Bowerbirds’ Hand-Built Tiny Art Studio and Small Cabin/ Recording Studio

by Kent Griswold on December 20th, 2012. 11 Comments
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by Beth Tacular

As a long-time reader of Tiny House Blog, I’m really excited to share with all of you the tiny building project I’m working on. I’m an artist and musician, living in rural North Carolina. For the last six years, my partner, Phil, and I have been busy with two projects: touring around the world as the Bowerbirds, and building a set of small live-work buildings out of salvaged materials.

We write reverent songs, mostly about our love for the natural world and about finding ways to make a life outside of mainstream culture. We’re currently working on our next album, which we want to record in our small cabin, and for which we are running a Kickstarter campaign. We thought some of you might be interested in hearing about our project (http://kck.st/SxZEg2) or might want to order music and art made in a tiny studio, for holiday gifts, or just for yourselves, which we’re giving away to funders of the new album.

We first started our small building project with no real construction experience, but with a crazy obsession with handmade houses, especially really little ones. In 2007 we bought some cheap land in rural North Carolina, on which we parked an AirStream trailer that we got for a steal ($900!). We lived in the AirStream for three years, with no running water, electric lights or real source of heat, so that we could afford to start the band, record albums, make art, go on tours, and put all our money back into the building project.

Phil in airstream

(above: Inside the Airstream in winter)

The first thing we built was a 240 square foot art studio, where I make art and write songs on a very small piano, and with a sleeping loft where we’re sleeping while we finish the larger (but still small – 493 feet plus a 168 square foot loft) cabin. We’ve been inspired by stories on this Tiny House Blog about how many people have chosen to live with less and more simply, in order to save money, to create more time for doing what they want with their lives, to be more self-sufficient, and to have less of a negative impact on the land they live on. Because we work at home, in professions (art and music) that require a lot of gear, equipment, and supplies, we can’t really live in as tiny of a house as some people can get by with, but we can create small, multi-use spaces, just big enough for us to get everything done that we need to do. And if we feel cramped, there’s always the woods outside.

We’re building the cabin and art studio with almost all salvaged and recycled materials, and we’ll power them with solar panels. We got the logs for the cabin from an 100-year-old tobacco barn that someone wanted removed from their property, and all the doors and windows were from Habitat ReStores. We’ll heat the air and water with solar and wood (wrapping copper pipes around our woodstove pipe for the hot water), use greywater and rainwater catchment, and recycled denim insulation to keep cool, or warm, as the case may be.

Beth in front of cabin

Above: We built the whole first story of the cabin without power tools.)

As soon as we finish building the cabin, our plan is to set up a recording studio inside the cabin, where we’ll record our next album, as well as future albums, by ourselves. Just like learning to build our own home and workspace, we have taught ourselves other skills that increase our self-reliance and freedom, such as designing our websites and band merchandise, growing our own food, sewing our own clothes out of vintage fabric, and recording our own music.

We have a Kickstarter project running right now (http://kck.st/SxZEg2) to raise the money we need to buy enough recording equipment to set up a modest studio, so we can record our next album in this handmade space. For the same amount of money we paid other people to record only part of our last album, we can record this one, plus Phil’s new side project, Island Dweller’s new album, by ourselves. And people who want to see us continue making music can support us directly via Kickstarter, a crowdfunding website, while getting also nice prizes (and good holiday gifts) in exchange for their donations.

cabin studio

(Above: The 240-square-foot art studio we finished first.)

cabin now

(Above: The 661 square foot cabin-recording-studio as it looks now.)

house plan

We’re giving away a kind of ridiculous number of different fairly-priced prizes, ranging from handmade art, to new music, to stays in our tiny houses, to campouts, to miniature versions of yourself or friend. We see Kickstarter not as a way to ask for handouts, but as a great way to basically create a job for ourselves — people who like our music and art, or who just want to support us in our DIY efforts, can hire us to make them things, while supporting our next album at the same time.

We were thinking that maybe some of the readers of the Tiny House Blog would be interested in reading more about our building project, seeing pictures of our cabin and art studio, and maybe would even want to score some handmade holiday presents from our Kickstarter page, and when Kent asked us to write this guest post, we were really happy to do so.

You can see a video of our small buildings, photos and more of a description of our project, at our Kickstarter page. We also have a link to a gift card that you can print or email to a friend, if you’d like to choose one of our prizes as a gift for them.

Link to the Kickstarter page: http://kck.st/SxZEg2

We also have a photo blog with more pictures and info, here: http://olivehearts.tumblr.com , our website can be found here: http://bowerbirds.org , and we’re on Facebook (http://facebook.com/bowerbirdsmusic) and twitter (@thebowerbirds).

Here are a couple examples of our prizes:

art foxenvixen

(Above: One of my paintings, available on the Kickstarter page. Also available as a print, in three sizes.)

danger at sea

(Above: Our out-of-print first e.p., “Danger at Sea,” hand-cut, -colored and -sewn by us.)

necklace

(Above: This necklace, made from canine teeth and vintage materials, is already taken by another backer of the project, but I’ll make you another piece of jewelry or a made to order amulet!)

We’re really excited about our project, and we hope some of you might find it interesting and might want some of these items as gifts. There has to be room in your tiny houses for a handmade miniature version of your dog, wearing a knapsack, right? Because that’s one of the prizes we’re offering. Thanks for reading!

11 Responses to “Bowerbirds’ Hand-Built Tiny Art Studio and Small Cabin/ Recording Studio”

  1. Bob H says:

    I think this is fantastic. One of the best posts ever. More people need to do this. Building your own house is the best move anyone can make, plus you get ahead immediately $$$$$$$$$

  2. Been an appreciative listener for quite a long time. Great to see them on here and I just may have to do a little trade of green for something handmade. Maybe they can sing one of my songs, if they like.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Paulette says:

    I found it inspiring that they are so passionate about what they do. Living in an Airstream in rural NC sounds interesting and the tiny spaces they created without power tools using reclaimed materials were charming. Thanks for sharing this one!

  4. Deek says:

    Saw an article on them about two years back in Readymade Magazine (R.I.P.) and loved their mindset. Cottage Industry and indie recording goes hand in hand, and are things I’ve always been into/loved.

  5. They are wonderful and talented people. What an example for others to follow.

  6. Kathryn says:

    Fantastic!!! Great wonderful couple with amazing talents!!! Love them!

  7. Wow, what a cool video and project! Such an authentic project will have no problem getting the cash.

  8. Thanks everybody! It’s such an honor to be included in this blog we love so much. -Beth

  9. Shannon says:

    Congratulations on your progress so far and best of luck reaching your goals. You’re almost there!
    With respect to your plans for greywater recycling, I’m curious about whether you’re flying under the radar or have gotten permits for an alternative septic system. Having just finished the exterior of a tiny studio in Black Mountain, near Asheville, I found the building codes in our county restrictive and hard to ignore.
    AFAIK NC state law is that one can only build an alternative septic system if the site fails a perk test, and it’s illegal to reclaim greywater once it’s entered a drain. I think that several years back Orange county in the triangle looked at allowing more alternative systems but I don’t know what if anything ever came of that.
    I’m looking at sites for my next NC building project now so any advice would be appreciated–hey, maybe house-building consultation can be one of your Kickstarter gifts!

  10. Alan says:

    Congratulations of funding your Kickstarter. Awesome job!!!

  11. amy says:

    what a way to start 2014! congrats. you both are an inspiration. in so many ways. i dream of this.

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