Despite being in the trades for a good spell (and an enjoyable one at that) – I had never built a fully independent structure and been responsible for all design & execution from the foundation to the ridge vent. A box or two – maybe some dog house repair – but never applying my hands to make something tangible, and quite permanent, from a great big pile of wood stuff.
I do plan to detail the adventures of the current Whimsical Shed Project – but it is important to convey that, in fact, my current obsession is an offspring~ more aptly stated ~ the brethren of a catalyst of confidence. Like its closest relative – the afore-pictured shed was invoked into being by salvage as I was offered a generous stack of 2x6s destined to be left behind as the home owners climbed the ladder of success straight out of the predictable sash of their suburban colonial and up into a vastly more expensive and well-mullioned enclave a few miles, and pay grades, south. I took everything my truck would manage, and even the material it couldn’t. The core boards were dense, weighty, pressure treated, twelve to fourteen footers that made me feel like I was slinging a few telephone poles on my back, walking slowly down the street, while being fully cognizant that my pants were starting to fall down. My machine was non-too-pleased & I am sure any modicum of remaining truckly pride was ground into dust when I flipped on the hazard lights on the way home.
I will always embrace any excuse to scour local haunts for any material castaways. I have gone so far as to wonder that I invent this madness if only to find a “reason” to go trash picking. “Oh – look at that fantastic 4 paneled oak door – do you realize how old that is?” I would loudly exclaim to the kids, already embarrassed by my slow drive- by as they eagerly seek methods to camouflage against the back seat cushions and away from the sympathetic eyes of bystanders. Such is the draw of re-use and the unwavering belief that no respectable New Englander should ever stand idly by to see a perfectly usable material or item carted off to the dump.
I am sure there are a number of readers that, upon such a proclamation, would assume they would come to my home to observe my wind sculpture constructed of those little plastic sliced turkey containers, or contemplating the merits of indexing my collection of slightly worn wood screws on an 8ft throne of National Geographic magazines – but nay – it has not reached such Oprah level proportions.
My weakness, however, is definitely and unequivocally, wood. Wood can be re-shaped and re-imagined well beyond its original intent. There is a natural heft & longevity to its purpose and, give the choice, believe it would prefer to hang around this planet a bit longer in respectable form instead of being crushed under the weight of cultural disposable. Under this premise, this would afford a wonderful opportunity to ascend to the nearest podium, to pontificate on the inherent artistry & nuance of grain. But as an urban reclamation specialist, more often than not, each find tends to be swaddled tightly in a multitude of acrylic or oil blankets. However, as I can publicly confess that the addition of armors exponentially, if not permanently, postpones their re-entry into the mainstream of decor with a new identity. I look at the painted artifact sitting in the corner of the garage and have every honest intention of completing my initial stripping commitments – but seem to find every available redirection to focus on other endeavors. I tend to wait so long that even the paint tires of the inertia, and decides to find its own way to the ground.
Not surprisingly, I have wandered off the path a bit – so permit me while I steer into alignment.
So upon receipt of my boards, and a few productive weeks of material patrol – I found myself staring at an erratic, disjointed pile of rudderless parts. A healthy multi-paned door. 2 disparate over & under window frames. Plywood,some too short 4x4s – and a very random commercial soda cooler shaped and branded like an over-sized version of can itself. It was so random – I have since forgotten the name of this now defunct beverage…which is quite an accomplishment in memory loss& insignificance for someone like me that rarely forgets even the most trifling detail of cultura-pop-obscura. The pinnacle of this assembly, however, was a small 2×3 1920s stained glass window I had purchased (gasp) at a multi-dealer antique shop in Maine for about 10 bucks, maybe a decade hence. It would be my emperor, my salvage-king over all other subservient and undistinguished salvage citizenry.
I had no plans – no diagrams – no Yankee Workshop patrons to guide me – let alone a consistent set of materials or the simple blessing of uniformity in sizings.
I have often been accused of possessing an unrelenting and obsessive form of creative unrest. Rarely do I adhere, or return to, the comforts of the artistically familiar beyond my root appendages of music, photography and doodling a face I have been making for as I long as I can remember. I tend to leap first, plan later, in a flailing mess of arms and motion. This sense of adventure manifests in equal parts of surprisingly pleasing work vs. completely amateur creations that would struggle to win honorable mention at the local 5th grade art show. Sketching. Carving. Painting. Shaping. Building. Wood. Stone. Canvas. Paper. Clay. It’s all fodder for the grist. Expand upon this palette to include architectural salvage, old machinery, attics finds, and ephemera – and you have the arsenal of a madman.
Interestingly, this discipline of chaos was well suited to the challenge before me. When I stepped back and took in the expanse of moving parts – I truly felt it was nothing more than a ballooned creative endeavor of greater intricacy, and as such, requiring greater precision & urgency in execution. It became an evolution of supplies. With the basics I mapped each wall on paper – and translated the outline to available material. For specialized finds, a door or window, the designed flowed up, in reverse,, and stemmed from the rigid and predefined requirements of a solid object. Sprinkle in a welcomed dose of mathematical logic & calculation – and I was on the march.
The result was a fine outbuilding – approx 10ftx12ft and capped at the gable peak with the aforementioned stained glass deco remnant. To complete the entranceway, I scoured through the Ice Age granite debris strewn about the yard and found a suitable, somewhat rectangular stout, stone, and flipped it with the back-breaking patience of moving an iron manhole covered across a spring softened farm field. Upon competition – I had the incredibly naive notion that I would establish this location as my very own Walden – and friends and family would find me tucked in the far corner of my suburban landscape scribing a moving Transcendentalist tome in front of the saved, and appreciative, over and under glass. But, as realities dictate, the iron rake and seasonal umbrella found such confines vastly more to their liking and took control by eminent domain.
Regardless – it was a lesson in creative possibility as the excercise expanded the boundaries of the ill-defined. From its experience, I realize that the persistent thoughts of construct could actually be brought out of my restless mind and tethered to the ground.