Generations of The Little Building

Many of you may know the story behind our backyard studio, but I think it is time to put the history of the Little Building at 151 into print. First off, Carvel and I live in a house that has been in my family for several generations. It is the house that my grandmother grew up in, and it sits across the street from my dad’s childhood home and next door to the house that I spent the least amount of time living in as a kid, but somehow the one that feels the most like home. To say that my roots are on this street is an understatement.

My great grandparents, Tim and Frances Isaacs, rented this home when my grandmother, Virginia, was a child. It was a duplex then, but they ended up buying the house all for themselves. After they owned the property, my great-grandfather built a small building out back for himself. It was a place for him to work, and mainly to get away. He ended up having a massive heart attack one day while he was out there, and took his final breath in that shed.

The house was then bought by my great-great aunt, Pina May, who would end up selling it to my grandmother in the coming years. My grandparents lived in this house since the 1970’s, and so naturally my grandfather took over the building out back. It was a bit small and unsteady for his liking, so he doubled the size, pitched the roof and gave the Little Building its now (to me) iconic tiny windows. The original laminate flooring from the 1960’s is still visible in one corner of the studio. He used it as a workshop, predominately for the projects that he found in the yard or around the house. My childhood afternoons were spent running around barefoot in this backyard with my sisters after school and playing with the set of blocks that he made out of scrap pieces of wood. I always loved going into the shop because it smelled like him. That and he had an intercom, which absolutely blew my mind.

When he passed in 2005, the shop became a time capsule for a few years. We shifted things around inside, but the items on his pegboards, the little containers of mixed screws, reused nails, and recycled twine remained. Even when we started using the building as a pottery studio a few years ago, I didn’t dare touch anything that I didn’t have to. In recent months, I have started moving a lot more relics into the attic portion of the building. It was very difficult for me to destroy his system of organization, but I have made up my mind that he would not want his earthly belongings to be in my way. However, I cannot and will not remove the articles and photos on the walls. Here his favorite newspaper clippings, drawings from the grandchildren and postcards were carefully laminated with packing tape and stapled to the pressed particle board walls.

Now the shop is passed down to the fourth generation of family in the hands of Carvel and myself. I will write more detail about how the shop looks now in coming blogs. We hope to make our own memories and imprint on the building, but with any luck not meet the same end as my grandpa Isaacs did. And if you are wondering, yes the shop has been known to produce some ghostly activity along with our pottery.
Ashley Norman

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