Garage door magic

>, studio practice>Garage door magic

“Can I come up and see what you’re doing?”

I looked out; my across-the-street neighbor, Kim, stood at the foot of my driveway. “Sure,” I called, “Come on up.”

Most of the neighborhood seems to stop in once my garage doors go up and I start working; there’s been a LOT of curiosity about what I do in a garage that’s obviously no longer a garage. I love the sense of community, although there are times I feel as if I’m working in a goldfish bowl.

The neighborhood kids have taken to shouting hello and waving as they walk by. They’ve been told by their parents that there are “dangerous things” in my garage (perfectly correct) and they should NOT go in there without an adult. (thank you, thank you)

Just to be on the safe side, the doors are open ONLY when I’m in the garage–when I go inside the doors come down, which will hopefully keep any youthful rulebreakers from getting hurt. But the restriction frequently results in a kid standing about 10 feet down the driveway, shouting up questions until I come out and show him what I’m working on.

Those doors have connected me to the neighborhood. I’ve heard some amazing conversations as kids reason out their world which now, apparently, includes me. A couple of them stopped under my cherry trees, out of sight but not out of hearing.

“OK, now just wait until she thinks we’re gone, and she’ll sing,” the oldest promised, “She sings weird stuff, really loud.”

I’ve taken up humming.

Humans aren’t the only visitors. The other day I bent over my wax, intent on finishing, when an odd whirring startled me into looking up. A hummingbird hovered about a foot from my head. He was an iridescent emerald and apparently upset about something, enough to come inside the garage to discuss it. He vibrated and chittered for maybe 15 minutes while I watched, transfixed. Then he zoomed away.

Kim waves from across the street sometimes, but she’s pretty much kept to herself. She’s got a father in a nursing home needing daily visits, and horrific work schedules, so I wasn’t surprised that she never popped in…until Friday.

She came in tentatively, looking puzzled. “I’ve been wondering and wondering what it is you’re doing in here but I hated to bother you–you look very intense.”

“I’m a sculptor,” I informed her (I still feel like an impostor when I say that), “and I mostly work with glass.”

She looked surprised. “Glass? You mean like Bullseye and Moretti? I didn’t know you did glass. I’m trying to get back to it.”

Now it was my turn to be surprised. I’ve lived across the street from Kim for seven years. “YOU do glass, too?”

“Well, I did. I sculpt too, only on the torch. I learned it from Paul originally.”

“Paul who?”


Uhm. Paul Stankard. Wow.

Turns out Kim has studied quite a bit at Pilchuck, does boro and soda-lime sculpting, but put her torch away when her father became ill. Now that things have settled down with her dad, she’s thought about taking it up again, but an elderly aunt will soon come live with them, and…once again: No time.

“So you’re casting?” she asked, “Is that pate de verre you’re doing?”

“Yup,” and I led her on a tour. We chattered away about casting, and I told her about the Portland Open Studios thing next week. (I’m doing Portland Open Studios, where people tour 100 artists’ studios throughout Portland. That makes me feel like an impostor, too, but I’m slowly getting over it.)

I gave her a calendar, which includes two tickets to the tour, and she promised to come. So that’s at least ONE person who will show up. Whew.

Kim’s very interested in mold-making; she can see where it would expand her options in torchwork. I offered to tutor her a bit and suggested that she could slip a mold in, now and then, when I have space in the kiln. She lit up. “Sometimes I need an outlet, you know?”

I nodded, and we kept talking about glass. When she’s not so swamped, she promised, she’ll bring out her portfolio and let me see her work. And after seven years, I suddenly have a kindred spirit living across the street.

Thank you, garage doors.



  1. Dee Janssen October 6, 2009 at 6:00 pm - Reply

    LOL you should hear what one teen that lives next door things i do in my studio-in-the-garage ;P glad you met another glass person 😉

  2. cynthia October 6, 2009 at 1:51 pm - Reply

    Uhm, gosh. I thought everybody was sick of me talking about it. Yep, I’m doing Portland Open Studios, October 10-11 and October 17-18, 10 to 5 all four days. You visit the Portland Open Studios website and buy a tour guide (which entitles you to two tour admissions) or go to New Seasons and pick one up. Then you figure out what you want to see, use the map to develop a route, and go visit. There are some absolutely amazing artists this year, one of whom sculpts in chocolate (not sure if she’s giving out samples).

    So…y’all come. And thanks for the kind words, all.

    Ellen…I can’t bring myself to say “I’m an artist” and I can’t decide if it’s because everybody seems to be one and I figure I need to stand out from the crowd…or because I don’t know what to say if someone contradicts me. I suppose that makes me a self-conscious, angst-free artist. Or, I dunno, does self-doubt count as angst? If it does, I’m home free…sigh.

  3. Ellen Abbott October 5, 2009 at 5:17 pm - Reply

    Small world.

    I know what you mean about feeling like an impostor when you tell someone you are an artist (or sculptor). I felt that way because to me ‘artist’ is full of vision and angst, which I am most certainly not, as well as ‘content’.

    All that aside, I think I might switch to sculptor. I like the way that sounds.

  4. Kathleen Krucoff October 5, 2009 at 6:23 am - Reply

    Well, how cool is that? another kindred spirit living across the street! Yay!

    I would definitely come on the studio tour to meet you in person and see your studio if I lived in the area. I hope you’ll share pictures of the tour of your studio.

    I think you are a sculptor.

  5. Ed LaPlante October 5, 2009 at 12:24 am - Reply

    so when were you going to tell us you were part of the open studio tour?

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