Balnacra Arts & Pottery by Vicky Stonebridge

Embrace the chaos, and build stuff with it.

‘Reasons why i haven’t done much art-work recently’ – February’s story.
20150202_091252web It was all lovely and snowy. but Brrrr. how cold we were in the house with ancient storage heaters that only half work & we can’t afford to use. shivering around a gas bottle heater in the evenings, suffering sinusitis, chilblains, tiredness and allergies with the lack of heat. Then there was a knock at the door this snowy Monday morning & some chaps were stood there with a wood stove & radiators, a nice surprise, but quite a surprise. Repairs & a new heating system have been getting discussed for 8 or so years now, so even though there had been umpteen people measuring & inspecting the house, umpteen times, I still wasn’t really expecting it to happen. But it did, & someone somewhere had forgotten to tell us it was happening that day. Que chaos, hastily clearing space & rescheduling work & home.

One of the jobs I had on was a paper-making workshop at the Lochcarron treehouse, which has it’s own lovely stove, It is a great venue for paper-making, because splashes on the floor clean up easily & the stove dries the paper up quickly so the participants get to see the finished results within the session. It is a fun creative workshop to run.20150206_144331web20150206_151457web20150206_150806web

meanwhile, back at the house…20150202_150334web

It became apparent that once the stove was in, that we have too much furniture. one of the problems of amalgamating two homes. So the manky old sofa that had been around all the teenagers rooms & had long since lost all it’s springs was the one to be sacrificed. Here’s my office space all piled up around me so we could get it out.20150205_114224web

I tried cutting it up for the wood, but there was just too much metal in it, and dust, and a pat of butter the dog had stolen & hidden, so……. it burnt with the fierceness of old pre-fireproofing furniture materials and warmed us up for a bit.20150205_185800web

The heating chaps worked all week, the wood stove connects to radiators and a water tank, so there was a lot of climbing about in the loft creating a loop of copper pipes, installing a new mains fed hot water tank & pump. The pump pushes the water to the radiators after the water reaches a certain temperature & keeps it under control. These won’t work in power cuts, but water will still heat up via the stove circulatory system. It was a freezing dusty week, with all the chaos, & doors open. One morning we woke to a flood in one room, one of the old water pipes had started leaking when moved, luckily nothing was damaged & it missed all my stacked up artwork !   The guys rushed from the East coast to fix it.
They were going to take away all the old heaters, but i knew that they were full of great bricks, so volunteered to sort that out & keep the bricks, they weigh a tonne! Not too much hassal to take apart & managed to fit all the metal and insulating fluff into the car to take to the recycling centre.
20150207_132841web20150207_132848web20150206_162641webTa da ! by Friday, the stove was lit. So happy! so cosy. Hot baths !! The living room temperature jumped from 8C to 16C. But it turns out it needs a lot of wood to heat the radiators, and of course because we’d had no notice that it was actually happening… no stock pile of wood and, like electricity or gas, is too expensive to buy in what we need. So it is now a desperate scramble for dry wood, there is wood everywhere around us, especially after recent storms, but none of it dry ! So I set to work to hastily throw together a log store. More are planned, but behind the shed was a start. I had no building materials to speak of, so had to use whatever i could find laying around the garden. Here is my helper inspecting the roof angle.20150207_170542web20150208_124057webNo materials for the roof, so it’s been improvised with a small section of tarp I had & a bit of an old tent. It is pretty water proof, for now.20150213_100545web

Then the mission is on to find any sticks we can to start stacking & drying. I miss having a van, it was perfect for this sort of thing, the car not so. Here is the dog not too keen on sharing his space. I have an old chainsaw but it has been in the shed unused since 2001, so after new oil, fuel & spark plug failed to work, that’s gone to the garage to get going again & we are frantically cutting everything by hand.  I managed to buy a lovely hickory handled neat ace eventually. I had to hunt around a bit & encounter neanderthal shop assistants who clearly found the idea of a female buying an axe preposterous. I forget sometimes how gender stupid the world is. Then some lovely friends gave us a big chunky log for a chopping block, another donated some palettes & we’re busy busy busy!20150215_165528webThen i did a one day’s basket course & made this. lovely to have a day off from work, or building things or putting the house back together. Meanwhile, spring approaches & i have been planning building a poly tunnel for…years. The greenhouse is great, but some veg seem to prefer poly tunnels.  I haven’t had the money all these years for a proper one. I have seen home made ones from timber, water pipe, scaffold tubes, insulating foam. Even the poly tunnel polythene is out of my price range.  I saw some cheap ones on-line to buy but for £70 + they looked like they’d not last the first storm.  So I designed one that would cost virtually nothing & be an experiment, (and possibly not last the first storm either, but if cheap it wouldn’t matter so much )

20150216_121446webI got some sections of car exhausts from the local garage for free. Hammered these into the ground, because i was going to be using Hazel rods for the frame & experience has taught me that these can pop out of the ground when under tension. So the hazel sits in the pipes which are solidly planted. I didn’t have enough so used some water pipe off cuts as well. I gathered the hazel nearby to the house from a wee wood, carrying it because the lengths a few meters long would not have fitted in a car. I didn’t clean them up much & used the twigs for extra binding & twists. Working to minimise any sharp edges. When i cleared the space in the garden, i met some mice, sleepy in their nest under some rotting wood. I left them to it & put a box over their home to protect them while i worked.20150214_124420web

Next i bandaged all the frame with bubble wrap. I have tonnes of it because people tend to donate it to me for art packaging. This took ages, but i knew any rough or sharp edges would rip the polythene.20150216_145115web20150216_145356webthe polythene was cheap, not really big enough for my purpose as the cheap stuff only seemed to come in 4m widths maximum, my structure was just under 4m long but needed 6m minimum to go over the arch. this sheet was 4 x 9m and cost £14.20150216_151738web

This was then dug in with earth around the edges. patched to make the back & the front & I couldn’t think of anything other than duct tape, as staples would have ripped.20150216_172614web20150216_173449webThe door was a very quick improvisation, as it was getting late & i didn’t want to leave it open to catch the wind. It is a shower curtain stapled on & weighed with wood. I was pretty exhausted, it had taken me two days, including clearing the ground & working around some of my day jobs. So i was looking forward to a hot bath & putting my feet up, when i get a phone call. The new kitchen would be arriving the day after. So that night was spent kitchen clearing, cleaning & setting up a camp in spare room to feed ourselves from for the 3/ 4 days this would take.20150217_235251web

Wednesday. Old kitchen gets ripped out. all the wood is of course, piled up for upcycling, building projects or firewood.20150218_100744webThe wind has been blowing fiercely, but the poly tunnel hasn’t been destroyed ‘yet’, i nervously watch.
Oh and the bath is full of willow that I am frantically weaving, but that is another story…. watch this space.


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This entry was posted on February 19, 2015 by in Blog and tagged , , , , , , , , , .

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