|The She Shed as installed at the|
Marshfield Fair. Double-click for
a full-screen slideshow.
I live fifty miles from Marshfield, which is on what is called the ‘South Shore’ of Massachusetts, yet every August my life seems to come to a grinding halt because of the fair. Once upon a time, it was to transport flowers for Betty’s entry in the standard flower show held there each year. Then, it became themed mantels. That was followed by helping create conservation or ecology exhibits to explain things like the perils of black swallowwort or the need to encourage using native plants.
|The 2018 entry, 'Grandma's Cottage'|
Last year, Roni Lehage, who runs all ‘horticulture’ for the fair, roped us in big time. She asked if we would create what is called a ‘vignette’ – a three-dimensional, full-size display based on a theme. I had never noticed the vignettes before; perhaps I never got to that part of the Horticulture Building. The 2018 theme was,‘The Front Porch’. Betty and I created an entry called ‘Grandma’s Seaside Cottage’ which visually told a story of a young girl’s afternoon on the aforementioned porch. To goose its verisimilitude, I created and painted a four-foot-by-six-foot scenery flat which was a very good replica of a part of that cottage’s exterior. We blew away the competition.
|It all starts with lumber and props|
We also blew away much of the month of August. Creating and painting the panel was an educational. We weren’t just creating a clapboard house exterior; it has to have shadows to create that three-dimensional feel – and late afternoon shadows at that. Plus, everything needed to be transported in a Prius and assembled on site. We agreed one year created a lifetime of laurels on which to rest.
Last month, Roni called again: the 2019 theme was ‘He Shed/She Shed’ (get it?). She had the ‘He Shed’ but there was no feminine equivalent. This was especially heartbreaking because She Sheds were becoming a ‘thing’ – there is even a very funny television commercial on the subject. Could we come out of retirement to ensure the ‘boys’ (actually, two women) had some competition? OK, we agreed to enter.
|Fabric on the panels. We had ample|
props... for a 4'x6' space
For 2019, the rear height dimension increased from four feet to six feet. The depth remained four feet and the width six feet. It was right there in the Horticulture Entry Manual, and I even sent Roni a sketch to make certain we were within spec.
We went to work. I built three panels – a back one six feet by six feet, and two side panels, each four feet on a side. While created from nothing but 1”x3” rough framing strips covered with muslin cloth, we wanted to be able to add things like shelves and a window. So, supports were added wherever these elements would be placed (have I mentioned I know nothing about carpentry?). The flats were created, primed, and painted a pleasing yellow. It was time to visit The Swap.
|The Swap - everything we needed!|
Medfield has a town Transfer Station. Almost everyone in town takes their carefully-sorted yard debris, garbage, and recyclables there. Five years ago, someone noticed an appalling number of useful things were being thrown in with garbage destined to be incinerated to create electricity. Thus was born The Swap which, in 2019 is a spectacular, volunteer-driven paean to the virtue of recycling no-longer-needed consumer goods.
|Need art? Furniture? It's at The Swap|
Over three visits, Betty and I collected a feminine-looking desk, a nice chair, two large wine glasses with flowers painted on them, three colonial-themed shelves, a small window with frame and glass intact, picture frames, gardening books, and other bric-a-brac that might be useful. The window frame was an especially good find; I managed to coax it out of the hands of a young woman who wanted it for a craft project by promising her she would get it back after the fair’s run.
|The view out the shed window|
(that's part of our garden!)
All these items plus five of our best-looking gardening containers were assembled in our basement – after making certain we could get the six-by-six frame up the stairs. I took dozens of photos of our garden to find the right one to be blown up to poster size to be the ‘view’ out the window. some items, such as the chair, were painted to create a visual theme. At the last minute I added a ‘shadow’ to the side panels to assure the viewer this was the inside of a shed and not a suite at the Four Seasons.
On the appointed morning we transported everything to Marshfield. We cajoled a friend with a truck to take the three wall panels and desk. We got there, expecting to assemble everything in an hour – 90 minutes tops.
We started by attaching the window to the six-by-six panel and hoisting the scenery flat into its place at the back of the exhibit space… and discovered the flat didn’t fit. The space was eight feet wide – and five-and-a-half-feet high. We had been given incorrect dimensions. Oops.
|A gardener always admits |
the truth to herself - one
of the shed's illustrations
So, we commandeered tools, un-tacked the fabric, took apart the back panel, shortened it to the allotted height (no small feat) and re-stretched the fabric. Betty opened the side walls to fill the eight-foot width. We brought in our car-load of props – all designed to fill 24 square feet (or 144 cubic feet) of space. Except we had 32 square feet (200 cubic feet) of space to fill. After four hours of work it looked… empty. Chic, feminine, and spare. Betty returned to Marshfield the next morning with four large containers, but there was no ignoring the contrast between our whimsical ‘space of her own’ and the overstuffed tribute to veterans that occupied the adjoining ‘he shed’.
We got the Red – second place.
Yet, I’m damned proud of that shed (on view through August 25). It is everything we set out to illustrate: a space where a woman can make gardening plans with the comfort of books, wine, a pet, aphorisms – and a marvelous view of her own garden.