Monday, May 11, 2009
My Story--my journey as artist begins
Well, the decision to become an artist was made as I told in the last entry, and I wasted no time. I needed a studio space (I'd been renting studio time at the local Pratt Fine Arts Center) but needed my own space. I approached my landlords about purchasing the house I'd been renting and they said they'd just been thinking about selling and seemed fine with an easy sale to me! I got a mortgage and signed the papers, and used most of the remaining money (after putting some aside in the stock market, imagining that it would grow and I could remodel the house in a few years--ha!) to convert the 2 car detached garage into my studio. It was so exciting! A lovely new studio was developing, with a safe place for my kiln, for flameworking, a separate little room for a sandblaster I could not yet afford, and "plenty" of room for storage, etc. I bought a great torch and glass and was excited to get to work in it. Toward the end of the project I came home to find a red tag on the door (what did I know from red tags? Nothing!). But it was apparently a dreaded "stop work order." After some digging around, I discovered that a nuisance neighbor had complained and I had to stop everything pending inspections. Fine. Inspections done and passed and project continued. Another stop work order appeared. Now what? Well, there is a small code written in "the books" that states one cannot have a "home occupation in a detached garage." So I was utterly stuck. I'd spent all my money on building my studio and now it turned out it would be illegal to use it. Was I dejected? Utterly. But I summoned up all my strength and went to battle. Nuisance neighbor had apparently researched the codes to find something to get me with, since my project was already up to code. The little bit of code is something no one bothers to enforce (tons of artists and others have studios and workshops in their detached garages) but once a complaint is filed, there is nothing to be done short of changing the law, and THAT I was told, is virtually impossible. Well, the "virtual" gave me at least a chance, and I took it. I wrote a long, very strong (and I must say well written and edited) letter to the mayor, city council, newspaper and news stations in the Seattle area. I included around 35 letters on my behalf from neighbors and their children ("she helps us do projects and teaches us stuff") in the packet. I was about to be interviewed for an article in the newspaper when I got notice that the code had been changed to allow artists to have studios in their detached garages. I am a reluctant activist, but my dream was threatened and I became like a mama bear with her cub. I love that it also helped others.