Alyson lives in Napa. I was lucky enough to be in San Francisco recently and drove up to be with her for one very short & sweet afternoon. She had recently moved (again) and mentioned before I arrived that her workbench was in the same room as her desk, and how efficient this new set-up will be. I was really looking forward to see how it all came together.
I have known Alyson for many years. She has been my constant postal and paper muse, and when we are together we enjoy ourselves endlessly by organizing her various collections of postage, stationery, printed samples, postcards, wrapping papers, glassine envelopes, address labels, ribbons, etc!
Alyson's workspace has always fascinated me. Scattered about are envelopes she has received in the mail, to the envelopes she has hand-folded to send. There always seems to be some papery object or envelope that piques my curiosity and inspires.
Her workbench has had quite a journey coming into it‘s current state of being, so to speak, so I thought it be best explained in Alyson's own words -
In its former life, my 88 inch long workbench was the kitchen counter and undercabinetry in a house I was remodeling. It turned out to be solid wood, and Jason, my clever contractor, commented that it would make a great workbench. Once I grasped that he meant "a great workbench for a person who loves paper," I became cautiously optimistic. Maybe, just maybe, my days, no, my decades, of inadvertently defacing dining tables were about to be behind me.
We removed the drawer fronts and the doors and stained the whole thing. I found drawer pulls at Target, and lined all seven drawers with black-and-white checked contact paper that makes me particularly happy because it reminds me of the linoleum at See's Candies stores. I lined the bottom of the big lefthand compartment with contact paper featuring linecuts of Victorian conservatoriana. As the benchification progressed, I became moderately ecstatic.
The top was covered with three resealable cutting mats. A fourth mat fit perfectly in the recess where the kitchen cutting board had been. (And a 24 inch metal rule slid right in on top of that mat, protruding just a fraction of an inch.) When all was done and installed, my ecstasy approached incredulity — or maybe incred-enza-ulity — over this piece of recycled furniture that holds so many things I hold dear.
As for the glass-fronted cabinet above the workbench: I acquired it at United States Stamp Company (postage stamps, not rubber stamps) in downtown San Francisco in the spring of 1997, when owner Warren Sankey was remodeling. The four little umbrellas are vintage, from Japan. My 30 inch metal rule rests atop this cabinet, but I am thinking about putting a hook for it at the end of the workbench. My shorter metal rules (three 12-inchers, one each 15 and 18) stack nicely just inside the right edge of the top drawer.
On March 29, 2010, a.k.a. Moving Day, my workbench underwent some unscheduled surgery at about 1 o'clock in the afternoon… when my movers, who had already balanced it up two outdoor flights of stairs, discovered that — even though the door to the office had been taken off its hinges — the workbench couldn't make its way into the room. After the movers had unsuccessfully tried every kuhnceivable approach, I realized that I probably had only two options: let the workbench become the dominant piece of furniture in my new, compact living room, or accept that I had to give it up. Dark, darker than the darkest chocolate, moment.
And then Layne asked, "How would you feel if we took the base off? It will be ruined in the process, your workbench will be six inches lower, but it will fit into the room, and then we can lift it back up later if you want, on little feet."
Prying of nails, whacking of wood, and in a matter of minutes, surely no less grandly than the gods entered Valhalla, my workbench was wheeled into its new home. Where we are both so happy.