Pottery Shed Progress

The builders have been working here for a couple of weeks now and there is some progress to show for it. Some days they arrive later and other times they leave early, then have to work on Saturday to make up the time lost. Who’d be a builder? Trying to keep everyone happy. They have more than one job on the go to keep fully employed. Today they aren’t here. They told me that they have to go back to finish off a small job that was waiting for a few extra parts.

I asked if they think that they will finish before Xmas and was told emphatically “Yes!” Anyway, time will tell. Things will happen and everything will get done eventually.

I have been working as the builders labourer here and there to help speed things up. I keep well out of their way, but let them know I’m always ready to help where needed.

I spend the beginning of each day getting things sorted for the builders, putting the various parts in place as they are needed. I don’t have to do this. I choose to do it to keep the pace of the build up. If there is something menial to do, then it’s better that I do it, so as to keep them being productive. Then throughout the day I spend my time in the temporary workshop shed restoring doors and building windows, getting them ready for the builders. Sometimes making custom ‘flashing’ from sheet steel on the guillotine and pan break. Then in the afternoon and evening I spend time sorting and cutting old sheets of iron ready for the next day.

Yesterday, I spent part of the day cutting up sheets of tin into small narrow strips to make the little facia on the verandahs. It’s fiddly and time consuming hunting through the piles of off-cuts of tin to find suitably rusty and patinated bits that all match, or are compatible aesthetically and are suitable for the use and then to order them to make a pleasing composition. They just didn’t get it at first, but now It’s working out OK. So far I’m happy with it.

Each day I hunt through the stacks of 2nd hand, corrugated iron looking for just the right ones that all go together with the same or at least compatible surface textures, colours and rusty patches that have developed on their surfaces over their previous life. The builders didn’t understand this at first. It took a few days to get them to tune in on our ‘weird’ artistic aesthetic. I love the ‘wabi-sabi’ nature of old matt grey and slightly rusty iron. The builder couldn’t understand this approach at first. He is used to making car ports and garages that are totally shiny and every line dead straight, with all the screw heads just the right colour to match the ‘colour-bond’ sheeting. I think that he found it quite confronting to be asked to use 2nd hand galvanised iron, with all its rusted patina, dents and quirky character.

To make it even harder for him, I have collected every sheet that I could scrounge, with total disregard to whether or not the different ages of sheeting, with their different variations of corrugated profiles would match. It turns out that something as simple as corrugated iron can come from different eras with different ‘standard’ profiles. So what I have learnt is that there is no ‘standard’, and that the shape changes every so often to suit the manufacturers needs, due to changes in manufacturing machinery and techniques. For instance, the oldest sheeting was rolled sideways and the newer sheeting is rolled lengthways, then there was the change from imperial measure to metric. Older sheeting is thicker and heavier, while the most recent lengths are much thinner, but made from high tensile steel.

It’s an eclectic mix of whatever I could scrounge over the past 6 months. However, with careful selection – given enough time, I have been able to go through all of the dozen piles and sort out the closest matches. I saved the best, most rustic sheets, for the side facing the house that we will see every day and also inside the pottery studio. The worst, and by this I mean the perfect, modern, coloured, ‘colour-bond’ sheeting, was set aside for the front of the building that will eventually be bricked up and covered over, using our left-over sandstock bricks from when we built the house many years ago. In this way the front of the pottery facing the street will have a similar colour and texture as the Old School building. This is an attempt to maintain the visual amenity of the street scape.

In other areas, where I have been forced to use up the mottled variations of ‘colour bond’ sheeting, green, blue, grey and cream. These will eventually be painted over. I secretly hope that I do such a bad job of this, that some of it starts to peel off and flake a bit, just to keep in relationship to some of the other flakey iron buildings on the site.

Other outer walls are just plain weathered grey gal iron look. I have to use whatever I could find. And it all has to be used, as I don’t have the luxury of having too much to choose from. It has turned out that each elevation of the complex of 5 attached sheds has its own unique ‘shed-scape’ character. It has been a little bit of an effort to explain to the builders every day, the importance to me of matching the so-called ‘shit iron’ look that I’m after. ‘Wabi-sabi’ doesn’t translate into the Australian Building code, and isn’t dealt with in the TAFE course in steel shed construction 101!

We have made progress though. The builder said to me yesterday that he thought that it has started to turn out OK. “It doesn’t look as bad as I thought it would. That probably means that you are really happy with it”!

And I am!