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My Studio - from drawing board to reality

By Frances Smith
How we turned an idea made in a free 3D drawing program into a real studio

It’s not completely finished but I’m using my converted garage/studio already and student classes start in February. What a journey!


You may remember an earlier blog where we wrote an article about planning to convert a two car garage under our home into a small teaching studio.

There were lofty ideas about design and workflow from my significant other and I let my builder/husband have free range with his ideas, because he was the one who had to build it!

And build it he did! Now looking back on the 3D models, the layouts and the facilities, it is remarkable how close all that came to our original concept.

Staging the build

The first thing to do was to develop a deep and meaningful relationship with our local hardware store. We would get to know this place better than I ever imagined as the fit-out developed.

The first order of things was to put display shelves in the body of the studio to fill in the gaps between the brick piers.

These shelves now hide the underpinnings of the rest of the house, which was basically dirt, rubble and pipes. It really was an eyesore.

He constructed the shelves using melamine particle board, backed with white melamine coated MDF. These gleaming white surfaces sat in the spaces between the red brick pillars.

Next were three of the benches the plans called for. These needed to be very solid. The first was to hold a pug-mill; the second a wedging table; and the third was a large mobile bench that would eventually hold a small, portable slab roller and act as a workbench for up to six students.

All three benches were constructed from treated 100mm pine for the legs and framing pine for the rails and bracing. The top surface and bottom shelves were constructed from particleboard – the kind used for flooring in new houses.

This was very basic stuff and what he calls “agricultural”- simple to make but robust and strong.

The Glazing Room

Next was to look at the most exciting part of the design – creating an area to one side of the main garage but still under the house for a glazing area and next to it, shelving for drying the student’s works.

There was a concrete floor in the space we’d thought could make a good glazing area that was extended a little. Some simple stub walls were created with pine framing and Hardiflex so that the area had a room like feel about it.

Some simple benches were constructed from particle-board along with some shelves to hold oxides and other glaze materials. I’m yet to fill all this up with all of my favourite chemicals, but that should be a fun project in itself.

Under the bench, he created two sloping shelves at a 30 degree angle to horizontal. This allowed me to put ten fifteen litre plastic lidded bins to hold bulk ingredients. This is very easy to see and access!

The glaze room is used to first mix and store the glazes. The bulk mixed glazes live in twenty litre buckets under the left hand bench. These will be mounted on little wheeled trollies for easy movement and to reduce back strain. Then they can be easily pulled out or moved for dipping or brushing.

There is plenty of bench-space for working on batches of pots.

Lighting was important here, and for this we used down-lighters mounted into sheets of Villaboard and wired into a single switch. We used the same lighting system in the studio itself.

The corridor where we planned to put in shelves had a dirt floor and clearly that was not going to work. Dust and student work simply don’t mix!

The solution was to put in termite proof floor support beams and construct the floor using waterproof and termite resistant particle board flooring which turned out to be relatively inexpensive and easy to construct.

Once the particle board floor was in place, then simple “agricultural” shelves were constructed using treated pine uprights and decking timber as horizontal supports for the clay vessels and the bats.

While there seems to be lots of shelf space now, I am sure it will disappear quickly once the student works start to fill up the shelves.

I’m sure I will have to administer the space carefully to make sure everyone gets their fair share of shelf space.

Scenes from the new studio
(from top to bottom):
1.  Glazing Room
2.  Glaze storage bins design
3. Shelving corridor
4.  Four new wheels
5.  Work bench for decorating

The Kiln Room

The old workshop area was relocated to the back of the shelving corridor and that workshop space converted into a kiln room. We lined this room with fibre cement for fire proofing. The ceiling was already concrete so the kiln area is now fire-proof.

The electrician put in additional power and lighting circuits for the kiln and main studio.

Finally, we installed the new Shimpo wheels, running the power down from the ceiling bearers to keep plugs out of the way and above any moisture.

There is still more to do including making portable benches and portable shelving units and benches around the wheels.

The little Paragon top-loader was the first kiln to be installed

The event scheduling screen in Event Espresso

Studio & Online Software

For our sales portal on the website, we have used some event booking software called Event Espresso, which allows for online bookings and payments.

This system also integrates into a point-of-sale terminal and credit card reader for selling subscriptions and materials within the studio itself.

The software also allows students to print out tickets with bar-codes. These can be swiped as students enter the studio.

We have also put some basic online training that coaches students on studio occupational health and safety issues which the student completes before they start classes.

It is very satisfying to see how the plans we made have materialised from a small two car garage into a working studio.