Back (Yard) Story


Ok, so here's my current studio, with one of my sculptures on an outdoor workbench in the foreground. (If you're wondering how I get pieces this size in and out of the space, it has garage doors on the east side).

Before this blog switches to a description of current events, I thought I'd provide a bit more context. Ok, more than a bit. Future posts will, I promise, be much shorter.

When the bachelor owner of the property in downtown Colorado Springs who became our landlord and, a year later, sold it to us, first showed it to my wife and me, back in 1990, the back yard (to say nothing of the house) was showing signs of major neglect, with weeds approaching waist level. No matter - having been told about the 2 car detached garage by the mutual friend who'd first informed us about the possible rental, I trained my eyes on the building at the far end of the long back yard immediately upon exiting the house's dilapidated back door and was excited for the possibility of having such a conveniently located workspace to where I'd be living. Not that the garage was much to look at, especially the interior - uninsulated, with 2 x 4 framing studs and the exterior cedar lap siding visible. Basically just the shell of a building. On the south and east sides, two small windows let a modicum of light in, only barely augmented by a single bulb mounted to the center ceiling joist. But the concrete floor was crack-free and, as with the house and yard, I quickly envisioned that given the opportunity to buy the place, and despite much knowledge on how to do such things, I might give the garage an overhaul - insulating it, adding drywall, 220 power, perhaps replacing the ceiling joists with collar ties higher up, and replacing the small single pane windows with larger ones to let in more sunlight.

I'd never done any of that kind of work before. I'd never worked construction, and my upbringing didn't include anything by way of such work. By this time, in my early 20's, my total knowledge base in the construction/renovation side of things was nearly zero. 

But I was building a 16' long woodstrip canoe in the rec room of the nearby home where I'd grown up, and had begun to learn how to use the few tools I'd begun to collect for that project.

I had a small, cheap table saw which was little more than an inverted circular saw secured to a flimsy aluminum table. I had a corded drill, a router (fixed base), a low angle block plane, a couple chisels, a 4" x 8" orbital sander, a toolbox with a few other assorted tools, and a 4' x 4' work table, but that was just about it. 

Soon after purchasing the property a year later, I did make those relatively modest upgrades to the garage, which I now called my shop. Insulation, windows, drywall, electrical (thanks to a licensed electrician), and removing the ceiling joists after adding collar ties and a couple aircraft cables for additional snow load support. Then, from 1998 - 2005, the shop saw an influx of somewhat better and larger machines to support my business as a custom props builder. In '05, I started working at the Colorado College as the 3D Arts (sculpture shop) Supervisor, and for the next decade my home shop, by and large, became a catch all. 

In 2016, I resigned from my job to create art full-time, which entailed an overhaul of my shop, including its name - it was now my studio - and the first few months of my newfound freedom, after a stint in Italy, were spent not making art but making the space where I intended to make my art more efficient and livable; adding a larger electric heater; scraping, caulking, and repainting the exterior; etc. 

But despite the better organization, my lack of space issues, and other minor pet peeves, persist.

Hence, when my wife, who has a private practice out of our home as a literacy interventionist (tutoring dyslexic students), told me back in early summer that one of her student's parents had recently had an ADU built on their nearby property and were renting it out, my wheels began to turn. Would it be possible to do something similar on our property? Convert my studio to an ADU, rent it out, with the hopes that the net income cover the costs of building a larger studio for me? I'd had similar thoughts in the past, when an artist friend blocks away did something similar, but as I had little need for a home-based workspace for years, having the after-hours use of a large, well equipped shop at the college, there'd been little impetus to take on such a project.

Besides, from 2008 and into the teens, property values locally were either heading downhill or flat. Refinancing requirements were tight, and our equity was narrowing, making the idea of taking out a cash out refinance highly unlikely. It was tighten the belt time. 

But sometime around 2012, a combination of factors began to put the local housing market on a steady uphill trajectory, by around 2015 pushing our home values past where their previous highs before before the "crash" had been - factors that are beyond the purview of this post. 

On a more personal level, our income, of late, has followed suit. In 2016, the year I resigned from the college, my income was fairly flat, owing to the fact that I spent months working on the studio, not so much producing work in it. But we'd sold an investment property earlier that year, the proceeds from which tided us over until 2017, which was a decent year for me as an artist, as well as the year my wife began to take on a few students. 2018 has seen a marked increase for both of our incomes. Factoring that along with the burgeoning equity of our three properties and the freedom that leaving my 9 - 5 offers me, the stars have seemed aligned to take another hiatus from art creation to take on such a project.

Yet another puzzle piece that appeared was finding a really good all-in-one designer/structural engineer/builder who'll be featuring heavily in the overall multifaceted project. And, consequently, on this blog.

In closing,

I assume some of you reading this are doing so for the same reasons I was watching a lot of YouTube videos recently: to get information from others who've undertaken projects like the one we've just begun to. If you have any questions or comments related to the build project, please make use of the comments section below, and I'll do my best to respond. And please share this with anyone you think might be interested!

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