Here at Toad Hall I have had two studios though we have only been here under a month. That is because prior to our coming here full time, I took over a small room that was cleared of the previous ancestors ‘things’. It was a lovely small room with bright views and warmth, both of which can be a rarity in a New England Winter. Once I began moving bits and bobs of things in as well as having truckloads of things rolled out, we were left with a fairly empty house. Hubby, who writes and tinkers with old typewriters, rather liked the small room I had used as my studio and suggested the largest room at the end of the hall. I agreed and many buckets of white paint later I was settled in.
Having gone from this Summer of nesting in my little barn building at our Cape House so we could let the main house made me appreciate tiny spaces. Though the Barn has two floors, built with my own hands and the help of friends, I basically settled on the first floor. I had a bed a sofa my computer a little kitchen, a bath, far too many old books and my dogs. It turned to be a rather idyllic Summer. It left me contemplating European sojourns held up in tiny garrets in old cities whose mere names breathe Art into the world.
Now, however, we are here. It is not a mansion by any means but it is a rather large house. We joke that one does without when we have settled into office and studio because the trip down the long hall, then through the large living room to the kitchen is too far to bother. So, we huddle with our cold coffee and tea and biscuit crumbs and stare out the window at the lovely view; wrapped like the aged in old moth eaten wool blankets found in the Granny’s old blanket chest.
The house was built in 1950 by an architect who wanted to play with new ideas. The entire front of the house, which is built like a chevron or arrow point, has glass facing the water. This glass, though cutting edge at the time, has smoky and faded sections. We don’t complain because there is always another window right next to it to catch the view. There is enough ‘modern’ in this house to please hubby. The angled ceiling. The walls of glass. Smooth level floors. But, there is an equal amount of decay to suit me. I am not sure why this should be, but I have always felt most comfortable around old slightly off and decrepit things. Therefore, windows that have cracked due to hurricanes and were never replaced, or chipped antique corner cabinet that belonged to a dowdy Victorian aunt that somehow managed its way here all seem to fit here some how. Most like I posit myself as an odd or slightly chipped thing in the world, never quite varnished enough or never up to the times and can see myself in the decay around me. Who can know?
Today I am in my studio. The aforementioned larger studio that received buckets of white paint. I see myself doing some interesting work here. I like that it’s at the end of a long hall in a long house at the end of a long point of land down a long twisting road. It makes one feel like the beginning of a wonderfully dark children’s tale. The good ole kind with witches or lessons learned by fire not the kind that teaches one to pick up their room or hug their neighbor.
Well, this post is rather rambling and a bit cracked like our present home and my current thoughts. I will therefore simply share some photos of my studio. It is not entirely set up yet as we have just had staying relatives head out. I believe a house such as this will most likely come with many visiting relatives and friends not long seen. Though introvert, I shall welcome them all in with smiles and happiness to share this lovely spot. It really shouldn’t be left to a few old curmudgeons such as we. As long as I get a few days in between to sulk and work in my studio, then I shall be bright and chipper to our future guests.
As you enter my studio there are large windows at one end. Here the view seems mottled, that is because the windows were covered in plastic by me this past weekend. The house is large and though solidly built, a bit drafty. We will not waste too much on heat and so therefore the plastic helps considerably. You can see a dolls house in the corner. It is a new obsession of mine. The tiny rooms and recreated moments of life are intriguing to me and will play a role in some of my future work.
Here is my main drawing/art table. You can better see the lovely view here. It is greatly covered by trees and grown up shrubbery. I will attack these this Spring but will leave most of it simply making views through. The birds and insects have come to love this cover too much for me to take it all away from them so that I might see the water a bit better; share and share a like, I say.
The crack in my window was from an old Hurricane. It is a double window and the replacement of such a large window is so expensive that I am happy to leave it as is. There is another pane on the outside so it matters little. And I rather like the look of it with some of my bone collection. These are various whale bones. The larger were found and given to me by a dear friend who worked with Piping plovers on the beaches and was allowed access to closed beach areas early in the morning. She knew I would love these, which of course I do. The longer thin one was a Christmas present and is a bit of whale rib bone.
The studio is large enough that I have put an antique bed into it. It was a great great grandmothers. It takes up very little room and will be nice for Summer time naps. You can see behind it a taped up window that has an air conditioner in it. It was built in and so I taped insulation around it and then shrink wrapped it. I will hang a curtain in front of it at some point, but was rather proud to have stopped the draft. It gets quite toasty and cozy in here now as evidenced by my little dog’s face peering out from the covers. Lurking under there is my other dog, an Italian greyhound. They, too, love my new studio.
And of course the view is worth any amount of taped up windows and cracked glass. I look forward to Spring when I can be out amongst the plants and earth with the gulls calling overhead. Though they entertain now as well, for we watch them dropping their dinner from beak to stones below. And there is such an array of birds here that I will have to jot them all down to remember everyone.
I hope all are having a lovely new year and that good and happy things are in store for you. Or, at the very least, that you are happy with the cracked and slightly odd things in your life. If we look for perfection we shant ever be happy, but if we revel in the commonplace and enjoy the marred moments of life, we can make our joy anywhere.
A quick post today from Toad Hall. Where we currently live we have dubbed the main house: Toad Hall. This is mainly due to the fact that Hubby was in the midst of re-reading the Wind and the Willows when the house was put at our disposal. It is more 1950’s than Edwardian England, but the name stuck. I will be designing a pattern that I am going to print as wallpaper, fabric, and possibly dishes for the place including Toads and Bunnies. My Hubby’s Late grandmother who once lived here was called ‘Bunny” and this place was, during the 1950’s, called “The Hutch”. I digress.
The house, by other family members account, has been called ‘un-livable’ due to its odd dated rooms and long rambling nature. We, on the other hand, love it FOR its idiosyncrasies. And the main bathroom off the long hall is a dream for a 50’s gal like me. I shall share a bit of it with you in today’s short post.
As some may remember my love of Robin’s Egg blue, a very 1950’s hue, was apparent during my sojourn into the past. My vintage dishes bore this shade, many of my clothes and even my 1950’s telephone, a birthday gift, was in this shade. Therefore the bathroom here at Toad Hall is perfect for me. And I should not change a thing, except the flooring was changed in the 1970’s and will most likely be replaced with a 50’s style tile when I get around to it.
The walls and ceiling of this bathroom are covered in a vinyl-like melamine in robin’s egg blue on the walls and the ceiling a white with gold and blue starbursts. All of the seams of these panels are edged in lovely vintage chrome. Here you can see how they meet and the brilliant starburst ceiling.
The sink, toilet, and bathtub are also in this lovely shade. And the sink has the original faucets and is also edged in chrome. There is also a place on the counter which holds the sink a space for a vanity chair, room for make-up and this little chrome and glass wall niche which will hold my vintage perfume and makeup supplies. I am rather excited to have a designated makeup area in the bathroom. As there is a large mirror well lit with wall lights edged in chrome.
Speaking of the large wall mirror. The medallions which hold this in place are also lovely 50’s acrylic starbursts. You have to excuse their condition, we are still cleaning and polishing up our new abode.
Here you can see the entrance to the bathtub and shower area. The sun breaking through onto our vintage melamine walls and the sea just outside the window. You can notice the ceiling light also original cut glass 50’s edged in chrome with the original working vent fan.
Again, this may be only loved by hubby and me and other family members think us odd to not rip it out and start new. Now, I am dreaming of lovely vintage 1950’s bathroom accessories like perhaps a series of glass fish or toothbrush holders such as these. Or I rather like these sword fish:
I may even be so bold as to do the floor in high gloss black vinyl and use pink and red-accessories as we see here:
They were certainly not afraid to mix bold colors during this time period
That is my word from Toad Hall today. I hope all are enjoying their new year and wonder if any are making resolutions?
After three years of living in the 1950’s I needed a break. I felt the need to creep my way back into the modern world. I did not know how to do that.
It began with leaving the house and taking a cafe job three days a week. I needed to talk to random strangers, have a focused easy task each of those days (I still say working out of the home is easier than being a Homemaker, though not as much fun). During that time I met some wonderful new people. This lead me back to Art.
Art has always played a role in my life. Rather I was drawing or painting, it was happening. My years as a 1950’s Homemaker also drew upon those artists skills. The kitchen was my studio and my home and dinner table my canvas. The constant need to make things stand out, be lovely, or simply more wonderful and special was very much the life of an Artist. I still stand by my ideal that Homemakers of yore were artists in their own right. And some day, maybe when I am in my dotage, I shall pen that Art History Tome on the “Homemaker’s Art Milieu”.
During this voyage back to the Present I tried to manage my blog. I toyed with hopping about time periods and just found I really needed a clean break. I am, at heart, a introvert. I am also, I find, quite happy to be a hermit. I can spend days without needing to speak to anyone and just occupy and amuse myself. This made it far too easy for me to simply walk away from the computer and never even think of my blog. It was true I thought of my readers often, but it was as if they were truly people who had dwelt in the past with me and I could not take them with me back to the present.
To return to my role as Artist. In the Summer of 2012 I was asked to be one of two resident artists in our main town’s Art Building. I occupied a wonderful little barn with an artist friend and returned to working on my art. I set up a small studio with printmaking and silkscreen my main medium. With no surprise, my work focused on women and history. I ended the Summer with a show, sold rather well, made some friends and then, again, hid away.
This past Summer I spent completely alone. We rent our home on the Cape out to Summer guests and I had finished my barn building enough to move into it whilst renting out the main house. It was not quite habitable for Hubby and he was able to stay with a friend of ours. I was originally meant to stay with him, but my two little dogs would not get along with their large dog which had just attacked a neighbors small dog. Long story short, Hubby stayed in town close to work and I camped out in my barn whilst managing our rental property. It was a good experience. As previously stated, I am an introvert and a hermit. I spent my days playing with art ideas, sketching, playing in my little growing garden, and returning to a lost love of mine: Walking.
Though it was hard to be apart from Hubby, we were both so busy that we made ‘date nights’ to see one another and actually had more fun together time this Summer because of it. When we weren’t together he was busy working and I was busy playing at art and quietly enjoying my seaside walks and my growing passion for wild flora and fauna.
After Summer and the return of Hubby and I to our little house on the Cape, a series of off events with family members left us in possession of a seaside retreat. My hubby’s grandfather’s home where we had once lived on the property in the boat house, was now to be at our disposal. I had also accepted the opportunity to be the featured artist in our town hall for the month of December and had to create an entire body of work. So,driving daily to the new place I set up a studio of sorts and in between hiring dump men, carpet cleaners, and chimney sweeps, I made art. I found my new path I wish my work to move in and managed, though Christmas was looming, to get our house set up enough to get Hubby and I in two days before the New Year.
It is from this locale and this place in my life that I am returning to my blog. I am a solitary artist with the luck of an empty house on Buzzards Bay to take a look at the new direction of my life. That life will include writing for my blog. The blog, however, will not only time travel. However, my love of the past and history will always play a role in my day to day and so will therefore play a significant role in my writings and artwork.
As an example of the past and present having a happy marriage, hubby and I spent last night ringing in the new year at our new/old seaside shack scanning old family negatives from the early 1900’s. These will feature in my artwork but also remind us of those who have gone before us here. I hope my random passions and musings on my life now by the sea, doing art, increased love of garden with smatterings of historical domestic time travel trips will amuse enough of you to stick around. If not, I believe this return to blogging is more a way for me, the self-proclaimed hermit, to reach out to the world in my own way.
The added humour to our current home is that it was built in 1950 in a very modern style. There are wood paneled walls, flat roofs and a bathroom resplendent in robin’s egg blue laminate walls and matching lav, bowl, and tub. There is even a makeup station with built in mirrored and chrome niches for “mi’ladies” cosmetics and perfume. It seems Mid Century will always play a role in my life in some way.
I shall end this post with some photo snippets of my new surroundings. I will surely share more in the future. I also want to connect up my various bits and bobs. My very new website is www.donnadavisart.com . facebook page link is Donna Davis Art and my Facebook Fanpage is Donna Davis Art. I have not done twitter in some time, but I shall do. One has so much to keep up with today but one must be of one’s time I suppose.
One of my latest pieces. I work on board. I build up layers of painting, screenprinting, assemblage, and poured acrylic for a dreamy view of the past.
Here is the view from our back windows of the new place.
Here is the view from my Studio Window. I plan to trim up the tree and clear some of the area, install bird feeders and plant a robust perennial and annual garden here.
The very 1950’s teak Eames wall unit in the living room with a view of the beach stone fireplace. The stones were collected from the beach out front to make this when it was designed and built in 1950. We are still in transition so the shelves are a disarray of old books and things to be put away. The clock was this year’s birthday gift from hubby. A 1930’s clock with the Westminster Chimes he repaired himself. It sounds lovely in the house.
Well, that is enough for me today on this fresh new January day of a new year. I look forward to returning to the blogosphere and I hope you have all had a lovely Christmas and New Year.
I lived as a 1950s housewife for three years. Click below to see that project.
Donna Davis is a painter and printmaker living by the sea. Her work deals with women, history, the seashore, and moments in time. Follow along to see the process behind the product.