Thursday, June 5, 2014

Studio work

So I have this new (to me) giant plywood bookcase, probably eight feet tall. Ready to hold tons of stuff. (And I have tons of stuff.) I have the Muscle People haul in into my studio (the chaotic storage room with busted windows). And then I have them move it again, because that’s what you do with new furniture. You try it here, you try it there. 

It’s unpainted and massive, not pretty but very functional. Suddenly I’m interested in my studio again. The room is a huge disaster, but if I take this and put it up there, and move those things over there onto this shelf... I could make assemblages on this table, and do stained glass over there. I haven’t made art since the move – too busy digging and patching and unpacking and fence-building – and I miss it. It would be fine to have a space to work in. 

So I spend a few hours moving things and unpacking boxes. I fuss with the metal shelves hanging by chain from an old ladder suspended from the ceiling joists. They’re weird shelves, green-painted metal and pierced with hundreds of small holes. Got ’em an an estate sale (of course). They’re suspended by dog chain from the ladder, and the ladder is looking overwhelmed, sagging under ancient repairs of rusted wire. So I add a couple of new screw eyes and attach the shelves directly to the ceiling, bypassing the ladder. And shore up and level the ladder for good measure. I do this without removing the contents of the shelves, of course. I am Lazy Woman. 

Most of my collection of colorful old tins is up there. (I store stuff in them, and build them – or parts of them – into assemblages.) It’s looking pretty slick. I bring in a box of old clocks and a bin of balls from the gym. The balls, dozens of billiard balls and mini billiard balls and some croquet balls and some just-plain weird balls, I put on the bottom shelf on all of those holes. It looks goofy and great. I’ll need a bigger shelf for the clocks, maybe over a window.

Poor point-and-shoot photos of the hummingbird

Suddenly there is a hummingbird zooming around the ceiling. He’s tiny, with an absurdly long maroon bill, irridescent green feathers and a V on his tail. He goes round and round, resting on the ceiling fan or the ladder, then round again. I grab an old fishnet from the gym, with torn and oversized netting, and wave it at him ineffectually. I prop open the plastic on the windows, and line the opening with bright red and orange glass. He continues to go round and round. I mix up some honey water on a red saucer and put it up on the ladder. He goes round and round. OK, I’m not going to stress him further. I wish him well and go to work in the hallway.

The 10-by-60-foot hall is cluttered with boxes of books, with tools and hardware, with piles of coats, with two electric furnaces and assorted ductwork, with bags of chicken feed, with boards and shoes and magazines. Gah, what a huge job. I pitch in and work until nearly dark. I don’t see the hummingbird, and hope he made it out safely.

Later that night we hear a big weird noise, kind of like a garage door closing fast, or a plastic curtain snapping and flapping. It’s a rustling sussurating kind of sound, with elements of rolling wheels and crashes. “Huh,” I say. C. agrees. The next morning I find my green metal shelves collapsed, hanging limply, and tins lying all over the studio floor, among balls. Dozens and dozens of balls. And there’s a dead hummingbird in Nadine’s room.

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