The town where I live is old, with ancient cobbled streets and buildings that have stood for hundreds of years. It is a bustling, lively old market town with a great atmosphere and a thriving high street. There are a good number of independent shops, pubs, restaurants and cafés occupying the old buildings that line the streets, and visually it's a really lovely town. Mellow and charming.
I walk these streets daily as I go about my business, and am very familiar with what's at ground level. I know the shops and cafés well, and am often in and out of a good number of them. But it's not often that one thinks to look up is it? What goes on above these shops and cafés? What's behind those first and second floor windows? This was the question that began to occupy my thoughts a few months ago, and I found myself looking upwards a great deal. Because I had an idea and I was beginning a Personal Search.
My idea was quite simple....I wanted to find a room. A room that would give me space to create and work, to surround myself with beautiful things, with colour and pattern, with yarn and books and buttons and crochet. It would be a room I could perhaps open up and share with others too, a place for me to invite like minded souls to come and spend some happy, creative times. It was my dream really. I've always dreamed of occupying such a space, and had often chatted to my hooky friends about it. We fantasised about it often. How lovely it would be! We could run classes! We could have Open Studio sessions! We could create, teach, share, inspire!
At the end of January, I found it. I walked down the street one day and I looked up and saw those first floor windows and I wondered.....I wondered what went on up there? I wondered if there might possibly be an empty room inside that freshly painted, stylish grey building. This is a newly opened local café bar a little way out of the town centre, an old building given a new lease of life by two enterprising and dynamic ladies. And as is so often the case in this small friendly town, I very soon found out that these lovely ladies were in fact friends of friends, and that's when it all began to rollercoaster. Phone calls were made, a meeting was set up and so began one of the most exciting adventures ever ever ever.
Would you like to come inside with me? Come on then, lets pop in and take a look......
On the ground floor, there are two rooms. The first room is where all the action is. It's where the scrummy homemade cakes and pastries are baked, where the delicious fresh coffee is made, and where the scrumptious food is cooked. There are tables and chairs here, and there is much banter and chatter and comings and goings.
The second room is just off to the right, and is light and lovely and a little more peaceful. The whole place has an exceptionally welcoming atmosphere, and it's a real pleasure just to be there really. You can bob in for a quick coffee to take away (which I had often done in the past), or you can sit down and enjoy a slice of cake with your drink or perhaps a lovely lunch with friends.
Anyhow....more about the café in a bit. I need to take you upstairs now. Come on, follow me......
.....up the very old wooden stairs....
.....admire the gorgeous old stained glass window on the landing.....
....turn right and walk down the little corridor to the old wooden door at the end. Push it open........
.....and there is indeed an empty room sat waiting.
It's old, as you can see. Old wooden floors, and old beamed ceiling, deep skirting boards and a delightful old fireplace.
It has recently been replastered and rewired, but the floor is in a dreadful state and it is dusty and dirty. Yet the room has an incredible feel to it. On this cold February morning, the sunlight streamed in through the front window, and well, I felt like I had just opened a most precious gift. Space. A light filled space. So very, very full of potential that I felt like I wanted to dance a jig right there on the spot.
I was not on my own here I might add. My very good friend Tracy was with me, as I had decided when I first began my search that I would love more than anything to be able to share. To perhaps recreate a little of the fun that accompanied my art school days. Much more fun to share, I thought.
And so we began. We began to work very, very hard at making this precious room shine.
The first task was to deal with the floor. Years of grime, paint and plaster had to be scrubbed and scraped away and it was back breaking hard graft.
We started in one corner and gradually worked our way backwards. It was slow and laborious and took many days as we both had to fit the work in between our family commitments. A little bit here, a little bit there. An hour or two each day when we could manage.
But as we scrubbed and scraped and wiped and brushed, Tracy and I talked over all our plans for this room and we shared the excitement of it all.
Slowly but surely we made progress and we could see that the hard work was beginning to pay off.
The floor boards began to look quite presentable once they were clean and dry.
The final stage was to give the floor a good rub down with some Danish Oil....
....it restored the tired, thirsty wood and made it look quite beautiful.
With the floor done, it was time to get painty. We both agreed that it had to be white, a great backdrop for all the colour that would surely come from both of us! As with the floor, it was a slow process due to the limited time we could escape there child free.
But as with the floor, we gradually began to see it taking shape. Several coats of white on all the woodwork....
....then two coats of brilliant white emulsion on the walls and ceiling.
We finished the decorating four days ago, and oh my, it was such a fantastic feeling! After many weeks of dirty work I couldn't wait to clear the room and prepare for the Fun Stuff!
We spent Saturday afternoon tidying all the messy stuff away, giving the floor a good sweep and filling some jugs with fresh flowers by way of celebration.
During the weeks when we were cleaning and decorating upstairs, we began to make our presence felt in the café downstairs. Right from the very beginning, the owners were very keen for us to bring our distinctive creative vibe into the café, so we told all our yarny friends to come and join us. Come on down we said! Tell your friends to come too! Come and join us every Friday morning for some great coffee, delicious cake and some sociable creativity! It has been a huge success and now on Friday mornings, the café is filled with much chatter and laughter and lots of crochet, knitting and stitching. It's wonderful.
As you might expect, the past few days have been mega exciting for Tracy and I. I've had trouble sleeping cos my mind is so buzzy and full of ideas, but in a really great way. We both of us have Big Creative Minds you see, and they have been working on overdrive now that the studio is ready for us. We are both on a tight budget, and will be doing things gradually. Repurposing, recycling and re-using. We are searching out pre-loved furniture in local second hand and charity shops, picking up unwanted bits and pieces from friends, scouring eBay, and even rescuing unwanted items from being thrown into landfill (more on that a little later). So it's an ongoing process, and we'll have to be patient with it, adding little by little to the room as we work out what we need and how we want the studio to work.
But it's already taking shape. It's taking shape rather beautifully........
This picture was taken at the weekend when my first bits of furniture were moved in. An old farmhouse table bought on eBay. An old kitchen chair given to me by a friend which I painted a most gorgeous blue colour. A vintage wicker bin found in a charity shop. An old stripy jug bought from the collectors centre down the road (daffies from the market). And a fabulous old Lloyd Loom chair snapped up at a bargain price from the same place as the jug.
This was Tracy's end at the weekend as she also started to bring in some bits and pieces. An upcycled chair bought from a charity shop, old step ladders painted to use for display. Some old wooden boxes from the collectors centre, and a notice board made from an old picture frame.
And this is how my space looks right now. A little more colour has arrived!
I am beginning to feel very at home in this room....it is making me sooooooo happy :o)
My lovely prettified inspiration board will be put up on the wall above my desk, and I've painted up three wooden shelves to go on the wall too. Need to get J to come and do that for me as I am shamefully hopeless with anything that needs man tools. I just stick to what I am good at and Insubstantial Prettifying is my thing remember.
The framed pictures will soon be hung on the wall too, and my lovely wire veggie rack will soon be filled with yarn.
There is lots still to do, but I am really, really looking forward to doing it, that's for sure.
Tracy has also made herself at home. She brought down an old kitchen table to work at, and her amazing painted printers tray filled with all her sewing threads.
Her style and colour palette is a little different to mine, but I think we compliment each other very well.
It's been lovely to see her settle so easily into the studio, and her table is already filling up with work in progress. I confess I am a little jealous of the time she is able to spend working there already (her boys are older than mine and are both at school), but I know my time will come soon enough.
For now I'm enjoying the delicious task of making this studio of ours a wonderful, inspiring place to be in. A place that feels like home.
In the future, we hope to be able to run creative classes and workshops here, and to open our door every now and again for folk to come and see what we do. I will of course keep you posted, I'm going to very much enjoy sharing this new journey with you all.
ps please do pop along to Tracy's blog Patchwork Chickens to read her tale of our studio. She is far more direct and less waffly than me, and she takes beautiful pictures too. She's a great Studio Buddie to have x