January 17, 2011.The studio renovation commenced with the help of my neighbour Sylvain Laroche who made this whole thing possible, we could not have done this without him or his wife Judy.
Location, location, location. I searched the internet for over a year, took the long route home from craft fairs and reviewed properties from North Carolina to Maine. There are many wonderful homes, but not many studio opportunities that fulfilled our requirements. A fellow artist moved to Nova Scotia and invited us to visit in March 2010. The chemistry was not quite right on that first visit to the North shore, my wife Jackie went a second time in May. That visit my wife went with her sister and traveled down to the South shore. It was apparent immediately that this felt right and there were a lot more properties available. I also found a property on the internet, unknown to me, my wife was having coffee across from it, not realizing that it was for sale. When she returned and we reviewed the listings, we realized we had missed the very place we finally purchased. In August we returned and had all the inspections done within 2 weeks. The location and the studio building were perfect, the house is smaller but adequate. What makes a good location? In this instance the studio building is on the main highway, literally, the highway is 6 feet away. Alone this is still no guarantee. A moving car has to have a reason to stop. Our existing studio in New York is only 150 yd's from restaurants in either direction. Far enough to deter many from what we thought was a pleasant stroll up a hill. In Lahave we were delighted to see that three other attractions were in the immediate vicinity. The Lahave bakery (arguably world renowned), the Lahave cable ferry and the Fort Point Lighthouse Museum. What really sealed the deal is the studio itself that is situated right on the water, raised up on stilts. The view is spectacular from all sides. In the larger picture, the location in Nova Scotia has a mystical celtic appeal. It is a place most people have heard of, located somewhere near the Arctic Circle. The land of major Atlantic storms and lighthouses. The truth is, it is cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter than New York State. It is located on the same latitude line as France, warmed and tempered by the same Gulf Stream. All we have to do is let people know just how wonderful it is here.
Tourism is the life blood of Nova Scotia, fortunately Nova Scotia is next door to the United States and it has cultural connections to much of Europe, it is also known as the ocean playground of Canada.
To survive as a self employed artist you have to assume income will be feast or famine. Properties in Nova Scotia are affordable and the tax structure is much more sympathetic to the self employed. Choosing Canada is a long process of 12-18 months applying for permanent residency. Nova Scotia is actively looking for immigrants, artists are seen as encouraging tourist dollars. Finally, the population of Nova Scotia is aging and diverse, half the people are known as the" away people", spending only the summer hear. The full time residents are extremely friendly and helpful.
The building was declared fit to occupy, a huge relief, it is 151 years old, sitting on the ocean. The "big foots" holding it up above the ocean are concrete, 30 inches wide, the original 16 timber pilings are still there. Once determined stable the next step was to assess the ground floor which was definitely soft from dry rot. Inevitably we had to replace the wide boards with a 3/4" plywood floor, historically sad but essential to carry the weight of the equipment and clay supplies. The next step was to make it possible to move from the ground floor to the second floor without going outside. The original stairs were situated on the front of the building, outside. The new stairs are wide enough to move equipment up and situated right next to the main door for easy unloading of supplies. The old stairs will serve as a fire escape. The next step for any artist is light, lots of natural light, to work by and to look out onto that beautiful view. Windows can also serve as a passive energy source. On a sunny day up to 30% of your heating can be from sunny windows. Placing them on the south facing side is a premium. In this studio we are going to place 23 windows (3'x6') and 6 doors, also with windows.
The next update will be posted in mid February.