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.
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.