Jumping through hoops…

drawings

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I started the renovation of my building for the new studio, I thought it would just be a simple process of gathering ideas, talking to the contractor and getting to work. Not really so.

When the housing boom came through our county in 2005, our town didn’t have some of the precautions in place to keep some properties from being razed and developed. And not really in ways that they were in favor of. One old house was taken down, which could’ve been renovated to be replaced by townhouses. So the town couldn’t stop it because they didn’t have regulations in place. They quickly got to work and did just that, getting the county involved and forming a committee of their own that made it harder for that kind of change to happen again. This was a good thing. The house that is directly behind our property was scheduled to be next and they have prevented the same from happening there. Although, now, the developer that owns the property has abandoned it and it is now gradually falling further into decline. It is a beautiful old Victorian house that would take lots of money to fix up but would be doable. I’m grateful that the town saved it and they have told me that they have plans to get the developer to make some moves on the property.

SO, now I am close to starting work on the building. Given the committee has to be involved, it has been a bit more complicated than it would’ve been a few years ago. My initial plan was to add an addition to my building to house the kiln (s). I prepared drawings and took this to the town to show them what I was doing. You see, the building sits exactly on the property line and that is a big no no. You have to put a building, a new building, at least 15 feet away from a property line. So my addition had to be okay’d by the committee. Given that I was renovating the old building, it can be grandfathered into the regulations and is automatically okay to do the work to, but the addition had to have permission and a waiver to proceed.

Then my contractor gave me his first quote…. OUCH! The kiln room had to go, as did my concrete floor. In order to bring the project into my budget, I had to shave things off the project. AND, even though I was no longer doing the addition, I still had to get permission from the town to proceed. In the meantime, my contractor is running out of work before the meeting of the committee. He wants to get to work and they want me to hold on a few more days to give it a go ahead. They needed revised drawings of the project and 7 copies of the drawing and a check for $25. The meeting is March the 7th and I should be able to have permits in hand by the 8th since I also started the process of obtaining the permits with the county. This will get my contractor working early in March rather than have to wait until April.

Code for the county is also something that I have had to follow for safety reasons. The inspectors came out and looked at the property and gave me more insight as to what I can and can’t do. A local business sells used and odd sized windows which I had found some really cool triangular windows for the eaves but they are too big and aren’t a tempered glass, so those had to come out of the project. Also, windows have to be at least 18″ up from the floor and the triangles are just too big. They would’ve been really cool though, giving my moved stairs the much needed light.

Enter, Craig’s List. I spent a day working to find some windows that would suit me to add the whimsy to the building and give me plenty of light but also save me some money on new windows at Lowe’s or Home Depot. I found some half rounds, quarter rounds and an arch window up in Maryland that I am planning on going to purchase tomorrow. They are a major brand of window, but at a fraction of the cost that I would have to pay if I had to buy them from a retailer. I just have to drive a bit to get them.

So I spent yesterday working on revised drawings and using the dimensions that are on the Craig’s List listing, figuring out where I can place the windows to give me the light that I want inside the new space. And making sure that I have the proper distance from the floor to the window to meet the codes. By placing the half rounds in the eaves, I get a window that looks a bit like an orange slice or a smile, which I will be doing a lot of, come March, when I can see the changes start to take place.

Spring Newsletter 2013

 

 

 

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O Shenandoah County Artisan Trail

“Hand-made treasures, locally grown goodness and breath-taking beauty around every bend”

ACVcirclelogo106x106It is official! Shenandoah County named the trail and the press release came out in February. It seems the entire county is now gearing up to launch the trail and show off our artists and agri-artisans within our county.  In April, Shenandoah County tourism folks are planning a local event and are featuring many of the people who have signed up for the trail. Their partnership with the Artisan Center of Virginia is what has made the trail happen They have named the event “Gardens, Galleries, and Grapes” and it is set for Sunday, April 21, 2012.  It will be from 12-5 p.m. I am going to be set up for this at Natural Art Garden Center here in Tom’s Brook. The County Chamber has a lovely window display in their window in Woodstock, VA and have some of my work displayed to promote this Spring event.

If you are planning a trip to the Shenandoah Valley, you may use Virginia.org to look up all the artisans and plan a trip to the area for a tour of your choosing. It is easy to do!

  • Simply register with Virginia.org
  • Click on the Trip Planner at the top of the page
  • Then Start a New Trip
  • You can search for Laughing Orange Studio and add that to your trip along with other really cool sites in my area.
  • After you have added some neat things to see in your trip planner, you can assemble an itinerary and print it out with maps and addresses.
  • Then just jump in your car and come and see me!

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old building

Laughing Orange is moving out of the basement!

This winter, I have been working on getting a building on my property transformed into a new workspace to house the studio. My basement has been where I have been working and if you have ever been to my house, you know that the basement has a low ceiling. It does have a cement floor, which is nice, because I can spray out the dust, but I have support poles in my way and have really cramped quarters.

I have a building on my property that we have used for storage for years. It is basically a story and a half and the square footage is not much more than my basement, if even bigger, but I will have one continuous room and can set things up in a more efficient way. AND it has normal ceilings which will make it feel bigger… for a while.

My permits are applied for, my contractor is ready to get to work, I am just waiting for a meeting of the town planning committee to meet so they can give me the final go ahead. At that point the building is getting a new look with metal siding, new windows and doors and a new floor. Budget constraints kept me from getting everything that I wanted but as the business grows, so can my upgrades to my space.

If you use Facebook, “like” Laughing Orange Studio and see the progress as it happens there.

Or stay tuned on this blog for updates as well…

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courier article72

Work in Progress

Laughing Orange was featured in a local tabloid called the Mountain Courier. Rich Follett, a regular writer for them, wrote the story for his regular feature called Work in Progress. I’ve included the text here since the paper is not an online publication:

Work in Progress

Laughing Orange Studio

by Rich Follett

In a pre-interview email, I asked Susie Morgan Wilburn for the address of her home studio. The reply came back promptly, with a bit of additional information: “You can see it from space!” Right from the start, I was aware that this would be no ordinary visit. As it turns out, Laughing Orange STudio is indeed a literal rather than a figurative moniker: the house is bright orange, whimsy fills every corner, and I am reasonably certain that, if afforded access to orbit, one cound indeed see it from space. Susie’s pottery offers a festival of imaginative and playful forms, underpinned with an essential functionality that seems, somehow, like a bonus.

Wilburn had been a ceramics apprentice for two years at Berea College in Kentucky and had been hand building pottery in her home since 1992, firing her pieces in a kiln passed down from a family member. Then, for Christmas 2010, her husband gifted her with a second hand potter’s wheel. She took to the wheel immediately, finding that her remembered skills came back quickly and easily. The Universe provided a final nudge in 2011 when Wilburn was laid off from the job she had held for more than 20 years with a printing firm. Faced with an uncertain future and limited job prospects, Wilburn began to question whether her pottery skills might not only support themselves but also help to support her family. In the fall of 2011, Wilburn was asked to make 25 bowls for the area’s annual Empty Bowl soup supper. With her characteristic whimsical flair, she crafted a small ceramic frog into each of her pieces, to be gradually revealed as the contents were eaten. Her fog bowls were a resounding success; the supply was exhausted very early in the evening and patrons were clamoring for more.

Based on the success of the frog bowls, Wilburn accepted an invitation from the Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, (an organization for which she continues to serve as a volunteer) to sell her pottery at a holiday open house. In three hours’ time, Wilburn sold $1,700 worth of her art. The community had given Wilburn her answer and there was no looking back. Laughing Orange Studio was born in 2012, its name taken from the particular color of Sherwin Williams paint that makes the home studio stand out in the Wilburn’s otherwise sedate neighborhood. The inspiration for the cheerful color scheme was taken from a patch of daylilies that bloom in the Wilburn backyard each summer.

From the basement of their gaily painted Toms Brook home, Wilburn spins her potter’s wheel to create playful pottery pieces designed to enchant and to be used daily. Frogs, fish, fossils, fairies, rabbits and botanical design punctuate an endless array of mugs, butter bells, bowls, vases, and other practical household items made wondrous by Wilburn’s deft, clever hands. Wilburn’s vision is in her hands; she does not see pottery pieces in her mind’s eye prior to throwing them, choosing instead to go into “the zone” and giving her hands free rein to shape each pot directly from her subconscious. With every turn of the wheel, Wilburn endeavors to create artful objects that will be used rather than merely displayed–her chorus of ceramic frogs is joyfully chiming “pick me up and use me!”

Another successful facet of Laughing Orange Studio is the “Fairy Garden” line of art pottery designed for indoor or outdoor use. Fairy houses, fairy furniture, fairy garden ornaments, all are lovingly sculpted and hand painted (no two are alike) by Wilburn to be sold locally and shipped around the world. Lately, she has bee challenged to keep up with a rapidly growing fairy garden clientele in Australia, many of whom are placing custom orders–they can dream it, Wilburn will create it. Laughing Orange Studio has quickly outgrown Wilburn’s basement; in the spring of 2013, she is breaking ground on a project to convert an existing Victorian outbuilding into a backyard studio with increased firing capacity, a separate shipping area and space for demonstrations.

Wilburn credits her success to having ahd a strong community identity and presence prior to launching Laughing Orange Studio. She endeavors to tell stories with her pottery and to have her pottery become part of the stories that those who buy and use her pieces will tell in their own lives. It is a gift that will enrich the community—and the Valley—for generations to come.

Susie Morgan Wilburn is a juried member of the Shenandoah Valley Artisan Trail. Her pottery is available at Natural Art Garden Center in Toms Brook, Shenandoah Valley Artworks in Strasburg, Laughing Orange Studio (3397 Hillcrest Drive, Toms Brook) and online through Etsy at www.etsy.com/shop.laughingorangestudio.com

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1st Annual Holiday Open House was Wonderful!

I want to thank everyone that came to the Holiday Open House. I know this is late but, I really do appreciate everyone coming and sharing my new adventure, having some snacks and getting some Christmas gifts. The weather was beautiful and the weekend was super busy but really lots of fun. THANK YOU ALL!!! I’m looking forward to doing it again next year and showing off my new space.

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Connect with Laughing Orange


Etsy logo

My Etsy shop, Laughing Orange Studio,
is connected to my blog.

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Laughing Orange Studio has a business Facebook presence.
pinterestPinterest, if you are unfamiliar with it, is a great way to bookmark items onto the web for reference or sharing.

googleGoogle + is awesome for the main reason that I can see friends and relatives that are far away. It has a wonderful hangout option that many people can have a conversation all at once.

 

Subscribe to this Newsletter! I am trying to get a newsletter out quarterly just to give an update on new products and my event schedules.

 

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Currently I’m working on:

  • making, making, making lots of new items for the April 21st Spring “Gardens, Galleries and Grapes Event” at Natural Art Garden Center here in Toms Brook and the Blandy Farm Mother’s Day Event in Boyce, VA
  • updating my databases and contact information. If you know of someone that you think would enjoy knowing about me or my work, please share this newsletter and the above sites to find me. Thanks in advance for helping get the word out.
  • Fairy Garden Items are still all the rage and if you haven’t gotten yours started, there are new items for those on Etsy and Lynne Phillips, at  Natural Art Garden Center, is planning some fall workshops to help you build your own. Check out the link here...or contact Lynne at 540-436-3130

Please remember Laughing Orange if you need a wedding or special birthday gift. I love doing special orders and handmade items are always more special than something that has been mass produced.

Happy Spring!

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ACV JURIED artisan LOGOwith orange

This Small Space…

It has been a while since I have done a blog post and after time lapses, I start to panic a bit because I know that I need to find something to blog about. But a subject jumped out at me this morning.

Designing My New Small Space

Since I have started on my new endeavor of inventing my new life as a potter, I have been working in the basement of our 105 year old house. The ceiling down there is about 5’6″ where the beams hold the floor joists that hold up my first floor and about 6 feet in other areas. I am 5’4″ tall. Herb is 6’2″. I can work down there and not bump my head, but there is the feeling of that ceiling being very close to me so subconsciously, I am scrunching my shoulders and at the end of a long day, my neck and back ache horribly.

old building

old building

We have two outbuildings on our property and one of those buildings used to be a garage and we now use it as a workshop that houses things like saws, drills, hammers and the like while the other building is basically a storage shed. It is a story and a half with a saltbox sloped roof on it. It is in pretty rough shape and so I am in the midst of trying to get help to convert that building into a space that I will use and move out of the basement.

In the process of doing all of this planning, which I seem to be spending a lot of time on these days rather than working with my clay, I am seeing and finding a lot of great posts on smaller spaces and how to utilize them. Our country is finally realizing that more isn’t alway better and that small can be a good thing. I love the idea of built in furniture and multipurpose uses for storage or furniture. Here are some of the sites that I have come across lately that have helped me to get a vision on how to use the small amount of square footage that I have…

  • LifeEdited is a site that features scaling down and living with less.
  • The Minimalists I heard these guys interviewed on NPR about becoming  minimalists and letting go of a huge house, car and lifestyle so he could be happier with less to deal with. Their blog is full of great info about living with less. You can also listen to more from them here.
  • Shrink Your Super-Sized Life and Become a Better Neighbor  A challenge for all of us to live with less energy. When we think about it, it is really all about being a better  community rather than the race to see who can own the most. Right?
  • Felice Cohen goes from 90 sq ft to 500 sq feet This woman shows how she went from 90 sq ft – 500 sq ft. I think what strikes me most about this video is that  it is her mindset about how the space is used. Especially when she was in the 90 sq foot space
  • Apartment Therapy This article on Ten Tiny houses is one that shows some great use of space.
  • And of course, one of my favorite authors, Sarah Susanka’s the Not So Big House. Sarah is an architect that realized that bigger isn’t always better and has used that philosophy in her business and yet puts a large emphasis on quality rather than quantity.

The building I’m going to move into is only 580 square feet total. That is both stories combined. The upstairs has a sloped ceiling that is not going to be useful for much else but storage of shipping materials, an office space and possibly a sleeping space if my son brings a bunch of people for a visit and there isn’t a bed in the house for them. So my new work space will amount to about 240 square feet.  The good thing about this new space is that the ceiling will be a consistent height of 7 feet and I won’t have to deal with working around support poles. So I will have a large rectangular room and can move freely about.

And of course, there is the recycling that I want to do in order to keep the trash from the landfill or to reuse as much of the old parts of the building as possible. I have found a cabinet maker locally that is interested in the lumber that is going to come out of the building. I have been searching for used items to put back into the building and am trying to have the least impact possible on the natural resources. At first I was going to add plumbing because there isn’t any in the building now. Now I am challenging myself to use as little water as possible, even though I am a potter and need water to make my craft. I am looking at, in the future, if needed, adding a composting toilet in the upstairs, just so guests might not have to come into the main house in the middle of the night.

So, as I work through this process of converting a small work space and getting the dust out of the basement, hopefully, I will blog more about this process and keep you up to date as the building is transformed into a simple minimalistic space that I can spend time creating and enjoying the my new endeavor even more.