Friday, August 29, 2014

Fogie


Photo courtesy Flickr

One of my partner’s young colleagues mentioned walking downtown to the ferry terminal after a festive restaurant meal. I countered with an offer to wait for the bus with her, since the street can be a little dicey after peak commuting hours. Lila, of the sweet and gentle visage, said she’d be OK. As we walked home, Pard mentioned that Lila was a kick-boxer who had seen combat in Iraq.

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More after the jump.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bedside Bonanza


Photo courtesy Flickr

French tradition places a flat-seated chair beside a bed. I find the practice convenient in many ways, not the least of which is to seat the person who has brightened my morning with a breakfast tray.

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More after the jump.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tupa Life


Photo courtesy Flickr

A tupa is a traditional Finnish country house, a peaked-roof rectangle with shoebox proportions and an entry at the center of the front elevation. Usually made of logs, it’s housing at its most basic. Tupa-format structures succeeded the Cape Cod veteran’s cottages that carpeted Seattle after World War Two. Inflation was high in the late Forties, and developers produced affordable one-story concrete block units built on cement slabs. The original roof of thick cedar shakes relieved the industrial textures of the masonry. A friend bought one of these houses for its yard. She installed a kiln and is planning to begin production soon. 

A house like this is far from fashionable, but like the Capes, it’s a sleeper. The tupa evolved in a near-Arctic agricultural and forest economy. Winters were spent mending reindeer harness and building sleds in the family room. If I had a reindeer harness to mend, Maxine would be the first person I’d consult. She may inadvertently have bought the ideal house for someone who works a full-time job and produces handmade work out of her dwelling. All she needs to bring the landscape up to Finnish speed is plant a lilac or three in a small group in the front yard. Maxine’s time and resources are hard-pressed: the utilitarian minimums that result are truer and more valid than decorative layers that would simply invalidate the original rigor and integrity of her building as it stands. 

Cement floors and concrete-block walls do not scream gracious living. Cement floors and concrete-block walls do scream contemporary practicality, though, and they also scream Japanese appreciation for a building that won’t catch fire. A friend asked if Maxine’s inner walls are finished. I don’t recall, but an original log building might have sported canvas liners painted in imitation of neo-classical paneling. Current Japanese masonry interiors are sometimes hung with down comforters to modify humidity and baffle sound. The Big Box Home Improvement Chain sells inexpensive quilted moving pads of recycled materials that are black on one side and a deep Northern European blue on the other. Elizabeth Gaynor and Kari Haavisto’s Finland, Living Design lays out the late twentieth century design vocabulary that includes generous use of quilted fabrics. Contemporary resilient shoe soles and orthotic inserts take the curse off the cold cement floors that used to hospitalize (no kidding) the women who did standing housework and child care all day. Resilient shop safety mats aren’t half bad to look at, either. Digital communications deliver the wealth of culture that used to be communicated via wallpaper, square footage, and high-maintenance landscaping. Current small space and green design add sophisticated amenities that run circles around old-school mid-twentieth century housing. 

Japan and Finland are cultural cousins, each with a profound and living craft tradition. Maxine’s collection of heirlooms is right at home in a tupa. A rocking chair and kerosene lamp equivalent would pull it all together. Her front door offers a straight shot through the building to the kiln. The architecture echoes the “screens passage” of a traditional English hall house, a utilitarian entry space midway between kitchen and social areas. The screens passage evolved into the stunning entry area of a stately home. A screens passage was a purposely chilly storage area. The tupa version was lined with coat hooks.

I was thinking about Maxine’s production plans as I stumbled into last Sunday morning’s blog writing session. My first coherent thought of the day was relief at remembering house policy not to make beds on the Sabbath. I considered my own flow of work and realized that it makes sense to displace domestic tasks that pop up in front of projects that are more involved with the greater culture. 

Parallel work flows for craft production and for life support keep each enterprise from inhibiting the other. Think velocity. Leave each physical object ready to use in the next stage of a project. Set up so you don’t have to stretch, stoop, or lean off balance to do a task. Store a thing where you use it first. I find it helpful to corral parts of each project on a cafeteria tray or in a legally acquired commercial grade dairy crate. With HEPA air filtration systems and toxins separated from living space, little else is necessary to keep all the balls in the air.

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More after the jump.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Super Tub


Photo courtesy Flickr

I treated the household to a top of the line step-open waste bin and realized I’d been living like an animal. The device was far from cheap, but so far seems to be worth every penny we shelled out. Emptying it for the second time, I realized that fitting the rubber feet with magical sliding castors would, in effect, put the thing on wheels. The sliders accelerate the not so cumbersome process of pulling the unit out from under an old-school open sink, lifting out the liner bag, tying it shut, setting a new one in place, and shoving the bin back into position.

I did so the same morning I wrestled twenty-five pounds of oatmeal into a feed bin in the pantry. A metal waste bin with a step lid would be a cool way to store bulk staples. One that is strong enough to use as a stool at the kitchen table would be even cooler. The just-thick-enough-to-do-the-job stainless shell of the new bin could be reinforced with a heavy food grade plastic liner.

A series of bins with flat sides could be lined up to serve as a storage and/or sleeping bench. If they had extending handles on the back, like rolling suitcases, they would have built-in backrests. Foam seat toppers could cushion the base. Replacing back feet with skate wheels would make the units easily mobile. Adding the straightforward strap system Deep South America uses on its backpack/rolling suitcase would add a valuable extra level of versatility.

An insulated bin could work as a refrigerator or fire-proof storage unit. A different format could digest compost. I could see a bin reconfigured as an electronic pressure cooker, computer tower, shredder, or food dehydrator. It wouldn’t take much to produce a small washing machine, either: if the German laundry spinner I use to wring hand washing had a drain plug, I could save transferring wet clothing from the sink. A washing function would call for locking castors. A simple lock would add a security option to any unit. 

Thinking this post through, I realized that any sophisticated amenity, something that reflects what Paul Hawken called high intelligence in a product, like a tablet computer, rapidly pays for itself in an environment where habitable space is figured in cubic inches.

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More after the jump.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Good Neighbor


Photo courtesy Flickr

A new tenant moved into a ground floor live/work unit on a busy street. Her digs are fishbowl-exposed to every passing pedestrian, of which there are many. The two small dogs who came with her barked hysterically all week-end. Presumably, their mistress was out. 

Mid-afternoon on day two, one of the local crows perched on a wire over the unit and said something to the dogs. They calmed down right away. I now appreciate their occasional yapping as part of the local jungle telegraph.

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More after the jump.