The Garden Shed Project
A leadlight and timber collaboration by Lee and Zac Howes
The Garden Shed Story.
Late in Feb 23 Bec and Graeme Wilson popped into the studio and told Zac and Lee about a sculpture exhibition they were staging at Fort Scratchley in May. After listening intently, they started discussing possibilities. Lee was keen to exhibit some cast glass but soon started talking about a mother and son combined timber and leadlight collaboration.
Much toing and froing went on and soon an idea was forming. Why not build a structure using leadlight door panels. The main thought being that the door panels could be used as doors or wall panels if the structure didn’t sell. From here it grew.
Lee set to drawing up a concept for the leadlights while Zac put some serious effort into the type of structure needed.
The garden shed idea was born.
The initial thought was to use preloved door panels, but it soon became clear that getting the right sizes would be problematic. So, Zac decided he would make the door panels and the rest of the shed from his stash of reclaimed hardwood, collected from building sites over 15 years as a carpenter. He set about milling and refining timber while Lee worked on the leadlights.
An aquatic theme was decided on to highlight the coastal setting. The leadlights would contain mostly textured clear glass with some pops of aquas and blues as a nod to the ocean and some clear domes to allow people to capture snapshots of the scenery from within.
Lee made the 20+ domes in her kiln then cut them to fit in the leadlights. There are 8 full size door panels and 2 triangular panels in the roof section. There is a continuous pattern that wraps around the shed and then continues up into the roof panels.
There are just over 2,678 pieces of glass in the leadlights. Most of which Lee had in the studio, collected from over 30 years as a glass artist.
Each panel has some built in reinforcing to ensure that the panel meet Australian standards but most importantly were sturdy enough to survive the weather in such an exposed location.
Meanwhile back in Zac’s workshop the timber frames were coming together. Meticulously joined with custom tenons running through the tops and bottoms and carefully thought-out timber selection to make the most of the timber colours. Each stick of timber was put through the thicknesser several times to mill it to the exact sizes.
Once the door frames were sorted Zac turned his attention to the frame. This had to be something the doors could slot into without fixings to preserve the doors. He devised a great system where the doors slotted into a top rail to be held in place with bottom beads with brass fixings.
The roof took a bit more planning and came together only when had the rest of the shed built inside the studio.
There was a lot to consider, mostly making a structure that wouldn’t shift or topple in high winds, and that was safe for people to enter and enjoy.
Time was just flying and the install date of May 9 was fast approaching. Zac was doing long days in his workshop and Lee was frantically trying to finish leadlights. Tim was called to help putty and polish and all hands were rubbing wax into timber and trying to get it finished.
Zac assembled the frame inside Lee’s gallery so they could get a visual of how it was coming together and make sure it was going to work.
The week of the install was hectic with lots of last-minute jobs. On the Tuesday night Zac ended up making a timber deck for the shed to sit on. He added some stainless steel wires to anchor the structure down for extra insurance against the strong winds.
The deck was positioned on the grassy hill and held in place by screw piles. Then the frame for the doors was fitted. (It was removed from the gallery with only millimeters to spare and after removing the front door). Then all the door panels were fitted and held in place by timber beads and brass fixings. The roof was the carefully attached and bolted down and the roof panels installed and secured.
Lee cast some glass garden tools to finish it all off. A spade, and axe and a rake with timber handles and finally the shed was complete.
It was on display for 3 weeks and that proved to be a nervous and long period of time. There were some glorious blue sky days and some rainy ones as well. The nervous ones were the very windy days. The absolute kicker though was a severe hailstorm. Lee and Zac saw it coming and raced up to the fort. They got there a little late and golf ball size hail was pelting the shed. Zac and Lee held up 50mm foam and doonas to protect it whilst being pelted by hail. Zac was only wearing shorts and a t-shirt and got slammed. Lee faired a bit better with a few decent lumps on the head. The shed however came out on top with only 3 cracked pieces. After the worst had passed, they sat in the shed and just laughed at how lucky they were to survive it. Zac’s car – not so lucky.
Another interesting insight was the axe. It was loosely embedded it into a timber log. It lasted only a few days before someone picked it up and started chopping the log with it. Of course, being glass, it broke. So, it was imbedded deeper into the log to disguise the broken end. It was further damaged by someone again trying to chop with it. At this point Lee took the axe home and cut off the end and then Zac glued it into the log. Yep, once again it was forcibly removed and was seen trying to chop. Lesson learnt – no more public access to axes!!!!
This Sculptures at Scratchley exhibition was a great event. Over 23,000 people attended and over 60 artworks were exhibited. The feedback received from the thousands of people who viewed the shed was extraordinary. There were so many pictures and videos of people in the shed and their kids peeping through the bubbles. It was great to watch. For Lee and Zac it was very uplifting to create an artwork that was enjoyed and shared by so many people.
The shed has gone to a lovey home by the ocean where it will be loved and appreciated. Hopefully this will be a precursor to other Lee and Zac collaborations in the future.