The six of us knew when we took a lease on the old warehouse for studio space that there was heat, but certainly no air conditioning.
Our particular warehouse is located at 1106 W. Santa Fe, a stone’s throw from the train yard, and right next door to the Chambers of Edgar Allan Poe, one of several warehouses devoted to October haunts. These old warehouses have housed flour mills, offices and burlap bag manufacturers, and many are now coming back to life with studios and antiques.
Pam, Penney, Pat, Melanie, Amy and I are “junkers,” furniture restorers and painters, just a splotch on the paint bucket of the large number of folks now working on and selling vintage and antique goods during the West Bottoms “First Friday” weekends.
We’ve been working at this for fours years now, helping Good Ju Ju to grow, so all of us are used to the concrete and cranky weather in the “Bottoms.” But not this 100+ degree heat for almost two months straight with no rain in between.
You haven’t been hot until you have schlepped furniture up to the fifth floor of an old, deathly-still, hot warehouse studio, and then took a sander to it for two hours. The sweat runs down your legs. It’s probably the first time my calves have sweat.
We have fans. Dusty old ’70s floor fans. They kick up a nice breeze but when you go to paint a table, the paint almost dries before you can coax it off the brush.
Pam had a weather thermometer one morning that registered 110 degrees. Pat has taken to painting at home, laying down tarps in her living room. Penney, who can sand and paint at blur speed, comes in and blasts through sets of tables and chairs, dripping.
Amy, the youngest of us, grew up on a farm in Missouri and can work through anything, yet after a recent 100+ afternoon of painting, went out with her friend to dinner, sat down in the cool restaurant to take a sip of a margarita, and promptly got back up and walked to the bathroom where nothing but all the water she had drank came back up, courtesy of the heat.
Yet, strangely enough, at my elder age of 56, I love it. I look out the open windows from the fifth floor, allowing the breeze and the “chug-chug” sounds of trains below into the room. I follow the rhythms of a day in the city near the 12th Street bridge, the small victories of junkers, homeless people and the Wendy’s workers in the heat.
I am happy with the physical work of sanding and revealing the beautiful wood grain on top of a buffet. If the piece has an unmarked top I just sand it, stain it and put on a fresh poly coat, until the top is smooth to the touch.
There is no feeling more satisfying than re-creating a piece and working with my hands. Even in a 100 degree warehouse.
Geri Wurth lives in Kansas City.