Brick and blue: a studio palette

The studio has been in some state of remodel/redesign since I moved in. No surprise there. Recently I've been working on pulling up the carpet (lots of carpet glue; slow work) and painting the floor, and generally making the space feel lighter and more finished. Hemming and hawing over colors...

For a while, sections have been a pretty strong yellow. "Butternut Squash." The thought was that, since it's a basement space with very little natural light, it needed some pretty intense color therapy to not be a depressing cave. But it turns out, it's just too overwhelming. Oppressively yellow.

Once again I start collecting paint chips. I have a whole ziploc baggie somewhere with probably a full pound of little cut out samples, but I have to start fresh for each project. This time around, the focus was mainly on blue... with a few samples of persimmon, coral (a color that's been on my mind for a while now).

The floor is going an almondy, warm white. Something bright, but not stark, with a satin finish. With only about a sixth of the floor (if that much) painted so far, it's already brighter, feels more like a legitimate space. But in need of color.

My attention has lingered frequently on the remnants of the old chimney that comes down through the middle of my space. My dad says remove it; it would open up the space so much more. And that's true, but there's something about it that I love. Between that and the dark, exposed beams, it becomes my own little (underground) New York warehouse art loft. (I've been looking for ways to restore it that don't involve caustic chemicals... have yet to find anything satisfactory.)

So, from there, I've come to a potential palette of antique brick and some sort of pale, warm or dusty blue. Not too primary, not too teal... something nuanced. Then, to Flickr for some inspiration in that vein:

Brick'n' Blue

seafoam brick


Red Bricks and Blue

bricks, seafoam green and windows

Oh, February, how you fly!

February's been trucking along at full speed so far!

On Super Bowl weekend, I printed up a set of wedding invitations for a bride in Texas. They were a customization of my country sunset design, and involved a gradient that was making a little nervous, to be honest, but they came out great. I'll have full pictures in a few days on the Phaedra Paperie blog but til then, here's a little peek into the printing process.

Then, I got back to the work of remodeling/reorganizing my studio. I know it's been a long time since my Remodel: Part 1 post, but it's an ongoing process. My studio has vertical beams that run down the middle of the space, and the remnant of the house's original chimney, which makes it hard to make the most of the space. Boxes and piles have a tendency to collect along the dead space around the beams. So I took that area and turned it into a work surface with storage underneath. It's not yet what I would call clean, but now at least I have a well-lit place to do small paintings, drawings, pen and ink, etc. without having to clear a spot and sit on the floor.

Capping off the month so far, yesterday I had Kate from Katie Joy Photography over. She's an up-and-coming photographer who will be shooting her first wedding in only a couple of days, and just got a new camera. We know each other from our day jobs, but it was great to interact with her on a professional level. I needed some professional/head shot type photos, and I also wanted to get some action shots in the studio. We looked through a few, and they looked promising -- the studio shots especially looked great. I'm so excited to see all the shots!

Shipping Container Pipe Dream

Raw and gravity-defying
I've really been digging shipping container construction lately. I like the aesthetic, industrial and sort of a la Brooklyn / Williamsburg artist warehouse lofts when it was still all rough, before the developers got ahold of it.

Actually made of shipping pallets and trailer homes, respectively.
I really like the aesthetic of the buildings by Infiniski, a company operating out of Spain and Chile. Their whole focus is on the re-use of materials... containers, pallets, etc. I love the way they maintain the aesthetic influence of the original material. Probably my favorite is their "Forest House" on their site (which is all flash, so I can't pull the image). Go look at it!

I also like Lot-Ek's CHK (Container Home Kit). Scalable and flexible, with lofts and catwalks to boot.

Lot-Ek's Puma Building. The front is very similar to their CHK design.

And I really love what Canadian Designer Kieth Dewey has done with his Zigloo home. He really maintained the industrial elements, even using chain link in the interior and salvaging stairs from another industrial building. Plus, he has an extensive photo gallery of various phases of building.
The Zigloo's front steps

Despite the quantity of imagery available, there seems to be very little in the way of how-to information. Shed and Shelter has a pretty good list of companies who actually do things related to shipping container (or ISBU: Intermodal Steel Building Units) construction, rather than individuals or small groups who have done one-time projects or experiments. I just found out Google Sketchup has a whole section on container housing. I'll probably be browsing that a lot...

But of course, lack of information hasn't kept me from designing my own dream studio made out of containers. Nowhere to put it yet, but hush, reality. Dream a little dream with me...

Studio Office Remodel, Part 1

The past couple of weeks I've been gearing up for a wholesale mailing blitz for my 2010 Valentines. (I know it seems early -- and for the real world, it is -- but give it a couple more weeks and you'll start seeing Christmas merchandise. The drop date keeps inching its way earlier and earlier. Pretty soon 'Christmas in July' will just link up with Christmas in December without any break in between. My point is: in the world of seasonal retail, September is not too soon to start thinking about Valentines Day.) Deciding on this year's colors, laying out my order sheet, running copies, printing color and design samples, and so forth.

I ran into a snag when my color printer ran out of ink. I was pretty sure I ordered 2 cartridges last time I ordered, so I thought, I must have a spare sitting around here somewhere. After it failed to turn up in all the predictable spots, I figured maybe it was time to clean my desk. There was a good chance it was buried in the 6 inches of stacked/falling/piles of paper.

My studio office. Note how the wall of the window well blocks off any light that might make its way into the office area.
A few hours later: a mostly clean desk but no ink cartridge. My desire for said ink cartridge (which it turns out I never ordered -- the second cartridge was the black one) morphed into a desire for a better office in general. I had been really craving some natural sunlight in my workspace, since I spend an awful lot of time sitting in front of the computer during gorgeous days.

I had been toying with the idea of a remodel for a while, sketching out ideas to make use of the strange, angular space my desk was in.

So the next morning I started ripping things apart. Meanwhile, of course, I was still in the middle of getting materials ready to mail. This was not going to be a quick remodel (quick remodels require detailed plans -- I barely had plans at all) and I have a hard enough time shutting my computer down at night. Besides, we had just gone to Everyday Music, and I had a stack of new (used) cds, and I can't work without music anyway. So I just stacked everything to the side.

Unplugging is for losers.

That was all a couple days ago now. Now I'm in the thick of the hard part. It's not easy to frame out anything when you can't attach anything to the walls (concrete). I can secure things to the exposed beams, or the staircase (although I'm not sure I would really call that 'secure') but everything else has to function on tension and gravity. Oh, and nothing's level. That's been fun. But I am making progress.I dropped $100 on some solid wood countertop from Ikea to use as the desk and worktable portions, but that's the only part that has really cost anything. The rest is recycled or scavenged. Much of it from the original framing that was in the basement "bonus room" when we moved in. (It wasn't much of a bonus, unless you like fire traps.)

More to come. Wish me luck.

Spring Has Sprung

Ok, so I didn't get new Etsy listings up, as I had promised. It was so gorgeous today that we ended up planting the garden and getting ever-so-slightly sunburnt instead.

A. has had the last few days off work, and he's been putting in the heavy labor of getting all the new dirt in and fertilized, so it was all ready for me to plan things out and put all the seeds in. We're hopeful that this year will go better than last. It couldn't go much worse; last year we got a total of maybe 5 tomatoes, 2 tiny ears of corn and 2 tiny spaghetti squashes, none of which matured enough to eat, and a small batch of deformed carrots. We did get a decent crop of Holy Mole peppers, which I harvested and then left briefly unatended on the front step, and by the time I got back Phaedra had chewed up each one. We blamed the dirt that was in the beds when we got the house, replete with bits of plastic, huge bent and rusted nails, chunks of glass, and all sorts of other treasures.

This year we've reworked our attack, with 6 sacks of organic compost, some organic fertilizer, and now that the roses have all been taken out, A. has given in to using the front bed for all of our full-sun crops. The front is going to have tomatoes, peppers, a smattering of herbs (fingers crossed for my Thai basil which I couldn't even coax into sprouting last year), spaghetti squash and zucchinis, a dense stand of corn, all intermingled with onions because they're supposed to keep away pests. We also moved the pathetic Rhodedendron bush so that it might have a chance at thriving and not being all lop-sided, and I planted climbing sweet peas (decorative flowers, not an edible crop, as I had to explain to A.) along the front fenceline since we're not going to get around to replacing the chain link with a real fence this year. The back is an extensive salad garden. Most of our salad greens fared okay last year, but this year we've actually given thought to full sun versus part shade. Oregon sweet pod peas, arugula, leeks, kale, butter and romaine lettuce, and lots of spinach.

Additionally, it looks like everything in the rock garden (save for one decorative grass that's on a sad state) along the front of the porch has survived the frost and snow of the freakish winter. A few of the sedums are just going nuts, and the remaining tulips (that Phaedra didn't dig up and eat last year) have poked up through the lava rock and are getting ready to bloom. I threw some poppy seeds around for good measure.

Things are happy at our little home.