And yes, we'll be most certainly giving tours of the new studio!

building with wood

With our concrete foundation work behind us (yay!), the structure of our studio is coming together quickly.  Just seven days into building with wood, and we're pleased to say we've got rafters up!  The pace and intensity of the project has left us with little time for much beyond building, sleeping, laundry, cooking, eating . . . not much energy left for writing!  And thus, we share mostly photos here today, and the musings of our builder, Mr. George Abetti.

"We started this studio a couple of days before Thanksgiving after the intrepid couple did the entire foundation themselves assisted part time by some willing and available friends.  I must say I marvel at their courage--with me staying away from concrete with a passion only matched by love for building with wood....hmmmmm...probably an integral connection there somewhere. 

Both Becca and Nathan are experienced carpenters and indefatigable workers--which is what allowed us to work out a mutually agreeable arrangement where I would run them and as many willing friends as a crew for a few weeks to get the main shell up with roof, windows and doors and leave the siding to them.  We were doubly blessed at the serendipitous timing of two wonderful guys wanting to consider Geobarn careers calling to ask to work for free for a couple of weeks just to experience this kind of work....so yes....be our guests!  John and Charles--we humbly thank you.  (Yes, thanks, guys!  We are very grateful for your help.)

The building is quite creative--timbered with massive hemlock posts, our typical free span floor system--and incorporating both gallery and working spaces on both levels accessible from either below or above.  The views are magnificent and even though the weather has turned quite cold--their passion and energy (and high energy parents and home cooked meals) have all contributed to keeping us warm, well fed and filled with energy for the task at hand.  We finished the upper beam in spite of some tough site conditions and were overjoyed to have their wonderful excavators back fill the trenches and even hoist a few of the heaviest beams into place that we were otherwise struggling to carry up hill and wrestle into place onto the 7' kneewall....

Nathan and Becca cut all the rafters while I prepped the upper beam with her dad with layout, blocking, gussets and some diagonal framing to stabilize the upper level prior to the roof system....when it essentially becomes equivalent to a large sail ready to fly away in the high winds if not well anchored down--and this is a VERY windy hill as we discovered yesterday when our ladders not only blew over but flew out of the building.... the cold took its toll on us today--we have worked most days into the dark but today when the sun began to set we all looked at each other and agreed that going inside was the glorious thing to do. - George"

We returned to building Saturday morning . . . and in a snowstorm, we began to assemble and hoist rafters!  Despite the snow and cold, we had great success.

We are very happy potters!

Stay tuned - there is so much more to come . . . we can hardly stand it.

~Nathan and Becca

studio walls are forming . . .

The past couple of weeks since our pottery studio footing pour have been epic.  (Wait, I've been using that word a lot lately . . . hmm.)  The work of forming our foundation walls with the heavy aluminum forms we borrowed from a friend was just plain hard work!  The learning curve has been steep, to say the least.  Wrapping our brains around form ties, re-bar patterns, slumps, drops, release agents, you name it, it's all been new.

Fortunately, we got off to a good start because our footing was lovely and level and square (we fussed around a lot to get it right!) making the job of marking out the form placement, holes to be drilled for vertical re-bar, etc, an easy one - but that's where 'easy' ended and the real work began.

We chose to use a relatively unknown form of foundation insulation, where the rigid foam, or "blueboard," goes INside the concrete, rather than outside or inside the building.  It's sort of like a structural insulated panel (a.k.a. SIPS), except with concrete.  They- being Thermomass, the company we used- call it "concrete sandwich technology."   I love that - gets right to the heart of it.  Four inches of concrete, four inches blueboard, four inches concrete.  Nice. And. Cozy.

We worked for many solid days on this - in the end it was about two weeks between pours.  Thankfully, we had at least two extra pairs of hands on any given day - there were so many pieces of this puzzle to keep a handle on.  It was sort of like a very large erector set, with a lot more weight - and a lot more at stake.   We were also working against a deadline - that of our builder (more on George a bit later!)  - oh, and WINTER.  No big deal. ;)

But we got it all put together in time for a mid-November, Friday morning pour.  (There were, at times, truck headlights and headlamps needed to get the job done.  Daylight savings is tough on outdoor work!)

On the morning of the pour, our good friends Zane and Alex, from whom we borrowed the forms, were on site to coordinate and assist, as was a new friend, Jim the irreverent and entertaining concrete pumper extraordinaire.  (A title he gave himself, but that we would not refute.)

One of the most interesting parts of doing this ourselves has been learning about the consistencies (or slump) of the mix.  Concrete is basically a mix of sand, stone, water, and Portland cement, and is not unlike what we used in places on our kiln's exterior.  I suppose we love these malleable, mold-able materials, and the mix needed for this wall - given all its narrow channels and re-bar and fiber spacer rods - was one that would move well in and around all the gaps, but remain strong once cured.

In the end, it took about four hours and eighteen cubic yards of concrete to fill the walls;  the pour was a big success.  There were no blow-outs, the forms didn't even creak, or pop, or send the steel wedges that hold in the pins - that hold everything together - flying through the air.  Everything remained as it should.

When the forms came off three days later (concrete is happier and stronger when it can cure slowly), the wall was a beauty.

Phew, what a job that was.  Of course we say now that we'll never do it again . . . we very well might eat our words someday.

I'm also pretty sure that someday, we'll be amazed that we pulled this off.

OK, let's be honest, that 'someday' is today . . .

~Becca

 

a solid concrete footing

This was a big day. A very big day.

We woke before sunrise, and to say I was nervous would be an understatement. I was very, very nervous. You might even say I was scared. Yup. After weeks of prep work, there would be two large and heavy loads of concrete in our backyard. We considered having someone more seasoned here with us, but we felt confident we could do it. (Well, confident BEFORE the nightmare I had where all the form boards burst open and collapsed and we were rebuilding frantically while the concrete continued to flow . . . fortunately, things went much smoother than that.)

We had two very nice truck operators, willing to accommodate us rookies, and as soon as things were underway, we were breathing a sigh of relief. (There's nothing like the need to work QUICKLY to keep a girl from worrying about the truck getting stuck, or the chute taking off one of our heads.) Nathan worked with the hoe and shovel, directing the truck and the flow, while I followed behind with the scree boards and trowel.

We got into a rhythm, and I might even say I enjoyed myself! (There was plenty of adrenaline, that's for sure.) Our forms were holding really well and the mix was stiff enough that it wasn't seeping through all the drops (step-downs). When the first truck emptied his load, the second was right behind him, and in position before we knew it, pouring the remainder of the north wall

It's a thing of beauty, isn't it?! A solid foundation from which to build our dream studio.  (Lego approves - although not as happy about the having-to-be-leashed part - but we didn't want our dog stuck in our footing.)

Now, maybe a nap before the next big phase. We'll be form building next week, and this will start to look more like a studio before we know it . . .

Happy Weekend! ~Becca