The Imaginactory, where I live and work, is located in the former Sanderling Pottery building on the bank of Little Beaver Creek in Sycamore Shadows, Ohio. It is old, it is big, it is drafty, it is damp, it moans and whines, and new leaks open up every time it rains, but I love it. I love the old, weathered bricks, the industrial windows full of wavy, bubbled glass, the crooked wooden floors that scream and creak when you walk, and I love the view, whether looking towards the town or the valley of the Little Beaver, full of rocks and lined with Sycamore and Hemlock trees. I can’t imagine imagining myself living anywhere else. I give tours on occasion and the Imaginactory is always open on holidays or by appointment so please visit when you can. I believe you will find it as intriguing as I do. For those of you unable to see the building in person, I will provide a brief idea of the layout:
The Sycamore Shadows Museum
Owned by the town of Sycamore Shadows, the Sycamore Shadows Museum is an eclectic collection of artifacts ranging from a sword hilt supposedly once owned by the pirate, Sir Swinfish, to notorious outlaw “Pretty Boy” Floyd’s underwear, and various items chronicling the legend of local mermaid Aedre. There are also thousands of photos, documents, and ephemera relating to the town as well as the recently donated archives of Henry ”Dreamy” Rêvasser, local artist famous for his Imaginunchkins. On the grounds of the Imaginactory is the original Verter Beer Wagon, which may be rented for school events and children’s birthday parties. The museum is open by appointment or chance every day except Sunday, when folks should be in church. Group reservations may be made by contacting Abigail Padden: firstname.lastname@example.org. At this time, the museum has no separate website.
Abigail’s Office & Living Quarters
For some reason which escapes me, my assistant Abigail Padden’s office is twice the size of mine. She says it’s because she does twice the work. I cannot argue with that, not that anyone ever won an argument with Abigail anyway. Simply put, I would be lost without her. She takes care of the business end of everything I do: pays the bills, packs and ships all of the prints and art, tells me where to go, when to go, and what to do. How she does it all I have never been able to discover. She works full time at Sotty Hoff’s, is our unofficial town brewer, seems to always be relaxing somewhere, reading a book, volunteers at the Sycamore Shadows Museum, and is still available any time I need her. Sometimes, I suspect there are several of her, although I have never seen more than one at a time. Either way, she is a treasure and invaluable.
Abigail says it’s silly to have an apartment and then never let anyone stay in it. That wasn’t my intention when I put it in. In fact, I imagined inviting people to stay for a while. When it was finished and I was suddenly confronted with the idea of visitors, having to be polite, and entertaining people, I decided I’d save it for emergencies, which have never happened.
This is where I make my living as an artist, my medium of choice being egg tempera. In addition to easel painting, I sketch with ink using old fashioned fountain pens, often coloring the sketches with watercolors, and I love to draw maps; maps of real places and maps of imaginary lands. In fact, I sell more prints of my maps than of my paintings. I cannot imagine a space better suited to making art. My studio is rather sparsely furnished, partly because it’s large and partly because I don’t care for a lot of clutter while I work. It’s too easy to get distracted if one is surrounded by objects. It’s also where I make my prints to sell, before Abigail takes them away for packing and mailing.
For as long as I can remember I have loved books, both for their information and as objects, and it was only natural that I would eventually want to bind my own. With the space afforded me at the Imaginactory, I was able to open a small binding shop and begin to learn the craft, buying tools and having equipment made a little at a time, improving mostly by mistakes and screw-ups. While I have much to learn, I now make all of my own sketchbooks and journals, some of which will soon be for sale at my shop. I have also recently begun reprinting obscure books and pamphlets which are out of print but available as ebooks, which I convert to the layout and type of my choice, then print and bind for my personal use. I am also learning letterpress printing under the tutelage of Craig Kidd of Keystone Printing in East Liverpool, OH. One day soon, I’d like to have a letterpress shop of my own: a Chandler & Price press, a few cases of type, and some other equipment. I certainly have the room for it.
Fly Tying Corner
Tying flies is nearly as much fun as fly fishing, and gives a body something to do in the late winter, when you feel you’ll bust if the weather doesn’t warm up soon. It takes only a small corner but there’s a table with tools, thread, hooks and such, and a few drawers where I keep parts and appendages of animals which no longer needed them: bird wings and tail feathers, rabbit skins, coyote and fox tails, pieces of squirrels and groundhogs and deer. There is an additional pleasure in fooling fish with your own handiwork and it is a craft of sorts that doesn’t come as easily as one would suppose.
I needed a place to do sawdusty things like cutting panels for painting, finishing frames, and such, and so built this room opposite the studio. It’s almost always dusty and smells of paint and lacquer. My recent project is restoring an early 19th century violin which was passed down through my family. There are also a lot of things lying around which need fixed and never will be.
Sometimes I write and record songs. I have no aspirations to be either a performer or a songwriter, which is probably best, but it’s a good way to forget about painting for a while, so it’s a useful diversion no matter what its musical merits. Anyway, I needed a place to store guitars. It’s also where I record the This Week in Sycamore Shadows History podcast. The town band wants to record an album later this year in the studio. If you’ve heard our town band, you’ll know why I have reservations.
This floor contains my private quarters, consisting of one large, open room which serves as living room, den, dining room, and kitchen, and a separate bedroom, two baths and a laundry/utility room. In actuality, it’s a big library with furniture so that even when I’m alone, I’m surrounded with friends.
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