I am always doing that which I cannot do in order that I may learn how to do it...Picasso

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Big Renovation - Part Deux


Tired and sore, my hubby and I slowly made our way downstairs to the basement that we had deconstructed into one big, intimidating mess.  The mission on day two was to seal and paint the three concrete walls and add a coat of the same high gloss white to the one and only wall of drywall in the studio.  (When we moved into the house we had only half of the basement finished so the party wall between the two spaces gives me the only drywall and by the way, the only electricity in the whole studio. ) Also on the mission plan - to seal and paint the concrete floor.

The room in total measures about 10'x26' and in an effort to minimize the distance we had to move everything we calculated that if we unloaded one side of the room into the already finished area or the basement, painted and sealed the walls and floor on the empty side, then we could leave that to dry overnight and come back and do the ceiling the next day.  Then we could move everything on the other side of the center beam to the finished side and repeat the process before rearranging the furniture and loading all the supplies back in.  So we were going to work in 10'x13' sections. 

Before starting, we had gone to Home Depot and purchased a standard, water-based concrete sealant and a bright white latex paint made for concrete surfaces.  The foundation of the house is 12 years old so we were certain it had completed it's curing process and was not going to sweat, causing it to take forever to dry.  That also meant that it would take only one coat of each to get the results we were looking for.

Initially we thought we were going to knock this right out with rollers but we discovered that the uneven texture of the walls required us to apply it with a brush.  We used 4" brushes with course bristles because the application required a lot of dappling.  I take that back - we pounded that sealant into those friggin' walls.

Fortunately by the time we had made our way around the room the sealant was dry enough to apply the paint so it was a pretty round robin work process.  Once the bright white paint was applied to the dry wall and the concrete I was suddenly less tired than I was at the beginning of the day.  The first glimpse of the vision was taking shape and I could see where we were going.

Beautiful SHINY  walls!

Now the process had to be repeated with the floor.  We did not use the same products on the floor as we did the walls.  Once again, Home Depot had a generic brand of sealant specific to floors that came in basic primer colors.  Since I had chosen a light silver grey for the floor we got a grey sealant/primer.  Both products were water based allowing for clean up that required nothing but water.  I don't know how much experience any of you have with unsealed concrete floors but let me explain that you can broom sweep a floor like this, fill a dustpan and go back right away and do it again and get the same full dustpan as before.  It is a never, never ending source of grey dust and added to that, the accumulated particles from the dust generating work I do  and we had to force ourselves to accept that the primer was not going to be applied to a pristine floor.  This time we used rollers on a pole, which gave us the leverage we needed to  force the stuff into the texture of the floor.  However, the products for the floor were thicker and  packed with adhesives causing the drying process to take twice as long.  Our schedule was now thrown off and being the control freak that I am, I found myself in deep despair.  My husband and chief slave worker was only off from work for a week.  I panicked that we would fall behind and not finish the project before the hub had to return to the job.  It's not easy being neurotic.

A note on the floor.  I wanted to put down one of those sparkly floors with the metallic speckles so it would be a little fancier.  Those floors are epoxy.  The helpful guy at Home Depot (can you believe we found someone there that was not only helpful but knew what the hell he was talking about!) explained that a) we would die from the fumes given we were in a badly ventilated basement and b) it was over 100 degrees outside with 1000 percent humidity and c) it would cost us about 3 times as much money.  Those techniques, he explain, are designed for garages and smaller, ventilated spaces.  I didn't need sparkly glitter bits that badly.  Imagine what that would have done to my schedule neurosis, never mind my wallet.

                                 Floor with primer...                               Finished off with the silver grey paint

At last!  One half of the studio was completely painted - both walls and floor.  With another day's work accomplished I left the job that day feeling very differently than I had the day before.  I could see a vision materializing.  I had imagined for years what I would do if I could renovate this space.  I dreamed of something clean and bright.  A place I wanted to be, not just because it was where my beloved work was but because the room made me feel poised, together, comfortable - like someone who could take it to the next level.

Next week:  the despised and dreaded ceiling.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Big Renovation - In The Beginning

The commitment to go through every single piece and thing in my wet studio (as opposed to where I make jewelry and anything else that does not require water which I call the dry studio) was a major one and something I was not going to do unless I was comfortable with the idea of growing with my business.  Dark, sometimes dank and completely unattractive the space I had cobbled together was one that I could work in that got the job done.  Ugly as it was, once I settled in and got lost in the work, I didn't really notice that it was a dusty as the lonely trail down there and a little like sitting in the rooms that hide under the double doors in the sidewalks of NYC.

A little history...  This work space started as a little area for me to pursue a hobby that I had taken up when my son started school, to occupy a little free time with something artistic and creative.  Having come from a life in the performing arts, shutting off that part of myself all at once when my son was born was a shock to the system.  I needed to get some of myself back.  Ironically, my first workbench was the Ikea changing table we had purchased on Long Island for our Queens apartment where we lived when Dakota was born.  When we moved on from Brooklyn to Rockland County, I tossed all the baby furniture - except that changing table.  It looked to me like it could be re-purposed in a creative way.  I am a prophet.

At the onset of this project, we were cursed by an oppressive heat wave with days in the high 90s and up to 100 degrees on one of our work days.  The very first thing we did before beginning any work was run to Home Depot for a small window air conditioner that we installed in a small window in the dry studio.  May I say it was the best $129.00 we spent on the whole renovation?

I began the photo record of this process after I had started the clean up and move out process so understand that though it was nasty down there, it was neat (anyone who knows me knows that anywhere I am could be filthy but I am neat as a pin).  I wanted to show you the rawness of the space I was working in and how rustic my environment was while trying to create something beautiful.

Here you can see the raw concrete walls and the catch-as-catch-can clutter of supplies.  The grey cement sucked up all the light and was dreary as a hole in the ground - which actually it is as it is the foundation of my house!

The rack to the right in the photo holds all the boxes and trays of my shards, glass, tiles and the small objects  that I use in my piquet assiette work (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piquet_assiette).  Many of those boxes held materials from some of the first work that I did years ago and hadn't been even considered for use in about 10 years.

To the right of the plastic cabinet in the background is my sink and to the right of that, the culmination of all my waste water pipes and sewage drain.  The large garbage can on the left is my slop bucket where I dump waste water from my tools and bowls when I clean the concrete and grout from them.  If you allow all that to go down the sink, after a while you will cement your pipes closed.  The table is my main and favorite work table which was a roadside pickup.  I love that it is round.

The table that the boom box is on is the mother of my work, the changing table. On top of the bookcase is a jumble of broken chairs, future armatures and other assorted, collected detritus. The clip lights have been a part of another cobbled together system that has been my lighting grid for several years now

My dear, supportive husband took a week off from work to help me with the major construction parts of the renovation and this is him, up on the ladder, stuffing some of the insulation that was falling down on my head back into place.  There are those beeeuuutiful concrete walls again.

The unloading process was arduous and a lot more stuff was put in the trash because when you have to pick it up and move it, you really begin to question its value.  On my first pass, I think I tossed about 8 or 9 full contractor bags of stuff.  In the moving process I may have doubled that.

My husband in the emptied out room preparing the walls and floor for sealing.  The big hole you see is a crawl space we use for storage but frankly, at night there are any number of vampire/zombie type creatures that could emerge from that darkness.  Please notice the insulation once again and the piece of tape dangling there, the remains of an effort to keep it up where it belongs.

After a long 10 hour day one last look back at the mess that will be there for us tomorrow to deal with.  Covered in dust and sweaty from hard work in one of the multiple, oppressive heat waves that  have set upon us this summer we went upstairs for a shower and a glass of Big Ass Cab.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Big New Vision

I've spent a lot of time and energy researching how to take NellsBelles from Etsy and a few local specialty shops to the higher end, custom market that I have longed to work in.  Craft work has made me reduce my work to small, accessible objects - frames, vases, trays and small memory jars.  I have enjoyed this work and take pleasure in the  happiness these items have imparted to their buyers.  Yet when I began this work I was doing on site installations, and larger pieces like coffee tables, lamps, stairways.  My work lives best large.  It is easier to tell my stories and the boldness of the individual objects speak more as a chorus and less like a solo.
Working Small in the Craft Market

In my never ending cyber education, I have explored the universe of e-commerce and the world of digital integration.  Using social media and more importantly, doing the things that one needs to do in order to work one's way to the top of Google searches.  This includes using "keywords" in product descriptions, social media posts, blogs, twitter, et al.  I have isolated a few artists that seem to be very adept at the art of e-business and I have studied their practices.  Along with this, and after what seems to be exhaustive research, I have narrowed my search for a company to build a custom website and organize my promotion, press - digital integration, to a couple of organization.  I am favoring a company called Clickzy, located in Alexandria, Virginia (a turf I am well acquainted with BTW).  My goal is to establish a business, locally (New York City is a big "locally") whereby I can have a moderate but loyal clientele who will turn to me for custom artistic mosaic home items and envision my Vintage Assemblage jewelry for that perfect dress for that special occasion.  Custom, custom, custom. 

This vision is evolving everyday.  I'm excited, invigorated and very tired.  In the mean time, it has occurred to me that in order to follow this new dream, new and improved work spaces are necessary.  Next up:  The Big Renovation. 

Working Big