A lot of building, learning and living happened in 2015. Sarah and I got engaged (woo-hoo!), we toyed with the idea of committing to a beautiful eighty-three acre property in southwestern Oregon (not this time!), I did some theatre, Sarah got a promotion, we both met some really wonderful people and friends, we helped others build their tiny house, and through it all our little abode has continued to grow. It feels more and more like home with every nail ;-)
Oh, and one more thing, we have decided to move back to the Petaluma, California area, or the greater Bay Area in general – please do let us know if you know of a place for an off-grid, self-sufficient tiny house and two tiny-house-dwellers!
Our latest building accomplishments have been: insulating, which took longer than expected (we did loose-fill wool and some denim), installing the interior siding (excluding trim), and my dad came to help for a wonderful week of cedar-sanding and putting on the ceiling. Pictures…. everybody wants pictures. So, here are some that detail the progress.
Sarah stuffed some wool into the wheel wells proving once again that small hands are a real plus on a build!
One step at a time, nail-by-nail, lesson-by-lesson, I get schooled and learn new humility and respect for the people that do this for a living. Maybe, someday, these skills will translate into something that will benefit the world at large.
Have a happy and humble new year, one board at a time.
“Artists have the skills to make something out of nothing. Use that skill!”
Five years ago I took a workshop in Brooklyn about financial literacy for artists. It changed the way I think about money as an artist in an expensive city like NYC. The workshop, given by Art Home stated that banks and credit cards work for YOU…NOT the other way around. This was very formative for me and a provided a fresh take on the ‘starving artist’ paradigm and I have kept the notes I took from that day.
A year ago, a friend introduced Sarah and I to Esther Robinson, the presenter of those workshops and she’s still at it. Teamed up with Guy Buckles of ArtBuilding, (who is responsible for the designing and building of the Elizabeth Foundation– which is the largest subsidized workspace for artists in ny) they were looking to talk to artists who were building their own spaces, with a particular interest in tiny houses as artist-studio urban infill. One thing lead to another and Sarah and I ended up writing a white paper on tiny-spaces, which covered topics from design, technology and site specific implementation for NYC. Some of these chapters we’ve re-purposed here and here on SeedsWithWings .
After working full-time designing and building under the expert eye-of-Guy for the better part of a year, they did it! Last week my friend Young and I and went out to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens to see the new Tiny Art Studio (which in NYC might just be redundant).
Even though I neither built nor conceived it, I felt very proud when I saw this little beauty sitting on the lawn in front of the Queens Museum. These are “small mobile workspaces that let artists, social-service providers and micro-businesses work in new ways and in new places.” Art Built Mobile Studios has partnered with the Queens Museum, Corona Park and Patrick Rowe of Mobile Print Power to support the community around them. They are finding out what the park needs by asking passersby to draw their ideas into various large sketchbooks with questions on the covers like, “What is the most difficult thing to find in the park?” or “What is your favorite part of the park?” then implement them through the designing and making of signs for the public. The suggestions ranged from better signage to the bathrooms (we had a hard time finding them too), to putting the rainbow (which shows up every sunny day at the Unisphere from 4-6) on a daily events calendar.
This Saturday, July 11th from 1-5 pm, they will be unveiling the new concepts for signs for the park that have been created at the People’s Design Laboratory. Also, bring your own t-shirts, tote bags, and other things that you want to print on! Here’s a link to the event which will also feature music and performances by Aztec dance group Danza Azteca Chichimeka and Ecuadorian dance group Ñukanchik Llakta Wawa Kunas-Wawas Sumags
Here are some more pictures:
A little more background on the key players here. There are two non-profits at work. ArtHome.org (Esther Robinson) and ArtBuilding.org (Guy Buckles).
“ArtHome’s mission is to help artists build assets and equity through financial literacy, homeownership, self-sufficiency and the responsible use of credit.” They are “committed to building a vital new support system for artists: one that fosters both cultural vitality and economic stability.”
“ArtBuilding is a dynamic non-profit business that harnesses the power of built spaces to create economic security, professional stability and financial assets for artists and creative professionals.”
The mobile art studios are a combination of the two and a unique solution for the rising cost of living and working as an artist in NY (and beyond) and they are being used to support dialogue within communities. I think it’s a perfect use of the tiny house movement, embodying some key factors like community, responsiveness (mobility) and sustainability. These can be utilized as urban-infill mobile community centers that can go anywhere and provide services that are most needed to places that most need them. Like creating signs for a park, social service centers, arts-education and beyond.
Do you have any ideas for these? How can you see these working in the world?
Ask my parents, ask my friends, ask Sarah… I always do things the hard way. I’m not sure why, I’ve been told it’s because I’m a Capricorn(?), but I’ve recently been recognizing it when it happens. Por ejemplo, I can’t just make coffee in the morning, I have to preheat everything (Bialetti, Mug, 1/2 & 1/2), find the perfect blend of coffee/chicory/cardamom (5:1:dash), then watch everything fastidiously while Sarah’s ginger tea (finely chopped) comes to a boil. The tiny house, too, has proved to be an excellent mirror to this particularly pervasive character trait. I couldn’t just slap up exterior window trim and caulk the heck out of it. Too easy. I had to devise a clever interlocking system that would guarantee (so far) water-proofness. While I DO think it’s a good system, It doesn’t work any better than the easy way, looks about the same, and complicated things greatly when I realized it’s hard to tuck the same piece of siding under two sides of a window. Oh, and btw, I caulked the heck out of it. Here are some pictures.
Knowing my aforementioned proclivity toward encumbrance, it was time to run electric. We walked through the house and discussed if we really need a three-way-switch to the loft, or even a porch light. We nixed both because we prefer localized, movable lighting (aka lamps) that we could plug in and click on at the source. With only electrical outlets needed in the house, the wiring was easy. Just hook the whole house up like one big extension cord. Plug one end in and everything works! The first few were a bit tedious (tiny wires/connection + big clumsy hands) but once I got the hang of it, my sway towards complication began.
It started innocently enough. I realized that I was using 12-3 Romex when I only needed 12-2 for our simplistic system (Meaning I had one extra ‘hot’ wire: see below). Then I thought, “Hey! I have two hot wires in the same casing, why not make the house on two circuits (red and black) and they can share a neutral!” This made sense and I later found out that this used to be a common practice. So I wired the outside socket and the kitchen socket on the same circuit (red) and the rest of the house on black. Good in theory, more complicated than I thought partly due to my lackluster wiring skills, and partly due to not fully understanding what it means to share a neutral. SO, after wrestling with it over the course of a rainy afternoon, and getting some sage advice from an electrician friend, I scrapped the idea and wired it all on black. One circuit, no problem.
Do you see the progression, though? Can you see how it moved from a straight forward system to a more complicated/better way? I started by recognizing my proclivities, then as I put my head down and started doing it, old habits kicked in and I wanted more/better/different. I think this is a blessing and a curse. A blessing because the need to improve has lead me to some pretty awesome experiences and taught me a great number of valuable skills. It’s helped me learn things quickly and understand them fully. It’s a curse because I tend to get stuck in the process and have a hard time extracting myself…taking a step back…and realizing that somebody has already figured out how to do this work, and I can probably trust that they knew what they were doing.
So my take away: always find out for yourself….but also trust that other people have already found out, and it’s on their firm shoulders that I wobble around on trying for something ‘new’. After all, it seems that the ‘new’ thing these days, is actually an old thing rediscovered. Why not walk the well established path for a bit. Find out where it leads. Take some easy steps and get to know the trail before banking left into the brambles and steep inclines of improvised electronics and sketchy wiring. The end.