Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Drab to Fab

Address available upon registration. We are in Alexandria, VA. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Preparing for the Worst...or just fixing it.

So what about the house?!

I am excited to bring you fresh tales of the new home-liver... wait, that doesn't quite sound right. But, if you've read our "The Story" tab, you know that part of this venture involves readying the house for the wonderful and generous home owners, my cousins, who made this alternative arts space experiment possible. So, yes, I am a 'new home-liver' not a 'new home-owner.' I am working out the kinks for them before they get here.

There is a non-working vent fan in the attic with loose metal strips. In certain winds, they flap and bonk. I didn't know about the flapping and bonking.

One windy morning at 4am, I woke with a start... Someone with a box of metal torture devices? The Terminator? Robocop? I thought my time had come. This was it. And metal was going to be involved.

Imagining that someone had just set down a large metal object at the base of the attic stairs, I sat up, stiff as a board. After hearing it a few more times and doing some 4am deductive reasoning, I fell back asleep. The next morning, while dressing, I heard the blasted sound again and traced it to the loose metal vent flaps. 

They are dirty and gross and extremely inconvenient to get to. After talking to H., I wove twine between the blades, bending one fan blade and knocking out one vent flap in the process... I also stuffed material in there and wrapped it up with duct tape. Right. It doesn't dare make a peep anymore. After telling Cousin and Husband, they suggested replacing the awkward gaping hole in the side of their house with a porthole! Like from a ship! How fun are they?! So, after looking at porthole's on Ebay (who knew?!), we are in the process of finding a wiling carpenter to tackle the project. We have one willing soul, I believe. A Baltimore based contractor who does beautiful work. More on that later. 

The first BIG project that Cousin and Husband are tackling is the family bathroom. The only full bath is a cute, cramped space. The awesome claw foot tub is a keeper but possibly for a bigger space. The lack of storage space is made up for by two different cheap cabinets that fill too much space. Here is the bathroom as we found it... 

From the entrance... 
The two cabinets cramping the toilet and window. 

That cute bathroom mirror is, unfortunately, not actually one unit. Its a mish mash of left over wood turned into a built-in vanity. I saved the hardware but it will be replaced.

Notice the 'fish shelf' behind the shower curtain...Left for us by the previous owners... Any takers?

No wonder they painted... faux (thin plastic) baby blue marble? Bleh. But painting it fleshly peach? Not sure they improved the situation... 

Oh, and a faux bright blue marble border. 

So, we have a contractor coming in to redo this bathroom into a family friendly and bungalow appropriate little space. After one contractor estimated an exorbitant amount for the redo, Cousin went with a contractor whose work she's seen and liked. He and his brother are coming in to make beautiful things happen!

Meanwhile, the bathroom must be 'readied' for its makeover. Clean the canvas! It was pretty satisfying taking out some of the STUFF. More to come...

Cabinet: gone!

Both cabinets gone! 

Don't worry! I saved the awesome hardware from this!

I love these little nubs for some reason! The shelf holders from the vanity mirror. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Come hear about The Empty House Studio!

Tuesday, March 12th, I will be talking about The Empty House Studio project for The Center for The Creative Economy in DC!

Space is limited. See flyer for details...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Failure: the not so dirty word.

Today’s TEHS blog post is brought to you by the letter ‘F’ and a few brave artists sharing about failure. 

[Kerin BackhausCandy and Thought Maker]
Rock Candy Update
Before I go sob into cups of failed crystallized sugar at The Empty House Studio, let me say one thing: the only failure is the failure to try. OK, I’ll admit it, I stole this inspirational quote from a romantic comedy, but it can be aptly taken a as a truth in any creative pursuit. We all know the general gist -  just do something – and if it doesn’t work? Learn from it, and simply do it again. Adapt process post contemplation and reflection. Be gritty, be loyal, but know when it’s time to elegantly bow out of the game.  

Failure is a key catalyst to change, therefore, embrace it, stare it in the face, but never accept it. A good dose a failure is as good for you as a good dose of success. And we as human beings see-saw in-between the delicate balance of what is the optimal amount of success and failure versus what is maximum, we refine our intellectual agility. Intellectual agility is the core of any great creative mind. It is our ability to cultivate, refine, and redesign concepts in new ways. These visions and creations bring value to the human experience, not only to others, but to ourselves. 

....so although, I have failed "to pass go" in the rock candy making game I have successfully reminded myself to flex my intellectual ability muscles. To all of us here at The Empty House Studio, as we perfect our methodologies let us remember one thing: sometimes it is best take two hands toss the board up in the air and start over.
(Kerin has blogged for TEHS before. Kerin is a colleague, friend, and subcommittee member here at TEHS.)

[Daniel Levi Goans: Musician]
I have a short anecdote from the recording process of the album we are coming to the end of now.

I got into the studio early in the morning and jumped right into creating a percussion track for a song that had only my voice and lauren's voice and guitar.  I thought that some leg slaps, hand claps, bass drum, tambourine and egg shaker would really fill the song out and bring it to its finished iteration.  After working for 3-4 hours on it, I asked Lauren to join me and she just said, "It sounds like you just played everything you could play but the song didn't need any of it."  Although this was extremely frustrating in that moment, after getting some space from the song, I realized that she was right.  I had created a sort of stock percussion deal and was trying to slap it on that song.  All it ended up needing was one snare drum, our voices, one guitar and harmonica.  

I think I had to do all that work and feel the pain of erasing it to find the real recorded version of the song that works.  
(Daniel and his wife are a folk duo, Lowland Hum, from North Carolina who will be performing at TEHS on April 5th with We Were Pirates. Email us (theemptyhousestudio@gmail.com) to get on the list for details!)

[Jennifer Coffin: Potter and Painter]
One of the stepping stones for an artist is to jury into something. My first attempt was a negative. The organization I chose required a sponsor. She was a fellow artist I had known casually. I boxed my work and took it to her to look at. She did not pick up one piece and just said they looked fine. I really had no idea what the whole thing entailed. Well, I then submitted my work to the jury committee and they rejected it! I was devasted...for a while. Then I got back to work, picked a different sponsor and voila it worked. 
(Jennie has been a potter for over 30 years. She is a relative and friend of the TEHS team. She serves as president of the Kiln Club of DC and shows at Scope Gallery in The Torpedo Factory.)

[Ives Salbert: Portrait Painter]
In my process, failure brings about a lot of learning. My creative growth happens whether I succeed or fail. Sometimes more-so when I fail. Failure can be discouraging, but I'm trying to learn to not let that slow me down too much. Bad critiques are almost necessary to keep my artwork on the right track and can push me out of stagnant creative periods.
(Ives is a local painter and frequenter of TEHS Happenings. He is currently an artist in residence locally.)

[Amy Hughes Braden: Acrylic and Mixed Media Painter]
Stream of consciousness about failure:

I'll probably fail at illustrating my thoughts on failure as an axiom, or maybe I know what my own personal self-evident truth about failure is but am sure others will instantly poke holes in it. Which equates to failure. Because I have these doubts/fear of failing regarding offering up my thoughts for others to read on this subject of failure I will present it now: Everything is failure. Failure is not negative.  
Okay the real Failure --or the negative interpretation of the concept of failure-- is to think it's bad to fail. So I've already failed (in the Bad way) in this quickly scribbled note (see, I noted that I wrote this quickly so that if you are mentally criticizing this as you read, I can cut you off at the knees and invalidate any correct critique you may be forming) (because I'm afraid to fail) (which means I've Failed). 
I think it's sick and gross to not want to fail. I bristle at disclaimers before presentation of art, or argument, or when excuses like "limited resources" are offered to prevent the label of "failure" from being applied to a thing. I always Fail-fail at this. My personal hierarchy of values puts honesty somewhere very close to the top (actually at the top) (no I can't decide) and I'm not sure yet, but I think that it's very possible that it is impossible to try to present oneself as not-a-failure without being dishonest. 
Lastly, I despise those FAIL memes. Or ever using the phrase "Epic Fail"

(I've probably included the above line --incorrectly labeled as "last" of all my lines-- to soothe myself as I begin to fear all the failed sentences I've released in this moment) (because saying what you like/don't like is all about pumping yourself UP). 
(Amy is a colleague and friend of the TEHS team. She exhibits regularly in and around DC, most notably in a show titled "Low Moments" which was a presentation of bad art curated by Pleasant Plains Workshop.)

[Henri Bielawski: Metalsmith and TEHS Assistant Director]
Ive got a lot of metal that ended up in the scrap bin because of mistakes and the learning curve. I'll just melt it down and try to use it again. What is a failure? It's usually when something doesn't go your way. Despite the effort you put into it. That's what makes it disappointing. The time and effort lost. But, if you subsequently spend your time reflecting on that resentment, you will be wasting time that you could be reveling in triumph. I say this: Let the failures fly, and don't let them bog down your chances of future success. 
(Henri is on TEHS' team and splits his time between his studio, school, and TEHS. His work will be exhibited at TEHS' pop-up gallery in May.)

[Sarah Coffin: TEHS Founder and Potter]
Art & Fear (subtitled: “Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking”) is a popular book for artists these days. I usually avoid books like this since they tend to tout typical techniques promised to magically produce action. Self help books for artists should be one page that reads: “Put this down and get back into your studio.” 

But I read this book for The Empty House Studio venture, to see how other artists describe the act of making. In this book, the authors take a few more words to say, “get back to work.” They argue that artists must take responsibility for their actions; that art is learned skills that require hard work; that “ordinary people” make art and must make a lot of it. Making art is “learning how not to quit.” 
Oh. Now that last one struck home. I am a potter by training. A few years ago, while apprenticing in Virginia, I struggled with failure in a bad way. I kept my failures stored away and piled them up until they became a messy brick wall labeled “Sarah’s failures.” From Virginia, I traveled to Spain to study with another potter. It was incredible but I didn’t return with the results I set out to generate. My brick wall seemed complete: I was a failure. I was exhausted and had produced an ugly brick wall rather than a body of work. So I stopped.

After some time, I couldn’t stay away. Long story short, the wall began to crumble and I tentatively stepped back into the studio. Failure still makes me squirm and always will. It is inevitable and obviously has an expiration date. And that's just it! It must have an expiration date! We must use the failure from one piece right away in the start of the next piece. In other words, each failure should have a label: Warning – Do not store. Use within 7-10 days.
(Sarah is the founder and director of this alternative arts space venture called The Empty House Studio.)