The Lady Loam (Re)Creation Story

Part 3: My Independent Study Project

To catch up on the first part of the series, read Part 1: Big Dreams require Bigger Decisions and Part 2: More than a Fixer-Upper

My fourth and final year of college begun, and I utilized the fact that my college ran out of upper division classes for me to take for the best. ART 399 (Indep Stdy) made it actually possible for us to turn the flatbed into a home. I worked with Eric Norman, the infinately knowledgeable shop tech for the art college wood and metal shop to see what was possible for me to accomplish using the shop’s facilities and tools. I outlined our designs for Eric and he miraculously entrusted me with this project. Not sure if he actually thought it would be successful, but it was (with his help along the way).

A perk about doing the project in Tucson, my shop professor Carlton pointed out, is that the area is focused on industry. Our wholesale steel supplier (Industrial Metal Supply), our wholesale wood supplier (Hood Distributions), and even the autoshop down the street (Arizona Spring Co.) exist and flourish here because of the variety of purpose the city holds. Rather than getting materials from overpriced and under-quality middle-man box stores, we opted to buy directly from the suppliers, and saved a lot of money this way and got exactly what we wanted.

On October 19, 2022, I waited at the UA Art College Loading bay for my highly anticipated shipment. A shipment of steel. A BIG shipment of 12 square steel tubes, 24’ long. A shipment that was delivered in a literal semi truck. The delivery man was surprised to see that I was the person the order was for, and even more surprised that I was the only one there to unload my order. He said he was contractually not allowed to help unload, so he watched me as I balanced and carried each of these tubes 4 times my own height into a pile next to the loading bay of the art college. I got them into the shop, and felt equally strong as I did independent and exhausted. A 5’4 22 year old purchasing hundreds of dollars of steel tubing?? Life is crazy. From there, I religiously followed Isaac’s designs to cut, sand, clean, and label the steel so construction would be streamlined. I began to weld together the tubes for the walls, then completed side projects like making the 118 steel tabs from raw steel for the wall support structure.

Daily, I walked to my classes in the art building and passed my future home in the loading bay, anticipating the day when we could hitch it up and bring it back to our house. I spent 9 hour days at least 3 days a week working at the shop, also balancing my advanced shop class with Carlton, 3 upper division Art Education classes, and my part time job so I could afford the expenses for the tiny home. Partially in disbelief that we had committed to this project, and partially in disbelief that we had actually gotten this far, the project consumed our busy lives and soon became an irreplaceable learning experience.

I became an expert at MIG welding, and I started to be known by everyone around the art college at the girl building a tiny home. When I wasn’t in class or at my weekend shift working at the Community Garden, I was in the metal shop clanking around and trying to stay out of my classmates way as I carried on building a project that consumed a third of the space of the shop. I listened to the discographies of Sheryl Crow and Wings on repeat, and Isaac joined me in the evenings after he was back from his job on the other side of town. Gratefully, Eric was there to help refill the gas can when the MIG was running low, and he was there to refill and occasionally detangle the copper coated wire. I had perpetual steel grease under my fingernails and always had a few bruises and cuts, while Isaac became accustomed to the shop and was a wonderful assistant to me. We were exhausted, and many times defeated, but everyday we saw progress.

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