Tag Archives: group build

Art-Studio in the (tiny) HOUSE!

“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).

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When did selfies become obligatory? Here’s Young and I
Anyone ever see Men In Black?
Anyone ever see Men In Black?
Iconic Unishpere
Iconic Unishpere
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Arthur Ashe Stadium behind the 7 trains.

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.  wpid-20150701_160737.jpgThese 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.

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Check out that Rainbow at the Unisphere!

Books-4_1280 Books-3_1280  Books-1_1280Books-2_1280

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:IMG_2328 IMG_2331

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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?

 

Parting Shots:IMG_2675wpid-20150701_161056.jpg

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You are not Illegal. Neither are 11 million.

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Of course I HAD to know the power source!
Of course I HAD to know the power source!

 

Always The Hard Way?

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.

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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).  wpid-20150420_140751.jpgThen 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 practiceSo 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.

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Next up, Insulation!

Moving Half a House

There we were: going along building our house, thinking about walls, about windows, about roofs… when we arrived one morning to a  Cease and Desist order from the Town of Sonoma!  What happened?

When we had researched the legality of building on our group build site everything looked good.  We found many instances in the Sonoma building code in which what we were doing was not actually “building,” because our houses are on wheels, the build site was temporary, and more.  We thought we were good to go.

However.  While we were not in violation of the rules around building, we were in violation of the rules around the stuff you can do in that zone of Sonoma.  Our build site was located in a Multi-Use Zone.  In the Multi-Use zone you can do X,Y, and Z.  And you can’t do A,B, or C.  And even if you are doing “J” or “12” or “Tiny House,” which is not specifically prohibited, since it is also not specifically allowed…. we are not allowed to do it!  After a number of long conversations with the very helpful, courteous, but firm professionals at the Sonoma City Planners Office, we accepted it.  We had to Cease and Desist; we had to build elsewhere.

So, bright and early one warm Sonoma Saturday morning, Joseph and I arrived at the build site.  We re-attached the taillights to our trailer (which required some amateur electrical re-wiring), we nailed on some kickstand 2X4s to support our two walls, we strapped our walls into place with yellow straps tested at 10,000 pounds and snugged them up tight, we piled all the materials we could manage into the bed of the truck, and we headed off on a slow journey back to the sheep ranch where we live.

Serious straps on our plywood sheathing.
Serious straps on our plywood sheathing

In case you were wondering: No, it is not a good idea to move half a house.  It is not a good idea to go flinging down the backroads of Sonoma County with two heavy walls, attached in an L-shape to each other and to your trailer.  Not recommended.  But we didn’t want to deal with taking the walls down, and then somehow getting them up again by ourselves, so we went for it.

It was a slow and occasionally harrowing journey.  At the last moment, only about 100 feet from it’s new site, one of the walls buckled and a kickstand snapped off.  But, on the whole, we got our house home in one piece.  Huge sighs of relief.

New location for the tiny house build
New location for the tiny house build

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As you may know from our last post, we live on a sheep ranch near Petaluma where we are caretakers for the sheep and the property.  The owners and leasers of the ranch were generous enough to allow us to continue our tiny house build on this property, and here we are.  Our group build-mates are not sure where they’ll move their builds.  They are still waiting on their SIPS, so they have some time to figure it out… but let us know if you have some Sonoma property where they could build!

We’re now embarking on a new stage of our build process, Group Build 2.0, so to speak.  We are still cooperating and helping each other out, but now our process is spread out across the county, with our little house going up right outside of our current house.  In the video below we show the tiny house in its new location, and talk a little bit about the pros and cons of this new situation.

Lessons learned:  Check out all applicable municipal codes very carefully.  Don’t move half a house, or if you do, breathe deeply and drive slowly!

If anyone else is planning to build in the town of Sonoma, we would be happy to send you all the relevant and well-researched details of what we know now about building there, just ask!