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Blair's Studio Build

During the recent Art Trail, artists heard many visitors wishfully lust after their own studio space to create. Here, Blair Fraser shares his very recent experience about building his new studio and contending with Cyclone Gabrielle and rainstorms. It will be on the 'must visit' list for many on next years Trail....

Does the saying "An ill wind does no one, no good" ring true? Well for this story, an ill if not horrendous wind that cracked a huge tree next to my garage and studio, helped us make the decision to put a studio in its place. (see photo at left) An emergency arborist was called as the wind was getting worse and the tree was in danger of crashing through the garage. With it gone, a whole new space opened up. The garage has been a good studio space to work in but in summer it is hot and winter really cold and the cost to line and seal it wasn't worth it, besides the second car has to sit in the drive while I play with clay.

We ordered a kitset from a company in Palmerston North who get the 'tongue and grove' lock together panels from Estonia, of all places. They then transport it to you. But in our case, they took it to the wrong address. It was quite an ordeal to get it back and up to our place. Another story!

The next job was to build piles for it to sit on as we were building it on a slope. So, part of the bank had to be dug out and from this point on is when all the horrible rain started. We would dig and it would bucket down adding more mud. (see photo above). Once the level was right, we concreted in the piles, and I dug drains so that water would not sit under the studio in the future. But the rain just bucketed down and all the drains were gone and there was even more mud. I must have done this three times more.

Once the floor frame went down, we unpacked the timber and started building the walls. I couldn't believe how quickly it went up and how easy. However, you guessed it, then horrendous rain… mud was splattered everywhere, even up to a metre high on the walls inside and out. Yes, the drains were filled in with water once again. So, a big tarp was purchased. Then that Friday flooding happened. As you can imagine I was starting to get anxious as all this rain could warp all the wood. It's fine but I worry.

We managed to get the ceiling in place that first weekend of the Mahurangi Art Trail. It was quite a point of interest for visitors to my studio. Especially as I was up and down the ladder all day. We really needed to get the metal on the roof as we could see the cyclone coming, but we needed the electrician to do the cables for the lights. Luckily it was done on the Tuesday and we worked quickly on the Saturday of the second Art Trail weekend, to put the metal and the flashings on. Fortunately, we had just finished when it started raining. We all know how awful that week was especially for the people of Northland, Coromandel and Hawke's Bay. But the new studio survived.

Now I just have to paint, finish the flooring and build some cupboards and shelves, then move it. There is definitely going to be a little celebration when that happens. I'll keep you all posted.

Blair Fraser

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