Friday, February 8, 2013

My New Yurt

Today's post is a photo essay of the most exciting day in my recent life, although it's hard to decide which aspect of this project is the most exciting. To save myself lots of work, I decided to jump on an opportunity that presented itself. I bought a yurt.

First, let me describe the concessions that are represented by this particular yurt and the mental gymnastics that I went through in order to follow my heart.

No, first let me tell you why I went through the gymnastics, then I'll describe them. Years ago my best friend and I were dreaming about our love of art, craft and design. We each set a flippant goal for ourselves, "Eventually I'd like my home and everything in it to be made by myself or people I know." This seemed like the dreams of starry-eyed kids, and it kind of was. But wouldn't it be beautiful to have such a strong personal connection to the items in your life? I've kind of dedicated my life to creating that experience for others with own art.

So I saw a yurt listing go up on Craigslist in a town only two hours away and followed the link. It was to a fledgling company called Artisan Yurt Project. (You'd better visit it quick and be sure to visit the link to their Facebook page, featuring a photo album of their construction process. I feel like those pages could go away at any time.) The most recent activity on the website was in 2011 when they were building two yurts to bring to market. Well, the end of the story is that it's way more complicated to start a business selling artisan build-it-yourself home kits than it seems at first. Building codes, legality, and other complications kept these guys from being able to really get this thing off the ground.

But, they kept their startup costs way down by using the family's industrial manufacturing plant to build an incredibly high quality yurt. Artisan, indeed, but offered at a bargain price. The definition of "closeout sale".

And here's where the concessions began. This yurt is only 16' (200 sq ft), and not the 24' (450 sq ft) that I want. It's tiny, just large enough to set up one loom and keep weaving. My plan is to squeeze my life into this little yurt and weave for a year. That will give me experience with all four seasons in a yurt before I design and build my larger dream yurt. In order to make this work, I think I'll build a platform that's large enough for the larger yurt and set up 2 or 3 10x10 canopies on it for functions like the kitchen, yarn storage, and booth storage. So, yeah, I'll have to go outdoors to get to these things, but it's just for a year.

Oh, yeah, and after I build the larger yurt, I might just move this one down to a secluded part of the property (whichever property I end up on), furnish it nicely, and make it available for personal retreats.

Enough on why and how! Let me show you what happened today. The order of the day was to evaluate the yurt to be sure I wanted to pony up the money for it and then learn how it all works so I can set it up myself next time.

One of the travails of living up so high and needing to cross the divide to go north. We only got 1-2 inches of snow last night, but it was after warm weather so it melted on the roads and created a 10-mile sheet of ice. I had to use chains and drive about 10 miles an hour.

Meet Sean, one of the two guys who designed and built this work of art.

I missed a shot of everything coming outside on a forklift. Just like a real factory. :)

This is the most important part of the yurt: the crown, the wheel, the eye of heaven, the roof ring. These guys did something that I've never seen, and built LED lighting into it. Those four white rectangles are small lights and the tiny dots that run on the inside of the octagonal hole are a strip of LEDs.

Here's the door frame. One of the tasks on my plate is to hang the gorgeous homemade door in this frame and install the doorknob.

Stretching out the one large lattice wall. Notice that the dark strips make an Argyle X pattern. That's some of the artistry I was talking about.

I did mention that this yurt isn't quite finished, didn't I? It's close, but there are a few little things to do, like cut off the extra ends on the lattice.

Here the walls are curved and pushed into their slots on the door frame. It just stands there, even without the tension band.

And this is the clever pulley/buckle mechanism that they created to let one person tighten the band easily.

Here is one rafter end with a fancy-configured loop to let it act as a hinge when putting up the crown.

And once the crown was up and rafters were going in, it was kind of a whirlwind. 5 minutes later the roof was done. Yeah, the rafter over the door broke while setting it up. It was engineered in a fragile way. They're going to make a new one and give me some spares as well.

And would you believe that I was so focused on learning how all the little mechanisms work that I forgot a shot of it with the walls all the way on. And we didn't put on the roof. It's just too much work and there's not really anything to learn. It's like throwing a table cloth onto a very large table. In slow motion, with several people to help.

This panorama shows the approximate locations of the vent, the wall portion of the ground-to-crown skylight, and the window. This arrangement is mirrored on the other side that's already rolled up. As far as I know the vertical skylight is an invention of these guys, and a pretty cool one.

Here is the crown with just a few poles left before we eased it down again.

And then, just like magic, the two of us packed my new home into my van. (That mess on the right is my dirty tire chains. I'm not packing them away just yet! I still have to get home.)

Overall, I have to say that I was as impressed with this yurt in person as I had been looking at photos. These guys had access to some incredible equipment and spent two years designing every little detail. I'll write more details about the roof and wall later. Instead of being stitched, every seam is welded to be water tight and super strong. And that's just the beginning of the care that went into this art home. I'll keep y'all posted on the beautiful details that I notice as I make this my home.

There is a lot of work left for me to do. There is a "Fan-tastic" vent system that can be installed into(and easily removed from) the ring, but I don't know how fond I'll be of an electrical thing in the place where a shaman's soul leaves to go wandering for the night. I may need to replace it with a small dome that can be lifted for natural convection-based ventilation. It also came with flexible solar panels for the LED system and the fan, but the electrical work isn't done and there is no battery. Before Winter, I'll need to come up with an insulated cover, install a wood stove, and more, but I won't have to take extra time away from weaving to build the yurt itself.

And that's one big blessing that makes the investment worthwhile.


Lara said...

Welcome to yurt ownership! You will love it, I'm sure. :) This new chapter is quite exciting.

(I commented a few weeks ago calculating the weight of the roof materials.)

I'm a fellow weaver and yurt owner. I think you might enjoy a peek at my yurt. You can find some posts here:

Hilary said...

You continue to AMAZE me.

Blossom Merz said...

Lara, your yurt is beautiful! I'm really inspired to know that you've lived in yours for so long and that it has held up for the most part.

Hilary, you are as much of an inspiration to me! This week, for instance, you've made me consider two things: teaching in order to spread the craft and rug hooking. Keep it up!