Building Aspen House

"Sheltering the Creative Spirit"

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Taos, New Mexico USA





                                                                                        Aspen House

Building Aspen House -  The Foundation's First Studio

                                              by Peter Wood


One couldn’t have asked for a better job than the one I had with the Frank Waters Foundation.  What with the porch added to the cabin and two small accessory outbuildings serving as bathroom and shower, I was busy on this studio project from mid-September to May of 1996, give or take some breaks and downtime.

The cabin foundation proved more troublesome than I had anticipated, the ground on site being more sloped than meets the eye.  This meant going to a more elaborate raised foundation, which added to the expense, though I will add that it is superior to the simple slab type that I’d hoped to use for a lower budget.

Digging the foundation was also quite a chore, though for me it was minimal since through Barbara’s resources we hired young Adam Brown of Arroyo Seco and an older but wiry Hispanic man named Kiko.  This team of diggers cut through myriad roots and unearthed many rocks, even boulders.  One boulder was so large that we left it in the trench, drilled into it, and sledged the metal rebars into the holes.

Although I said this phase of the foundation was minimal for me, I will happily say that my share of the work took off the eight pounds or so that I had put on during my less physical days in my own studio while working on my kachina etchings.  Right away I felt lighter, toned up, stoked, and really healthy as well as happy, happy in the quiet of Frank’s land and among the quaking aspens that showered me with multicolored leaves.

Once the slab was poured and screed between the back-filled polystyrene/cement stem wall, which rose above ground a little over two feet at the high end, the job site was level and ready for framing.

The framework went well; and the walls went up quickly, with vigas set in place and roof constructed on top.  As with the main house, an aspen grows through one edge of the roof.  All this went smoothly, plumbly, and squaredly.  I installed the electric outlets and then plastered inside.  The exterior plaster wasn’t completed until May as I didn’t trust the low night-time temperatures here at 8,000 feet; yet the days even in the middle of December were sunny and warm.

In early spring when the cabin structure was completed as far as I could go, I took off for a while.  Then Barbara raised some funds through the Foundation newsletter, and we began on the porch.  That done, we built the compost toilet outhouse near the studio and a small shower building attached to the north wall of Barbara’s main bathroom.  It is plumbed through the shared wall and is such that it can be drained around Thanksgiving to prevent frozen pipes. 

I wound up building the cabin almost single-handedly.  Helpers were needed in places where I didn’t have the strength to do the work myself; otherwise they would have stood around since it’s a small structure only 14’ x 18,’ but completely adequate.

The cabin is built to be “low maintenance” and also is warm enough to be lived in throughout the winter, should the shower problem be solved and the Foundation decide to schedule a longer residency season.  Right now the plan is to use it only April through October.  Future cabins possibly could be built on a lower budget that doesn’t include winterizing.  Let’s hope they all have as much affection and care built in.  



Marilyn Luther

Dear Lord God,

We thank Thee for all thy beautiful creation,
For this day, and for the nourishing and needed rain.
We thank Thee for sustaining our every breath.

We thank Thee, O Lord, for Frank Waters' beautiful spirit, and that we were
able to know him, and to be friends.

We thank Thee for his legacy -- his beautiful words and thoughts,
And his foundation for helping other writers.

And we are thankful he applied so well the gift you gave him.

We know he is in good hands . . . and that we will meet again.

We ask your blessings upon Barbara as she continues and expands the work of the Foundation.

And we ask your blessings upon the Foundation.

Today we are especially thankful for the beautiful monument to Frank that Ted Egri's gifted spirit created from the stone.

We pray that we will all be directed ever closer into your path of truth, beauty,
and love, So that all our variety will become a harmony.

We always pray for the greatest gift, of love.

I pray in Jesus' name.  Amen.

(At the celebration and dedication of the first completed cottage and of the monument to Frank Waters carved by Ted Egri, June 16, 1996, at the Frank Waters Foundation, this prayer was given, incorporating, at Barbara Waters' request, the prayer said  at the oak tree near Frank's cross on the first anniversary of his passing)


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