My study, a picture and a hobby refound

February 4, 2010

Normal blogging will resume next week, with the completion of the cross silo postings. For the last few weeks something had to give to allow me time to sort out the study and the blog was it. Other client work, including some really interesting new developments on performance appraisal and post-hoc/pre-hoc learning using SenseMaker™ was obviously the major priority. The rest of the post is an indulgent description of my revitalized working space so feel free to ignore it!

Some three years ago on a blustery day in Melbourne I was (literally) blown into an art gallery on the docks near the Telstra Stadium I had made Viv Read walk there from the centre (something for which I probably still remain unforgiven) into the face of a wind that either picked us up (and neither Viv or I are light weights in any sense of the word) or scoured us with gravel. The gallery provided shelter and within moments I had fallen in love with a picture by a member of Australian Academy of Arts. I bought it and paid for shipping, only to discover on my return home that the family were split on its aesthetic value. Those with a sense of beauty (myself and daughter) showed proper respect, while the philistines (wife and son) rejected it. The net result was that the painting has sat in its packaging until this week when it finally found a place in my study (as pictured above).

The study is the only part of the house over which I have absolute control, so that was the only location available. However two walls are floor to ceiling bookshelves (one half science fiction/fantasy and the other academic books from a range of disciplines) and the other two have windows with the remaining space too small to accommodate. For some time I thought about solutions involving a rail that would allow the painting to slide backwards and forwards along the length of the bookshelves but this provided more problematic and I never really worked out how to do it. However over Christmas a book event crisis (rather like the shoe event horizon in a Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) meant that a radical rethink was required.

Now I have spoken on several occasions about the cyclical pattern of mess and order that is critical to human sense-making. I normally illustrate it with a story about the state of said study. When I am traveling or just generally busy the study tends to accumulate piles of books, papers and journals. Various bags, cables and the other bric-a-bac of travel accumulate on any spare surface. If I am at home for any sustained period of time then the mess gets to me and I engage in a flurry of cleaning, tidying and ordering until the place is pristine again. The new order lasts for a brief period before disintegration sets in again and the whole cycle repeats.

Not this pattern of mess and coherence is a part of life. Structures and taxonomies become out of date and if not changed then knowledge ossifies. Taxidermy and Taxonomy not only sound the same, they often mean the same. At its most ordered and its most disordered the study is probably little use. One is venerated (I don;t like to touch anything), the other has reached a state of randomness. In between it is in a state of messy coherence. I can find things, but often find things I didn’t know I needed to see. Serendipity and neatness are contra-indicated.

Now this Christmas the mess reached crisis proportions. There had been no interim efforts and it was eighteen months down. In addition I realised that an expensive oil painting had been in the packing case for three years, undisplayed and unloved. So I got started, but with limited success. There simply was not enough space on any shelf to accommodate any more books, no more room in filing cabinet drawers to accommodate journals and the various souvenirs (people are very generous when you speak) were stacked on top of each other. My collection of Starbucks City Mugs had started to look like a pyramid of cards, and one in immanent danger of collapse.

So over the Christmas holiday period I measured up and started the process of trying to fit a quart into a pint pot. Expansion elsewhere in the house was banned by higher authorities. I had been caught sneaking the history section of the library into the sitting room, and further transgression of the space was not permitted. It took some time but I finally came up with a solution. Its fairly easy now to get affordable high quality oak furniture (a consequence of EU expansion into Eastern Europe) and the New Year Sales produced an opportunity which was worth the risk. I reasoned if the quality was not good, I could always paint them! As it happened there was no problem. Net result I replaced a series of metal filing cabinets with a cupboard and bought in three large bookshelves and two CD units. These allowed me to create two corridors, reducing the size of the study but increasing my book storage capacity. Critically, the back of the CD storage units was the perfect size for the oil painting , and the three cupboards will give me space for various prints, water colours and etchings that have failed the to excite the philistines in the household. The three large cupboards have yet to arrive, but temporary shelving is in place When the real thing arrives they will move out to the garage which is also being subject to a mass reorganization.

There was a cunning plan here. To make the set up work I had to get in some oak timber and make some small shelves (to the right of the picture) and also join the CD cabinets into a rigid unit. That meant bringing out the power saw, router bench and all the other carpentry equipment. For many years this moved from room to room in the house as I equipped each on with shelves, kitchen units etc. All created from reclaimed timber and made by my own two hands. The site of this equipment on the back patio and the subsequent revolve of the philistines allowed me to secure the garage as a new work area. That is now more or less set up and I can resume a old and loved hobby. A complex shoe rack/baggage story unity for the utility room is next in line.

Either way the study is now in a reasonable state. You can see the competed half in the picture, more on the rest and the planned method to handle an increasingly large Starbucks City Mug collection when the rest arrives. For the moment I can now work again, and find things. Aside from fitting the new bookcases, I also have a scanner which will allow me to create a library of all my books via the ISBN numbers – I’ll make that available when complete.

For those interested – this is the new floor plan, overall room is just over 4m square

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